Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience

jt2020experience

Release Date: 19 March 2013
Label: RCA Records

Tracklisting:

  1. Pusher Love Girl
  2. Suit & Tie (feat. Jay-Z) [MV, Lyric Video]
  3. Don’t Hold The Wall
  4. Strawberry Bubblegum
  5. Tunnel Vision [MV]
  6. Spaceship Coupe
  7. That Girl
  8. Let The Groove Get In
  9. Mirrors [MV]
  10. Blue Ocean Floor
  11. Dress On (Deluxe Edition)
  12. Body Count (Deluxe Edition)

Having dedicated his time and energy to Hollywood, there was a resoundingly large group of people wondering when Justin Timberlake would start making music once again. Lo and behold, he comes back seven years after his international hit Futuresex/Lovesounds, and the response is explosive — the album sold over 850,000 units in its first week.

The 20/20 Experience is most certainly not what anyone could’ve predicted from Justin Timberlake. Track Pusher Love Girl — a song I seriously listened to for about 45 minutes — opens the album with lush sounds and exceptional composition. What follows is a mixture of simple pop (That Girl, Let The Groove Get In) and more expansive and intelligent soundscapes (Don’t Hold The Wall, Blue Ocean Floor, Dress On). There’s a high level of class, music that’s nuanced and intricately rendered. Unless one were paying close attention to the shift taking place in R&B for the last five years or so, it’s most certainly not a route many could’ve easily expected.

Honestly, much of the hype surrounding the album — proclamations of Justin Timberlake’s supposed innovation — isn’t necessarily warranted. Artists have been creating magic with as much, at times more, creativity, with very similar sounds for the past decade and a half (the likes of Britain’s Jamiroquai and Lewis Taylor, locally and more recently Miguel, Janelle Monae, KING, and hip-hop/R&B contingent of Odd Future — which includes vocalist Frank Ocean). But Timberlake’s name and absence from music give him an obvious advantage in terms of visibility and established mainstream audience.

However, overexcitement doesn’t detract from the fact that sonically this is a very well-crafted, unexpected offering for the pop star. It’s clear in his seven-year absence he’s studied the pop scene and seen it was attempting to head in a more esoteric direction. He also realized early on he’d found a brilliant producer in Timbaland. As world-class as he is, Timbaland is always on the lookout for sounds that expand the musical vernacular. It’s fitting he’d share his discoveries with his biggest selling collaborator.

When we get past the stellar production, we must focus on the vocals and the lyrics that voice wraps around. Timberlake’s voice hasn’t changed much. There’s nothing exceptionally nuanced or more mature than what he offered us seven years ago. He’s most certainly not the first “blue-eyed crooner” to make great music — artists like Remy Shand, the aforementioned Lewis Taylor, and Robin Thicke, whose voices are fuller and hold a level of maturity I’ve always found lacking in Timberlake’s.

His lyrics aren’t dissimilar to anything else being written. They’re indeed good compositions, but they’re by no means singular or unprecedented. His writing style has matured as one would expect with continued experience in life; however, he writes about the same things he’s always written about. When put up against other singers who are also songwriters, he’s most certainly not out of place, but he hasn’t separated himself from his peers with anything more innovative or experimental.

The 20/20 Experience is most certainly what it proclaims to be — a sharp and perfectly clear look at the path mainstream R&B has taken lately. There’s absolutely no mistaking the brilliance of the piece for anything other than just that. However, the landscape of music in the past five years just shows how incredibly savvy Timberlake is at noticing trends and replicating.

Rating: ★★★¾☆ 

You can listen to the album at Xiami or Spotify. You can by the album at iTunes or Amazon as a CD or MP3 download.

Camiele

As unexpected as my path was to loving all things weird, more unexpected is my ability to get attention for writing about the stuff.

22 Responses

  1. amy says:

    I’ll knock three quarter of a star for lyrics (to me it’s probably its weakest in composition, if that could be possible LOL), and some of it for musicality. To me a lot of the songs feel repetitive due to their +7 minutes of running time. It’s not like it’s a bad thing with long songs, but he doesn’t really do much with those extra minutes other than repeat his choruses and verses.

    Mirror seems to be his most popular track, since it sounds the most like it’s from his other albums. But my favorite, I think, is Let the Groove In.

