Justin Timberlake Brings It on The 20/20 Experience Tour

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I am an unabashed Justin Timberlake fan. Musically, he can do no wrong. His concerts are top to bottom amazing and they are my reason for going to concerts in the first place. The first real concert I attended (and by that I mean non-Vietnamese) was the Justin Timberlake & Christina Aguilera – Justified + Stripped Tour, which also had the Black Eyed Peas as the opening act. To this day, that is still my favourite concert line-up: LOVE JT, BEP were getting popular thanks to “Where Is the Love?” and their album “Elephunk”, and this concert is what made me a Christina fan. The second time I saw Justin was during the 1st leg of the FutureSex/LoveShow Tour. The show was over 2 1/2 hours with a short intermission that consisted of Timbaland DJ-ing; in total, 3 hours+ of almost non-stop music. I mean, there was maybe a 10 minute break between the opening act (Pink) and Justin – that rarely happens these days. That show just blew my mind that I went to see it again during the 2nd leg of the tour; it is also the standard to which I judge all other concerts I go to now. Last summer, I saw Justin team-up with Jay-Z for the Legends of the Summer Tour, and though I had problems with the staging (particularly from where I was sitting), they put on such a great show – performing together, mashing-up each others’ songs – that I forgot about it and just enjoyed those 2 1/2 hours of music.

Which brings me to this past Thursday, where I got to witness The 20/20 Experience Tour in person at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. That entire day leading up to the concert, nothing could get me down because I was just so freaking excited to see Justin do his thing, knowing that he was mixing up the old songs with tracks off his past two albums, and getting to see some amazing dancing. And seriously, as much as I love the music, I LOVE the dancing. Inexplicably, dance has always been a part of me and I have always loved it. I am not a great dancer by any means, but I’d like to think that I’m at least decent (I was a part of my high school dance crew and they must’ve had reason to keep me or even let me on in the first place). Every once in a while I’ll even find myself making up choreography in my head for songs I love, even though I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. Anyways, back to the point, I was just SO excited to see everything and man, Justin really does not disappoint. I don’t know why I say that like I’m surprised because I know I always have a good time at his concerts, but he just brings it every single time I see him.

[Of note: Justin doesn’t have an opening act for this tour, opting instead for a DJ freestyle prior to the show. It’s a shame though, especially considering he has a record label and probably should’ve used this tour as a platform for whatever artist he has on his roster.]

Justin starts off the show with Pusher Love Girl, the first track off part 1 of The 20/20 Experience album. It’s not a typical party starter song but it’s still a great song to begin the proceedings with The Tennessee Kids backing him up and the wonderful throwback groove. Part way through the song before he gets to the “interlude” part, Justin stops for dramatic effect, though after it went on for too long we knew something was up. Turns out his mic stopped working! “You broke the mic! Y’all were so loud, you broke the mic!” Justin hilariously laments after tossing the dead mic to the side. And so the show goes on.

"Y'all broke the mic!" Ahaha whoops! Sorry JT!

“Y’all broke the mic!” Ahaha whoops! Sorry JT!

After the staggered start, the rest of the show went off without a hitch as Justin made his way through new and old songs seamlessly. I’ll admit, I took a peek at the setlist beforehand so I knew Gimme What I Don’t Know was coming up next; unfortunately, it was only the intro. It’s not a GREAT song, but again, I was just really looking forward to seeing the choreography for it! Justin, how could you deny me the chance to see world class choreography from Marty Kudelka for this song? I didn’t have much time to be mad because he went right into Rock Your Body, which we can all agree is a total crowd pleaser. But you wanna know what was great for this dance-lover? What JT and his dancers did on TKO. The choreography was on point and they were giving it all to me – so completely into it.

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Four JTs are better than one?

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Justin’s verse on Jay-Z’s Holy Grail, leading into Cry Me A River was genius, and ended off the first half of show. A short 10 minute intermission later and we were back with the second half. It was a relatively low key start to the second half with Only When I Walk Away (this one did include a fair amount of lasers) and Drink You Away. The fun really amped up once Justin got into Senorita (again, a total crowd pleaser) which naturally led into Let the Groove Get In; it was here that the audience got a real treat as part of the stage got raised up and slowly moved across to the end of the arena. Justin stayed at the other end for a good 6-7 songs, and even making his way down from the breakaway stage to the mini-stage located in the bar area. Also keeping up with the dance theme, you have no idea how much I wanted to see some choreography to Groove. To be honest, I’ve been imagining a straight-up Latin Ballroom routine to this song, every time I hear it so I was invariably going to get disappointed.

