Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience (Complete) Album Review

rating: 3

Justin Timberlake burst back onto the music scene this year with the gloriously infectious Suit & Tie after an almost seven year hiatus, and the subsequent album The 20/20 Experience, which went onto be the biggest selling album of 2013 in the US. The album has many highlights, including the unashamedly catchy 'Let The Groove Get In' which effortlessly blends world music influences (such as tango-like drums, Arabian horns and non-stop percussion) into a perfect summer pop song. The album's Soul throwback opening track 'Pusher Love Girl' is a cinematic proclamation of his love for his wife, and the seamless vocals recall a Stevie Wonder vibe, with a lyrical twist likening his girl to an addiction to drugs. The Soul continues in the equally effective 'Next Girl', which sounds like it takes place in a Western saloon. Timberlake carries on the world music influences in songs like the Timbaland produced 'Don't Hold The Wall' but blends them with modern elements in the cosmic 'Spaceship Coupe.' Where the album looses its charm is with the almost laughably bad 'Strawberry Bubblegum' €“ this sounds like a child singing about having sex, and likening it to chewing Hubba Bubba; this disaster, which sounds like an exchange between Cartman and The Chef, is further weighed down with cheap sounding production. JT ends on a high though, with what is my favourite song of the album €“ the grossly underrated 'Blue Ocean Floor.' This tragic underwater ballad is one of the most unique pop song I've ever heard €“ the production is flawless, blending sounds of an oxygen machine with sounds of the ocean and layering haunting harps over Timberlake's soft vocals. This emotive track highlights the idea of love lost and builds slowly to a climax that (rightfully) never happens. If Timberlake decided to stop his comeback here, I maybe would have awarded this album with 4 stars (song length and 'Strawberry Bubblegum' are the album's only true weaknesses) but out of what is either greed or pretentions JT decided to release a second part to the album earlier this week. The first instalment, which has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide since its release in January, has obviously made so much money that Mr. JT decided to call up his mate Timbaland, collect the left over songs from the studio floor and make another few million dollars. Part 2 is so completely unnecessary that it almost mars my judgement of the first album. What is the main flaw with both these albums? The songs are too long. This could be forgiven in Part 1 as the excitement of his comeback meant that audiences were open to JT being experimental, but here they are just far too self indulgent €“ there is no song on Part 2 that is less than five minutes and there is even one that is eleven minutes. I'd rather listen to 'Cry Me A River' three times, thanks. Timberlake began experimenting with intros and interludes on the brilliant 2006 release FutureSex/LoveSounds, but it worked because he didn't curse every song with a three-minute into and outro. There is no 'Damn Girl', 'FutureSex/LoveSounds', 'Losing My Way', 'SexyBack', or 'Until The End of Time' (to name a few) on this album, or nothing that comes even slightly close. Timberlake's need to prolong every song, to the point of having to turn it over, means that there are no radio friendly singles. The first single 'Take Back The Night' is a funky disco throwback that largely works €“ it was a feel good summer track that he released in the height of summer. I attended the first live performance of the song at Wireless Festival in London and the atmosphere was magical €“ the entire audience knew every word even though it was the world premier of the song. JT's mesmerising live performances work in his favour, but also against him €“ nothing will compare to seeing him live, no matter how good the song is; and if a listener hears part of a song they enjoy live, they're going to have to sit through a four minute intro when they get the album home. A notable highlight on Part 2 is 'True Blood' - a funk inflected and seductive pop song, with a bloodthirsty Timberlake crooning over a victim. Again, the song fails true great potential because it drags until the blood dies up. The remainder of the album is mostly forgettable, apart from the Drake aided 'Cabaret' and the brilliant 'Murder', which features HOVA himself. Part 2 is an unfortunate decline in what was otherwise a very strong and experimental pop album. If you don't want to feel like you're listening to the same song for over seventy minutes stick to the first instalment. Failing that? Put on Justified and reminisce about a time when Justin Timberlake knew the appropriate length of a song. Disagree? Sound off in the comments below!
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I'm a 22 year-old student and aspiring journalist from Edinburgh, Scotland. I like to write about music and films.