Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience

Posted March 19, 2013 by in Pop



3.5/ 5


Genre: , ,
Producer: , , ,
Genre: Soul, R&B, Pop
Producer: Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon, Rob Knox
Label: RCA
Format: Digital download, vinyl, compact disc
Time: 70:02
Release Date: 18 March 2013
Spin This: "Suit & Tie," "Mirrors," "That Girl," "Pusher Love Girl"


With its big stretches away from conventional pop, JT finds a clever way to make R&B feel like pop again


The mixtape agenda doesn't always work. Gets tiring for the average listener

20/20 vision works for the most part on JT’s comeback album

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

20/20 vision works for the most part on JT’s comeback album

Cleverly titled, The 20/20 Experience is Justin Timberlake doing music on a more epic level. The songs seem like exercises of nostalgia – not the “SexyBack” kind, but more of the R&B music that precedes him and the *nSYNC era. The songs are also expanded with an Isaac Hayes debauchery and actually slide from one to another like an exhaustive megamix. Seems like every song is divided into two halves with the first half being safe radio versions and the other sounding more like immediately-rushed mixes that’s more groove-centric and adventurous. On one hand, the sly trickery feels ambitious and will probably prompt multiple copycats, but on the other hand, the trick becomes the album’s love/hate sourpuss. There are remnants of doo-wop working up “Don’t Hold the Wall. Then it sneaks into muted Bollywood using a half-sedated groove that would’ve perked up Jacko’s interest during the Invincible era. After a few more minutes, Chicago house percussion and club bass percussion creates the disco breaks for JT to walk away from the mic. When the last seconds of “Strawberry Bubblegum” fade off, JT breaks out the opening bars of George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby” and then jumps more into Stevie funk on top of what sounds like a Bubble Yum jingle. With all these changes, it’s a bit hard to pick and choose favorites. But Timberlake knows exactly what he’s doing and he isn’t afraid to think outside the box, even if he’s aware that music has gone through massive changes since his last LP, 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds.

Sometimes the half-and-half arrangements work in developing the album’s yearning to be conceptional.  “Mirrors” opens with Queen opera, then quickly slides into a Boyz II Men-chiseled ballad drenched with Timbaland beat boxing. When the song jumps into its winding-down fade, mostly apparent with Drake-ish vibes, JT comes off as Quiet Storm conductor. It’s the album’s shiniest moment and gives the album a pop radio masterpiece. “Suit & Tie” works in places: When it opens with the Timbaland slow reverb, it seems gimmicky, but then it fires up a vibe that’s as delicious as a Robin Thicke dance track and a Jay-Z drop-in that gives JT some hood cred. After a dramatic string prelude, “Pusher Love Girl” marches to the beat of a D’Angelo-meets-Raphael Saadiq slow jam. On the last lap of the eight-minute epic, JT enters into an Eminem rap that leaves you questioning why the track didn’t wrap up at the five-minute mark. Certainly a careful radio edit will salvage the track from its “album-only” setbacks. Only “That Girl,” a smooth neo-soul-meets-doo wop ballad that sounds like it’s been playing with the Maxwell playbook, stays within the confines of a radio-ready template. And its rap-like zingers are also worth catching: “So what if you’re from the other side of the tracks/So what if the world don’t think we match/I’ll put it down like my love’s on wax.”

What’s most attractive about 20/20 is how the album was solely assembled by Timberlake and Timbaland. No outside producers here, unless you’re looking at the Rob Knox-produced bonus tracks highlighting deluxe editions. This is a smart return to how classic albums were once designed. And that’s probably why the album doesn’t sound like a variety bag of Now & Later candies. It’s his most balanced album to date, even if the songs aren’t as striking and contagious as those from yesteryear.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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