Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience (2013) – Review

Review: Justin Timberlake has been atop the world of pop music for over a decade, maintaining his position even without releasing a new album in over six years. That is how much impact his first two solo albums Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds had on the genre and its fans. Thus, The 20/20 Experience drops with almost unattainable expectations.

The album’s lead-in single Suit & Tie featuring Jay-Z is both probably the most radio friendly and the weakest track on the album. It is not a bad song; it is just underwhelming given the immense expectations. It does not grab the listener like his great past singles have. Plus, Jay-Z’s verse is sort of boring and the song would be better without it.

Suit & Tie aside, the rest of the album is filled with epic genre blending songs that seem to take grand pleasure in how well-crafted and how much different they are than the overall sameness of today’s radio singles. Timberlake seems to be interested in making music that actually aspires to be something more, something that pushes pop music forward.

It is a very ambitious album – and, it mostly works very well. Fans will to some extent lament the loss of true catchy singles (as really there are none, unless you like Suit & Tie). But, Timberlake wants his fans to grow musically like he has. Nevertheless, however, this will likely disappoint a few.

Musically, Timberlake, producing with long-time collaborators Timbaland and J-Roc (Timbaland’s protégé), has created a lavish musical experience. The album combines aspects throughout the history of pop and R&B with each song (for the most part) playing as a sweeping musical journey. The album has tracks that invite the listener to dance, but it mostly stays away from the more bombastic sound that has seemingly overtaken pop music (by way of electronic music’s rapid rise in popularity) – and in that way it has a different overall sound though there are certainly touchstones to Timberlake’s past.

The 20/20 Experience is maybe not the great album it aspires to be, and strong singles are not really a bad thing for a pop album to have – but, it is a very good album and musically something different and aesthetically interesting. That is something listeners should expect from genre leaders, to grow and push their craft forward, and that is what Timberlake has done with this album. 3/5

Essential Tracks:
1)      Mirrors – Produced by Timbaland, Justin Timberlake & J-Roc
2)      Tunnel Vision – Produced by Timbaland, Justin Timberlake & J-Roc
3)      Strawberry Bubblegum – Produced by Timbaland, Justin Timberlake & J-Roc

Available on: CD and Digital Download

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