Review Summary: These albums were not just made for radio; they were made for record books.
What is unfathomable is how JT and Timbaland recorded this many great songs in one year. For those who didn’t know, the songs that make up both albums were recorded at the same time, and out of a total of 30-40 songs, the songs were cut it in half to make these two albums, which are now an official compilation.
In order to give each individual album an authentic and honest listen, it must be clear that these albums were made with each other, and for each other. The two albums conjoin together into a cohesive movement that is truly “music you can see”. There is no doubt about it; each half of the album contains the elements that make the 20/20 Experience so special. What JT brought so boldly in each release is all here. The monogamous love-making journal lyrics that make Jessica Biel blush and Marvin Gaye’s grave sparkle make up the large majority of these albums, such as in Part 2 opener, “Gimme What I Don’t Know I Want.” Sometime the lyrics can be a bit cheesy, especially when it seems that he just picked any metaphor he could for love: drugs, bubblegum, murder, alcohol, and reflective glass to name a few. However, his voice is so flawless and soulful that, even when he sings what can at times be really lackluster lyrics, he makes it work.
Perhaps the biggest reason that these albums are worthy of such praise is Timbaland’s stellar production. Incorporating a combination of vocal, live, and programmed instrumentation is a difficult thing to do, but the final result on these albums is a breathtaking canvas for JT to freely use his gift. With the wide variety of sounds comes a wide variety of genres; on these albums JT is backed by heavy hip-hop beats on one track, then soulful brass and a live backing band for another (“That Girl”). Another good sign of a great producer is that he can make a 7+ minute song – or in this case, twelve 7+ songs – not boring or dragged out, but smooth and anthemic; probably the best example of this is the very-successful “Mirrors”, which in its first half contains the familiar radio hit, then blends into the gorgeous postlude which is home to some of JT’s best melodies. The placement of songs on these albums are noteworthy as well; each album ends with their respective closers, “Blue Ocean Floor” and “Pair of Wings”, which both provide perfect conclusions to the ultimate feel of each album.
The 20/20 Experience could very much be the best pop album of the year – if not of the past decade. Yes, this claim is bold. And maybe I’ll change my mind in a few years, but right now, I really think that history is in the making. These albums are game-changers. It is clear that JT and Timbaland made these masterpieces for the long haul. These albums were not just made for radio; they were made for record books. Close your eyes for a few hours and indulge in the 20/20 Experience. Even if you fall asleep, you’ll have a whimsical, sexy, and cinematic dream that has one incredible soundtrack.
Part 1 Top Tracks:
Pusher Love Girl
Blue Ocean Floor
Part 2 Top Tracks:
You Got It On
Pair of Wings