Remember that time Justin Timberlake resurrected “sexy” from the depths that it had apparently fallen into? He kept quite a bit of it in his “sexy arsenal” and has decided to grace the public with its presence yet again.
Timberlake hasn’t released an album since 2006 since he’s been busy becoming a modern-day Renaissance man. Usually when singers decide to try their hands at acting, I cry a little, mourn the loss of their careers, and begin carving their names into tombstones. However, JT is the exception to that rule.
He proved his acting chops with his adorably comical leading role in Friends with Benefits. He has also proven, not once but five times, that he is hands-down one of the funniest hosts that Saturday Night Live has ever seen.
Last week was also “Justin Timber-week” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, providing the perfect platform to promote his new album. Among performances and skits, he also proved that he is an even better rapper than some artists who actually rap for a living (I’m looking at you, Pitbull).
“The 20/20 Experience” is the first album Timberlake has released in seven years. Although the album officially hits stores today, it has been streaming for free on iTunes for a whole week leading up to the release. His triumphant return to music was one of the most widely anticipated moments of pop culture this year, but I’m sorry to say…it was a major letdown.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge JT fan. His concert was the second I had ever been to and I still wear my now-far-too-small concert T-shirt to bed. I have magazine cutouts of him taped to the back of my dorm room door. Of all people, I was one of the most excited to devour the new album, but now I’m left empty and disappointed as if we just had a one-night stand and he never called me (sexy)back. Get it? Like the song? Never mind.
The first single from “The 20/20 Experience,” titled “Suit and Tie,” debuted with extremely mixed reviews. I, like many, was not a fan at first. The song is rather monotonous and not very exciting. It doesn’t pack nearly as much punch as “Sexyback” did when it was released as the first single from “Futuresex/Lovesounds.” I will admit, the verses grow on you the more you listen to it, but it definitely takes some commitment.
One fatal flaw with this album is the length of the songs. “Pusher Love Girl” actually has the potential to be a smooth, likeable jam with a jazzy laid back vibe, but it is overshadowed by the fact that the song goes on for eight whole minutes.
“Don’t Hold the Wall” and “Strawberry Bubblegum” are two other nearly-eight-minute tracks laden with repetitive phrases and Timbaland’s recognizable chanting. The length of these songs hurts them greatly, adding about four minutes of unnecessary counter-melodies that take away from the potentially promising beginnings.
“Let the Groove Get In” completely comes out of left field. This whole album has a sensual, Marvin Gaye “Let’s Get it On” vibe, when all of a sudden this song comes out of nowhere and tries to get you dancing. You can’t fool me, Mr. Timberlake. It's catchy and all and I see what you’re trying to do here, but when you try to top dance tracks like “Lovestoned” with this, it doesn’t work as well as you may have intended.
“Tunnel Vision” and “Spaceship Coupe” are not very memorable at all (aside from the weird heavy breathing and possible high-pitched sex noises in “Spaceship Coupe,” but those are memorable for all the wrong reasons). Almost every song on this album falls into the same category of “Look at me! I’m trying to be sexy by singing in a falsetto to a slow beat. Is it working?” Surprisingly it actually does work on “Blue Ocean Floor.” This is the one song on the album that, although extremely similar to the others, stands out for its lack of a drumbeat and slightly sad and haunting qualities.
Don’t be so quick to toss this album aside, though. Buried beneath the rest of these monotonous songs is a true gem. “Mirrors” restored my faith in Timberlake’s musical genius. This song has a great melody, and gorgeous lyrics about love that will surely become “that song” for countless couples. It also helps a lot if you imagine the lyrics are about you instead of that loser Jessica Biel. Just kidding, Jessica. You’re gorgeous and the luckiest wife on earth and I’d gladly trade places with you in a heartbeat.
It’s clear that Timberlake is using this “comeback” to reinvent himself. He has a new image featuring dapper suits, coiffed hair, and a classic bandstand backdrop with background singers and horns. A themed look like this is cool for one or two performances, but when it becomes an entire persona, it gets a little old and boring very quickly. Change it up, Justin! While it’s true that you look incredible in a suit, maybe try some new styles in your performances instead of always looking like you just stepped out of a time machine onto your vintage-inspired stage.
It was just announced a few days ago that this is only the first part of “The 20/20 Experience.” Timberlake will be releasing another album in November with 10 brand new songs to add to the collection. 10+10 = 20…"20/20 Experience.” What a clever little mathematician. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the next 10 songs will be much more diverse and interesting. As for now, you’ll just have to listen to Part 1 of the album over and over until the songs start to grow on you (which admittedly, they start doing after the third or fourth listen).
Gavel Media Rating: 5/10