    • Camiele says:

      @amy, I wasn’t a fan of Let The Groove In. It’s just another dance track like anything else you’d find on any other album of his… or any other R&B/pop album. I also am not the biggest fan of Mirror, again, pretty much the same as anything I’ve heard, and also lyrically they’re kinda cliche. I mean, she’s like my mirror? How many people have said that in some way in their songs in exactly the same way? My favorite track is most definitely Pusher Love Girl… just the composition is bananas and as far as the lyrics go, it’s the most creative he gets on the album for me.

      But, you do have a definite point. I’m a huge fan of songs that extend past the prescribed 4 minutes (I mean, Stevie Wonder and Prince are my favourite artists, and they’re NOTORIOUS for the 10-minute opus, especially in their earlier work), but that’s only if the added minutes expands the narrative (musically or lyrically). But, I kept that quarter star because the production is definitely something different from what we’d expect from him. It’s also some of Timbaland’s strongest work (of course, his work with Bjork notwithstanding).

      • amy says:

        @Camiele, Pusher Love Girl is a great track, but I like some of the Latin vibe I get from Let the Groove In. I don’t think anyone in pop, not even Latin artists, are using the basic horns that he’s using on that track. I don’t think anyone in pop is using instruments even haha.

        In terms of production, though, I think Future/Sex hit the right notes at the time- its long tracks don’t feel long as they do here. And the electronic elements used in that album did shaped (for good, bad or worse) the music industry for the next few years.

        What irks me about this are the lyrics hahaha, I just… can’t stand having to understand the lyrics. I wish I could just turn my English brain off.

        • Camiele says:

          @amy, Admittedly, I never listened to Futuresex… I really dislike SexyBack, to be honest. I’ve never been a really big fan of JT, so I wasn’t gonna touch Futuresex, especially since everywhere I went you’d hear a track from the album, and I didn’t really care for what I heard.

          For me, though, people are giving JT WAY too much creditin terms of the music itself. Timbaland is a brilliant producer and is always looking for ways to expand his knowledge of music and how to use it. JT, of course, is smart. He KNOWS Tim is a crazy producer. I wish people would realize that Tim’s the one that’s been changing the landscape of how mainstream R&B has sounded since the mid-90s. Every time he works with an artist, especially one he respects (Bjork) or one who he knows will sell BIG (JT), he’s going to be playing with what he’s discovered or learned, thus changing a lot of people understand about mainstream music, or at the very least introducing it to the masses with a big artist.

        • amy says:

          @Cam, to be honest- producers are never going to get the mainstream respect htat name of performers will get, so unless Timbaland comes out with an album of his own with his name and face that will be as accepted by audiences and critics alike, it’s gonna be hard to get him the recognition.

          To me a lot of Timbaland’s work except for the likes of Missy or JT or Aaliyah, a lot is hit or miss. It got to a point when people said “oh, it’s Timbaland again” Especially during the years when Furtado and Timberlake starting blaring on radio for a whole year. LOL

      • Rodrigo says:

        @Camiele, Haven’t listened to Futuresex like you because of Sexyback back then (but now I find it kinda funny), but I did like “What Comes Around Goes Around” because of the content (and the video too, it had Scarlett Johansson in it). If anything, that album’s success is also due to Timbaland’s production skills.

    • Camiele says:

      @amy, Quick question, though. Why do we need to tag the directors of the videos? I mean, they’re not actually part of the album and that’s what’s being talked about here, not the music videos. I mean, we don’t ever tag the directors for any other artists music videos… so, is there a specific reason why we do it here?

      • Rodrigo says:

        @Camiele, Because the videos are used to promote the album? Just a guess. If this was my call, I wouldn’t tag them either, unless they were involved in the booklet or something else.

        Anyways, I want to let you know that I agree that Pusher Love girl is a really great track. Haven’t listened to the other tracks yet, but I find Suit & Tie charming and amusing and I didn’t like Mirrors.

        • Camiele says:

          @Rodrigo, Yeah, I think we all pretty much agree Mirrors isn’t awesome… HaHA! But you can always get people to make a lot of noise when you’ve got a great music video. It’s a shame THAT becomes the deciding on factor on whether or not people dig the song, but whatevs… HaHa. We just simply know better than most everybody else. We’re classy mofos here at YAM… HAHa.

      • amy says:

        @Camiele, because it helps with tag recognition on the “related news”.

        • Camiele says:

          @amy, Okay, so have we ever done that before? Cuz, I don’t remember ever having to tag directors in my album reviews, and I’ve added the MVs to the side of songs that have them in the tracklisting.

