Justin Timberlake’s ’20/20 Experience’: Not worth the seven-year wait

Angelica Wallingford

After seven long years away from the music industry Justin Timberlake decided it was time to hang up his actors’ hat, slip on a tuxedo and get back in the studio with his longtime collaborators and some new ones, to give us his long awaited new album. Sounds like a recipe for an amazing album right? Well, think again.

In early 2013 Timberlake hinted at a comeback on his Twitter account by releasing a tweet that said “I think I’M READY,” along with a link to a YouTube video of him walking into a studio explaining why he hasn’t released anything in so long. In the video he said that he didn’t want to release anything that he doesn’t love. After months of recording, “The 20/20 Experience” was finally released on March 18. For his newest album, Timberlake took on the role of executive producer and head songwriter.

The main problem I have with the album is that some of the music tracks sounds like a complete rehash of Timbaland’s other work. At times it could feel like your listening to “FutureSex/LoveSounds” or “Shock Value II” rather then Timberlake’s newest release. On top of that, some of the songs, like “Spaceship Coupe,” easily sound like they could be a Robin Thicke song.

Then there are the lyrics. Timberlake is a pretty good songwriter that is responsible for some of the catchiest hooks in pop music. However, some of the lyrics are corny and border on literary porn. The most blatant use of these types of lyrics is the song “Strawberry Bubblegum,” which appears to be a metaphor of some kind for a woman’s vagina. In the song, Timberlake sings the lines “your mouth emotion gets me so high” and “we’re making love like professionals.” Wait a minute: professionals? What does that even mean? No passion with a contractual agreement? No one would want to be apart of that, no matter who was singing it.

Another thing that I didn’t initially like was that most of the songs are extended mixes that are seven to eight minutes long. The perfect example of this is the opening track “Pusher Love Girl.” That song could have ended at the 4-minute fifty-four second mark and be a really strong opener but then the song goes into this remix like breakdown. This however, is a very minor flaw that listeners will get use to after listening to the album a lot.

All those cons being said, this is actually a decent album. It’s not Timberlake’s best release, but it’s far from his worst. The one thing that I absolutely love about this album is that it’s not a straightforward pop album. As soon as I heard of his comeback I thought he was going for a pop sound, like many people did. I was wrong and this was one instance where I’m glad I was. There are influences from all across the musical spectrum. The mixture of old school ‘60s R&B;, ‘70s funk, neo-soul, hip-hop, jazz, pop and much more make this album worth listening to. The album stays away from any of the cliché dubstep bass lines and other EDM musical styles, which is a nice change up since that seems to be the norm for pop artists today. There are also a lot of artistic influences on the album as well, such as Prince, Quincy Jones, and Michael Jackson. The flow on this album is another thing that I liked. It makes going from one track to another almost seamless, even with the typical four-second gap time. His voice is also a major plus. Each song compliments his tenor voice almost perfectly, which makes for pretty sweet ear candy.

Highlights include the first single “Suit & Tie,” the high energy Timbaland produced “Tunnel Vision,” the raw soulful throwback “That Girl,” the Latin influenced track “Let the Groove In,” the minimalist track “Blue Ocean Floor,” and the sweet shout out to his wife “Mirrors.” The worst track on the album has to be “Don’t Hold the Wall.”

Even with its flaws “The 20/20 Experience” has a more mature and grown-up sound then Timberlake’s previous releases, manages to stay true to his artistic aesthetic and makes for an interesting listening experience that his longtime fans will love.

“The
20/20 Experience” is available in stores and on iTunes.