The stage breaking off and heading our way!

The stage breaking off and heading our way!

Something that I hadn’t seen Justin do before during concerts, and is something that I personally love when I go see any concert, was the fact that he added some covers into the show. The man has two new albums for which he’s touring, plus two previous albums chock full of hits and crowd favourites, and he STILL put in some covers. Touching on his Memphis roots, JT covered Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel; he also did a very nice cover of Michael Jackson’s Human Nature (a music inspiration to all). And just for some added fun, we got a little Jungle Boogie and Bell Biv Divoe’s Poison (complete with awesome 80s/early 90s dancing).

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Performing from the mini-stage in the bar area.

Unfortunately, at some point, the show had to end. For the encore, Justin gave us his two biggest hits, SexyBack and Mirrors, and then it was over. Nearly 2.5 hours later, my voice was cracking from singing along all night and walking was only slightly an issue due to all the dancing. I love seeing my bands and regular singers + musicians, but just because of what I grew up on, I just completely LOVE a well-produced and well-choreographed show, and that is what this show was. From top to bottom, beginning to end, Justin Timberlake had us all in the palm of his hands, and all of us fans in the audience were more than happy to oblige, reciprocating the energy that he was putting out. Let it be known though that he also had an amazing group of people backing him up. The Tennessee Kids, his band and backup singers, were as energetic as ever trying to match the energy and enthusiasm of JT. And because I can’t say enough good things about them, the dancers are EVERYTHING; Dana Wilson, Ivan Koumaev (again, so proud of how far he’s come from SYTYCD), Nick Bass, Natalie Gilmore, Lyle Beniga, and Lindsay Richardson – just the best! I don’t know what the chances are of them doing another go-round of North America (probably not), but I sincerely hope they at least release this show on DVD so I can add it with my FutureSex/LoveShow DVD that I watch ALL THE TIME. If The 20/20 Experience Tour hits your town, go see it if you can because I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

The amazing Tennessee Kids

The amazing Tennessee Kids

The equally amazing and talented dancers

The equally amazing and talented dancers

FULL SETLIST:

  1. Pusher Love Girl
  2. Gimme What I Don’t Know (Intro)/Rock Your Body
  3. Don’t Hold the Wall
  4. FutureSex/LoveSounds
  5. Like I Love You
  6. My Love
  7. TKO
  8. Summer Love
  9. LoveStoned
  10. Until the End of Time
  11. Holy Grail/Cry Me A River
  12. Only When I Walk Away
  13. Drink You Away
  14. Tunnel Vision
  15. Senorita
  16. Let the Groove Get In
  17. That Girl
  18. Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley cover)
  19. Not a Bad Thing
  20. Human Nature (Michael Jackson cover)
  21. What Goes Around…Comes Around
  22. Cabaret
  23. Take Back the Night/Jungle Boogie (Kool & the Gang cover)
  24. Murder/Poison (Bell Biv Divoe)
  25. Suit & Tie
  26. SexyBack
  27. Mirrors
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Album Review: Justin Timberlake “The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2”

The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2

We got spoiled, JT fans! After enduring a seven-year wait, Justin Timberlake released his second album this year. Calling part 2 of The 20/20 Experience the darker, older sister of part 1, Justin and Timbaland bring on all the stylistic sounds that define their music partnership. The result is a much sexier sounding album, that for the most part, lives up the JT’s description of it being darker than part 1. Once again, thought to only be a Target exclusive, the deluxe edition of the album is the one that’s being sold everywhere in Canada (so yay for us!)

