Justin Timberlake is honestly as close as you can get to a perfect human specimen.
He’s talented, he’s hilarious – as proved by his many smash-hit hosting gigs on Saturday Night Live – and he’s honestly pretty easy on the eyes. OK, very easy on the eyes.
As you may recall, I was not thrilled with the first half of his two-part album, “The 20/20 Experience.” Admittedly, a few of the songs definitely grew on me. After about the fifth listen, “Pusher Love Girl” actually became one of my favorite JT songs of all time. Plus, how can you not applaud his incredible stage presence and unparalleled talent after seeing him perform live at Yankee Stadium alongside Jay-Z?
Still, I was hoping that the second part of Timberlake’s comeback album would restore my faith in his musical genius and knock me off my feet. Yet again, I was wrong.
I said it before and I’ll say it again…WHY ARE ALL OF THE SONGS SO DAMN LONG? Seriously Justin, you can’t possibly believe that making one 11 minute and 32 second song is a better idea than just splitting it into two separate tracks. I still can’t understand why you insist on making most of the songs on this album go well past the standard time limit, especially because – like “Mirrors” – these songs will all be cut down once they hit the radio.
The first song on “The 20/20 Experience: Part 2” is called “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want).” Timberlake has stated in interviews that the second part of this album is the “slutty sister” to the more “virginal” first half. Right out of the gate, he tries to prove his point. This track is sexual and has an animalistic tone to its lyrics and a heavy bass-line, yet the melody is extremely flat. The song isn't really bad, but is just too repetitive and doesn’t really do much dynamically. If we’re considering it to be a warm-up into the rest of the album, I’d say I’m only lukewarm at best.
The next track, “True Blood,” is honestly not very good at all. I find the background noises provided by Timbaland to be unnecessary and extremely irritating. The song itself almost tries too hard to be sexy. Also, I’d like to offer a friendly piece of advice to all forms of pop culture: Stop trying to make vampires relevant again. We’re all over them. Stop singing about them, dressing like them for Halloween, and making movies about them. Even Kristen Stewart knows how much they suck (pun shamelessly intended).
“Cabaret” is next, and perpetuates the underwhelming trend this album seems to be following. There is, however, a surprise cameo by Drake that adds a bit of unexpected edge and honestly saves this track from becoming completely forgettable. “TKO” experiments with some wordplay and boxing imagery in an effort to describe some girl as a “knock-out.” Timbaland continues to annoy your ears in the background, but the song itself shows a bit more range than the previous few and throws it back to feature some classic JT beatboxing, which as any “Rock Your Body” or “Pop” fan can attest to, he’s surprisingly amazing at.
In comes the song that seems completely out of place amidst the rest of the tracks on this album. “Take Back the Night” was released as a single prior to the official release of this half of the album, and quickly became a radio smash. The use of bold horns and a clear nod to Michael Jackson’s style add a funky flair that makes this song an instant crowd-pleaser.
Hallelujah! I can finally see the light! “Murder” comes in loud and strong as a definite stand-out dance track. The melody is incredibly sassy and sexy and makes your hips start to involuntarily sway from side to side and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it but give into the beat. Justin’s best bud Jay-Z makes another appearance on this track, which turns out to be light-years more enjoyable than their collaboration on “Suit and Tie.”
The steady upward climb continues with “Drink You Away.” The beat slows down and the guitar riffs amp up as the lyrics soulfully complain about not even being able to get drunk enough to forget that one girl. The melody and the lyrics set this song up to become a guaranteed fan favorite. Subsequently, “You Got It On” kind of pales in comparison. It brings in the smooth jazz sound Timberlake seems to be so fond of, but it honestly just sits there and doesn’t really do much for the album as a whole.
“Amnesia” could potentially be a song that grows on me, but after the first few listens I’m still rather indifferent. The background melody is really pleasant and features a beautiful string orchestra sound, but the song itself is only OK at best; it’s not terrible, but it’s also not fantastic. This is also a rare case where the counter-melody in the last 2 minutes is much better than the beginning of the song. I give it a resounding meh.
The light can be seen again on “Only When I Walk Away.” Timberlake distorts his voice with that “through-a-stereo” sound that Bruno Mars is extremely fond of. The song stays consistently enjoyable throughout its entire 7-minute runtime. It has a nice, steady rock beat accompanied by the whiny hook that perfectly mirrors the whiny sound of the electric guitar.
Thankfully it can be said that Justin has left the best for last. “Not a Bad Thing” is an 11 and a half-minute song, but the pause in the middle honestly gives the impression that they are meant to be two separate songs, so I will address them as such (let’s call the second half “Pair of Wings”). The first 5 minutes of “Not a Bad Thing” are so clearly reminiscent of Justin’s former boy band days. It has a strikingly distinct *NSYNC sound and is one of those love songs that you’ll love to attempt to sing along to once you learn all of the words. “Pair of Wings” is incredibly beautiful. The lyrics send a gorgeous message of undying love and support for a significant other accompanied by a soft acoustic guitar backtrack. This entire song truly showcases how impeccably pure and beautiful Timberlake’s vocals are.
Overall, I'm on the fence about whether or not “The 20/20 Experience: Parts 1 and 2” will be able to live up to the incredible popularity and success of “Justified” and “FutureSex/LoveSounds.” The songs are not nearly as catchy or party-playlist-worthy, but I think it’s clear that this wasn’t Timberlake’s intention this time around. He created this two-part album in an effort to display his talent as a musician and, technically he did just that. There are definitely a few stand-out gems, but as a whole, this album falls just short of its incredibly high expectations. Still, many of these songs showcase his incredible voice and unbelievable intelligence when it comes to creating works of art through music.
Featured image via Facebook.