After an excruciatingly long wait, Justin Timberlake follows up 2006’s highly successful FutureSex/LoveSounds with The 20/20 Experience, an album that Justin and Timbaland put together in utter secrecy last summer. Though the album has been available to be streamed online via iTunes for the past week, I refused to listen to the album until it was officially released. When it comes to my favourite artists/musicians, I like to do it old-school and go buy the physical album the day it’s released, pop in the CD and just listen to it. This is also a review for the Deluxe Version of the album (thought to be only available at Target in the U.S., but turns out the version of the album released in Canada IS the deluxe version), which includes 2 extra songs.
- Pusher Love Girl – If you watched this year’s Grammy Awards, you’ll recognize this as the 2nd song he performed. The album version has a sleek finish to it, really setting up the rest of the album. While still a great song, I think the live version with the full band, really takes the song up to a whole ‘nother level.
- Suit & Tie – The lead single got released with mixed reviews by the general public, but I loved it from the get go. Sure, it’s not exactly what people were expecting (namely a song along the lines of “SexyBack”) but it’s JT, did you really expect him to play along with what’s popular on the radio right now? The song plays up what Justin does best and that is, simultaneously giving the song a throwback classic feel but still completely current.
- Don’t Hold the Wall – It’s a sexy slinky song with sounds that make it such a distinguishable Timbaland track. Of all the tracks, I feel like this is the “club song” that a lot of people were looking for.
- Strawberry Bubblegum – Justin starts to play with his sound with this track: a futuristic take on the traditional R&B song.
- Tunnel Vision – Here we have a song that is a little reminiscent of “Ayo Technology”, the 50 Cent song that featured Justin and Timbaland. It jumps right into the pop/R&B/hip-hop realm that so many other artists are trying to replicate.
- Spaceship Coupe – Lyrically speaking, this is one of the more non-traditional songs like Strawberry Bubblegum. Musically, it definitely leans more into the R&B side of things. Though come to think of it, as the song continues, you kind of hear it as a more progressed version of the “Set the Mood (Prelude)” found on FutureSexLoveSounds.
- That Girl – Timbaland introduces JT & the Tennessee Kids for this song. It’s almost an extension of the first track, in terms of overall feel. You definitely get that retro sound that harkens back to the days of Motown.
- Let the Groove Get In – Hands down, my favourite song off the album, if only because of my love for anything that has a Latin twist. Actually, the song samples a more Afrobeat sound that somehow makes it sound like a relative of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” All I know is that this song makes me want to dance (and pray to the powers that be, that DWTS does not get their hands on this song, even if it would make a fantastic salsa or samba number).
- Mirrors – By this point, we’ve all heard this song, presumably the second single. Of all the songs on this album, this one feels the most like classic Justin Timberlake. The booming intro sounds a little like Coldplay, but the rest plays like a mix of “Cry Me A River”, “Losing My Way”, and Esmee Denters’ “Gravity” (which Justin co-wrote and produced). Some have gone the negative route and deemed this song as JT being egotistical, but if you listen to the song, it’s obviously about and for Jessica Biel.
- Blue Ocean Floor – An interesting song to say the least. If I may, I think Rolling Stone magazine said it best when they referred to the song as a sort of “abstract ambient soul ballad.” Because there really isn’t much of a melody to it. Though I could totally see it/hear it playing in a movie, during a scene where the characters are being quite reflective of what’s going on. Yeah, it’s that type of song.
- Dress On [Bonus Track] – What a throwback 90s R&B song. This song is reminiscent of the music that Timbaland was producing in the earlier days with Aaliyah.
- Body Count [Bonus Track] – There’s a guitar lick in here that sounds like “Like I Love You” but swap out the Neptunes’ smooth style, for Timbaland’s digitally stylized beats.
If it isn’t obvious by now, Justin Timberlake’s latest album is skewing more traditional R&B than ever before, but with Timbaland in the role of producer, the songs are their own creations that somewhat defies classification and description. It’s a classic sound with a modern twist. Some people might not like the album, especially with the majority of the songs running 5-8 minutes, but the Justin & Timbaland tag team make every second count, filling the songs with great detail. This is an album to be listened, not just passively, but really listened to, and then repeat, to appreciate everything it has to offer. With the current state of pop music so heavily influenced by the dance/techno world, The 20/20 Experience is a breath of fresh air. Lucky for us, we won’t have to wait another 6 1/2 years for another album by Justin, as this is just the first of two albums, with the second part of The 20/20 Experience to be released later this year. Expectations were high for this album but for this fan at least, Justin has only continued to do what he does best and that is surprise us all.