Stepping out of the sonic shadows that he’s been hiding in for nearly seven years, Justin Timberlake has finally released his third studio album, ‘The 20/20 Experience.’ Teaming up for a second time with mega-producer Timbaland, the singer’s latest effort is sure to help him reattain his title as the pop prince of our generation.
Justin left his die-hard fans desperately wanting more after FutureSex and put his music on hold to pursue sub-par movie roles (Social Network doesn’t count) while becoming an honorary SNL cast member in the process. With every passing year and hilarious Digital Short collabo with Andy Samberg, the number one question on everyone’s minds was, “When is Justin going to drop another album?” Undoubtedly, there is always going to be extreme pressure put on an artist when making his or her next album, and oftentimes the new material falls short of the public’s expectations. A classic example of this is Michael Jackson’sThriller, which still holds the record for most albums sold worldwide of all time (65 million to be exact). Although the definitive King of Pop released several classic works afterwards, Thriller.
This pressure may be why Justin and Timbaland stuck with many of the same musical styles and themes ofFutureSex, which is considered to be one of the best pop albums of the past decade. While 20/20 is a great album, it could have been considerably more creative and adventurous; most of it sounds like a continuation of FutureSex rather than a reinvention of the singer’s (and producer’s) talents and musical abilities. When listening to “Mirrors,” one might hear remnants of “What Goes Around…”, while the bonus track “Body Count” brings one back to the funky guitar strumming of “Like I Love You,” a song that was released 11 years ago. Yes, going back to one’s roots can be rewarding, but evolution is what gives music its lure. Everyone knows that Timberlake and Timbaland are more than capable of creating music that transcends any genre—ahem, FutureSex/LoveSounds?—so it’s a bit disappointing that more than half a decade later, the duo seems to be stuck in 2006.
Nonetheless, Timberlake still delivers outstanding melodies and falsettos and does a little artistic exploration on 20/20. This is most apparent in “Blue Ocean Floor,” a song that takes you on an emotionally-charged, seven-minute visual journey that you wish would never end (thank goodness for the replay button). It has somewhat of an indie feel, which can be attributed to the distorted sounds of a piano and electric guitar. The splashing of waves and cackling of birds can easily transport one to the beach, while the lyrics and JT’s voice take you straight into the very depths of the ocean. This vivid imagery is uncharacteristic of Timberlake and solidifies both him and Timbaland as geniuses in their own right.
Other stand-out tracks include “Strawberry Bubblegum,” an ultra mellow and smooth joint whose progression will bring out the cool cat that lives in all of us, and “Spaceship Coupe,” which follows the same theme of the former but has a tad more sex appeal.
The 20/20 Experience is a must listen even for non-JT supporters, simply for its overall nonconforming sound. Generally speaking, mainstream R&B nowadays is becoming sonically homogenous. But Timberlake, although sticking to a lot of his old style, brings something refreshingly new and exciting to the scene with this album, and before we know it, it’ll catapult him back onto the throne.