‘The 20/20 Experience’ is bigger, not necessarily better
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 01:03
R&B singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake is set to release his first album in seven years, “The 20/20 Experience,” on Friday, March 15. However, the record is currently available for free streaming on iTunes in its entirety, and I can confidently say that the album was worth the wait. Timberlake’s sound has matured (he is a married man now, after all) and “The 20/20 Experience” is bigger and grander than anything in his previous discography.
The multi-talented, Tennessee-born former ’N Sync member hasn’t exactly been in hiding since 2005’s “FutureSex/LoveSounds.” The Facebook-inspired film “The Social Network,” in which Timberlake portrayed Napster co-founder Sean Parker, graced numerous top-10 lists in 2010. This past Saturday, Timberlake hosted “Saturday Night Live” for his fifth time alongside a star-studded list of fellow “Five-Timers” in one of the best episodes yet, reprising his role alongside Andy Samberg as the “Dick in a Box” and “Motherlover” guy.
Just seconds into “The 20/20 Experience,” however, listeners will be glad to have the six-time Grammy winner back in the music game. The album kicks off with “Pusher Love Girl,” eight minutes of soulful crooning about his love for wife Jessica Biel, whom he married in October 2012. Halfway through the song, the tempo changes as the production team of Timbaland and J-Roc begin working the part funk, part hip-hop magic that carries through the album.
If you haven’t already heard the first single, “Suit & Tie,” I strongly encourage a listen. The first single is unique – Jay-Z rap aside – in that it was made with radio in mind at 5:27. Timberlake told British radio station “Captial FM” that “If Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin can do 10-minute songs and Queen can do 10-minute songs, then why can’t we?” As such, most of the album (7/10 tracks, including “Mirrors”) are over seven minutes long.
The overall sound of the album swings back and forth between smooth, sensual R&B and sample-heavy, almost hip-hop themes. “Tunnel Vision,” for example, features beatboxing and hook after hook of “I got that tunnel vision for you,” all over a beat synthesized from a girl stating “I know you lie.” Unfortunately, the production team is no Kanye West. The beats behind “Tunnel Vision” and “Spaceship Coupe” are not only annoying, but they distract from JT’s voice. To say that most of “The 20/20 Experience” is overproduced would be an understatement.
The real value of the album are the tracks featuring the Tennessee Kids, the live orchestra that accompanied Timberlake to the Grammys and SNL. “That Girl” is a wonderfully classic-influenced tune that wouldn’t sound out of place alongside the likes of Ben E. King and the Drifters. The background vocalists compliment Timberlake’s voice brilliantly, and the brass musicians really bring a sense of excitement and urgency to the experience.
The final track, “Blue Ocean Floor,” is completely out of left field and sounds like a cross between Radiohead and Electric President, but boy, is it good. After 50 minutes of forward energy, I wasn’t expecting this reserved track, but it’s absolutely unlike anything JT has ever put out. Though most Timberlake fans probably won’t agree with me, “Blue Ocean Floor” might be the best track on the album.
Timberlake is set to join rapper Jay-Z for a twelve-city “Legends of the Summer” tour of exclusively stadium venues.