TRACK-BY-TRACK REVIEW

  1. Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want) – Like Pusher Love Girl on part 1, this song sets the tone for what we can expect for this rest of this album. Gimme What I Don’t Know plays up on the jungle theme and gives us this sexy, dance sound that kind of reminds me of some of Timbaland’s old tracks. On the same end, it also reminds me a little of FutureSex/LoveSounds (the song) – can’t exactly pinpoint why, but it does.
  2. True Blood – When I saw this title, obviously the first thing I thought of was the show, and I’m like “Ok let’s see where he’s gonna go with this…” What JT brings here is a dark, sexy, and yes, vampiristic (probably not a word, but just go with it) song, that will make you dance and will be so fun to watch on tour.
  3. Cabaret ft. Drake – I think this is a great collaboration. The song itself is like the older, sexier version of My Love (the theme continues!) with Drake coming in for T.I. The collaboration works so well because Drake isn’t your typical rapper and he has the R&B influences in his own songs. With Justin’s songs being that pop/R&B/hip-hop mix, the two artists together just work so well.
  4. TKO – This was a smart choice for a second single and it plays so well for radio. Obviously I like hearing my favourite artists on the radio, so I’d be waiting to hear JT regardless, but I LOVE hearing this song when it comes on the radio and I’m sitting in the car. I don’t know why but this song just makes for good driving music (or maybe it applies more to when sitting in traffic).
  5. Take Back the Night – The lead single took some flack for its title, but besides that little controversy, the song is the best kind of throwback dance song. It evokes a feeling of some Michael Jackson classics, that you honestly can’t help but dance along to.
  6. Murder ft. Jay-Z – Justin and Jay-Z keep killing it on all their collaborations, from their songs to their stadium tour. The beats are classic Timbaland and is a slight reminder to his work with Missy Elliott. If this song was around back in my high school dance crew days, this would totally be a track we’d use.
  7. Drink You Away – JT mixes in a little country-rock flavour to this track. I call this like a follow-up to Pusher Love Girl, if only because after being high on love in that song, Justin’s now heartbroken and trying to drown his sorrows in alcohol.
  8. You Got It On – For some reason, I don’t think Justin has used his falsetto this much in a song as he does here. That’s not meant to be deemed as a bad thing, as his falsetto on this more innocent-sounding track gives it almost a Motown feel.
  9. Amnesia – For those who don’t like how long most of these songs are, I give you this song as a case for it. It’s a dark R&B track about the person you love changing so much that you don’t know who they are anymore. Just when you think the song ended, Justin comes back in with a more solemn tone in his voice, lamenting his relationship. It sounds almost like two separate songs.
  10. Only When I Walk Away – We get treated to a little rock edge to Justin’s sound on this track. It’s a little bit of a foot-stomper that will play so well live when he goes on tour.
  11. Not A Bad Thing/Pair of Wings [Hidden Track] – Blame it on the recent, albeit short, *NSYNC reunion, but my friend made a point to me that Tunnel Vision off part 1 of the “Experience” sounded like something that *NSYNC would do if they were recording in the present day. So when I heard Not A Bad Thing, I felt like there was such an easy flow to it that reminded of the 90s pop I grew up on. It’s a good song,even though it feels a little out of place on this album. The same can be said about Pair of Wings, an extra hidden track that gets put on the album. It’s a sweet (slightly cheesy in the vein of Nothin’ Else) acoustic guitar-driven pop song that seems so weird being on this album, when compared to the rest of the album.
  12. Blindness [Bonus Track] – If the previous song reminded me of 90s pop, well, this one reminds me of 90s R&B. It just has a nice smooth flow to it.
  13. Electric Lady [Bonus Track] – It’s another case of “this sounds like old school Timbaland” where you could imagine it being an Aaliyah track with different lyrics because it’s straight up R&B, and he’s not experimenting too much with the beats.

I loved this album at first listen, and with each subsequent listen, I love it even more. Then hearing it in the car, as opposed to just on the computer, I pick up more little details in the production, which is really cool (and actually applies to both parts of the “Experience”). As two separate albums, I loved the retro throwback sounds of part 1, and especially love the Latin flavour he brought on Let the Groove Get In. Not that there weren’t dance-able moments in part 1, but I feel like there’s a lot more of it on part 2. I also feel like radio will be more receptive to the songs on part 2; there’s more potential singles on this one.

Regardless, I love both albums and I just hope the wait for the next album isn’t as long as the wait between FutureSex/LoveSounds and The 20/20 Experience.

Album Review: Justin Timberlake “The 20/20 Experience”

The 20/20 Experience

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.

TRACK-BY-TRACK REVIEW

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Strawberry Bubblegum – Justin starts to play with his sound with this track: a futuristic take on the traditional R&B song.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.