        • amy says:

          @amy, we do of videos that we’ve posted and tagged with directors. I don’t think you have any crossover posts (DBSK videos are usually posted without directors coz we never get any), and I’ve rarely seen you post a video with a director tag, so it would make sense your reviews don’t have them either. It’s just JT we’ve posted about, and you happened to post the review.

  2. Camiele says:

    @amy, You know you’re right, on both points. Unless you’re really into music in its entirety, producer isn’t something you actually pay attention to, so the sound will always be associated with the artist.

    And, yeah, Timbaland got to be all over the place at one point, all a part of getting paid (like Pharell and the Neptunes. I mean, Hollaback Girl… really? But when they released their own work under N.E.R.D., shit was fantastic and smart and just… anyway…).

    Producers are no different than the artists they work for: they want to get paid, and the quickest way to do that is to produce for other people who are already gonna make ass loads of money with or without their help. I think when Tim’s serious (like he seems to be with JT, and like he was with Aaliyah and Missy), he’s brilliant. Sorta how Kanye is actually brilliant when he’s not fuckin around trying to just make a buck (I mean, you know which example I’m gonna choose, so I’m not even gonna go there…).

    • amy says:

      @Camiele, to be fair to Timbaland, JT’s work only tends to be good when he works with him only. This is why some of the other singles he’s put out featuring for other people have been boring and same-sounding. He’s the white boy that features on black people’s music videos, and all of a sudden his name is dead center?

      I’ve seen a lot of people comparing JT and Usher. Both MJ related, I think both had public breakups around the same time- JT was pimping (to the last drop) his break-up with Britney in Cry me a River and Usher released Confessions, no? After that, though, their careers split. I was a bit disconnected from music, but I still heard of JT- in Usher’s case, his success was overshadowed by his fight with his mom and the whole engagement thing. Goes to show you about the power of PR xD

      • Camiele says:

        @amy, Woooow… you about right on all counts on that one. I don’t even really have anything to say to that. You pretty much mailed it on the head with that one.

  3. Camiele says:

    Damn. I keep thinking I should knock this down to a 4/5, but something makes me hesitate to do that. I gave Miguel’s a 3.75, but I honestly think this one is at least a bit better than that one. But it’s nowhere near the experimentation and nuance of Frank Ocean’s (which I gave a 4.5). So… I don’t know… I’m stuck… HaHa. I’ll be oscillating between 4 and 4.25 for a while before I finally settle.

  4. Camiele says:

    So, yeah, obviously this got knocked back down to a 4/5 for me. I still think it’s better all around than Miguel’s, but it’s just vocally and mostly lyrically not that exciting. Anyway… HaHa.

    • Rodrigo says:

      @Camiele, This is just barely a 3.75/5 for me. At times, I’m between 3.5/5 and 3.75/5… but other than a couple of songs that I didn’t like, I could listen through the entire album without much problems. Have I jumped the shark as a human being?

      • amy says:

        @Rodrigo, I have it at 3.5, but I don’t think I’ve rated anything a 4 so far. It’s good, not amazing.. like most albums I’ve been listening to lately.

      • Camiele says:

        @Rodrigo, You’re not jumping the shark… HaHa. There’s nothing wrong with liking an album. I gave it a 4 because I dig the production of many of the songs (it’s more like giving Timbaland 3 stars and JT about 1.25 if I’m being honest, because I love the production here). And I know I’ve said it before, but I gave Miguel’s album a 3.75, and I think JT’s album is just better all around and I can’t see giving it the same rating as Miguel’s if I think this one’s better.

        @amy, I don’t know how I’ve managed it, but most of the albums I’ve listened to this year have been amazing… HaHA. I’m not seeking them out, but if I hear a first single and dig it or it’s from an artist I know, I’ll listen to it. I can’t help it if they’re fantastic… HaHa. But I’m not gonna go out of my way to find albums that I know are gonna be terrible. So, sometimes I’m surprised by how good or bad something is. I guess I’m just fortunate…? I don’t know… HaHa.

  5. Camiele says:

    AAaannnd… yeah… down to a 3.75 in the end… HaHa. I just kept thinking about it and the production is what sold me on the album. The vocals and the actual lyrics…? Nothing special. Nothing great. Pusher Love Girl was actually the only song on this album with interesting lyrical choices. Other than that, this is Tim’s album with JT as the cover boy.

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    […] its own MV and single release date because it’s the best song from Justin Timberlake’s latest album. Meanwhile, this song — which I find kind of funny for all the right and wrong reasons […]

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