Review Summary: It's catchy, it's danceable, it's fun. It's also too long and at times, exhausting to listen to as well.
Life is never easy being JT. He sings, he acts, he constantly is featured in GQ. The ladies want him, the guys want to be him. He took 7 years off from singing to become an established actor, and some of the performances he's given (The Social Network in particular) are just stellar. So when he announces that a new album is on the way, it's hard not to be even the slightest bit enthusiastic. Whereas artists like Rihanna pump out albums every year that seem to adhere to the same formula with little to no change, one look at the track listing for The 20/20 Experience
shows he's got some ambition up his sleeve.
Since I've gotten the album, I've listened to it three times. I know it's one that will have to grow on me, as his previous effort FutureSex/LoveSounds set the bar admittedly soaringly high, But I'm still not feeling it yet. It has sort of grown on me a bit, but I'm still not quite... used to it. For one, it sounds startlingly different from the previous album, whereas his previous album had a more upbeat, power-RnB sound to it, this sounds like more of a throwback to the 90s (but thankfully as far away from N*SYNC as possible!). And the songs do exceed 5 minutes in length- which is a bold move for pop music. In this day and age where people are used to their pop songs being a maximum of 4 minutes long, this album flirts with progressive territory. And in a way, I do admire Timberlake for trying to make an album that is meant to be listened to front to back, just like in the old days.
To be fair, none of the songs are particularly bad- they're all very enjoyable. Despite the mixed reviews, "Suit And Tie" really does represent the album perfectly- there's lots of balance between upbeat and slow. The song itself is a fun listen- there's an air of old time class to it, with a mix of retro sounds of the sixties and the newer, hip hop sounds of today. Jay-Z proves himself to be yet again, the coolest rapper alive- with his middle section rap that adds a lot to the song. Perhaps the highlight of the album is "Don't Hold The Wall"- 7 minutes of pure energy with a tribal sound, and a catchy chorus that sometimes sounds dark. This song will sure tear up the dance floor on dance competition shows worldwide- at times it bears resemblance to "Pass that Dutch" by Missy Elliot. One particular part that's very interesting, and I'm surprised not many people have mentioned this yet- at 4:04, a sample from "Steel Dream" from Cirque du Soleil's Quidam
can be heard- it adds to the eerie atmosphere of the song. "That Girl" is a fun song with backup from a Motown choir. It's catchy, upbeat, and deserves to be a hit. "Mirrors" is a song that's the definition of a hit- a catchy hook, an irresistible vintage Timberlake beat and excellent lyrics. The guitar riff is very much an ear worm, and it's nigh impossible to get out of your head. And, of course, it's not hard to see why everyone loves "Blue Ocean Floor" so much- it's so beautiful, ethereal, at times downright creepy. It brings to mind Madonna's "Falling Free" from last year's MDNA
, which has that same atmospheric air. The effects the song uses really add a sense of eeriness.
Also, anyone who lives in Canada gets the two bonus tracks- "Dress On", well, it's easy to see why it's nothing more than a mere "bonus track". It's catchy, but it's easy to see why it's left off the US version of the album. However, "Body Count" is a simple must-hear. It sounds a bit like "Like I Love You" with a Spanish flavour to it too. It's definitely a song that shouldn't have been left off- it is danceable and could have been known as an instant classic.
However, the one complaint I have about this album is a big one- it's WAY TOO LONG. I get that Timberlake was trying to make an "album" instead of a collection of tracks, but its sheer scope- while impressive, also makes it a chore to listen to at times as well. "Pusher Love Girl" is the first track and an indication of things to come a the song ends at 5 minutes, but then there's a 3 minute coda that goes on and on and drags the song out. It really isn't necessary and takes away from the track. "Strawberry Bubblegum" both takes forever to begin (seriously, get rid of that "this song is for you" part) and to end. The entire second half of the song adds nothing to it. Mind you, I love long songs. They feel like adventures, if done right, and a number of bands I love have mostly songs that exceed the eight minute mark. But since a lot of stuff happens in the song, they feel way shorter. This isn't the case with The 20/20 Experience
- at a lot of times, you think the songs are over, but they keep on going. This really is a shame, because all of the songs are good at worst, but have potential to be great. There are a few songs that benefit from the long lengths (like "Tunnel Vision", "Don't Hold the Wall", "Blue Ocean Floor"), but trim down the album and you have a way better album.
It really is nice to have JT back. He's truly a visionary of pop music, and it's hard not to have respect for him, he sure knows how to deliver a good tune and get the people dancing. And while this is an acceptable return to form, itncould be better. It is nice to have a pop "album" instead of how pop albums usually are nowadays, but there's a lot of ways it could be better. Still, I'd take it over garbage like Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne, so he's doing a good job in some way, at least.
DOWNLOAD THESE TRACKS
-Blue Ocean Floor
-Don't Hold The Wall