Review Summary: Goofy, and at times cringingly corny pop music stretched out to a bloated extent beyond any justification.
It’s a complete gimmick. Timberlake’s reasoning for the immense girth of his 7-plus-minute epics that were abundant throughout the first part of The 20/20 Experience
was, “If Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin can do 10-minute songs and Queen can do 10-minute songs then why can't we?”
And that’s as decent an argument as any I suppose, but when you then proceed to release a follow-up album with an even longer running time, and more drawn-out tracks even still, it’s a bit obvious that this whole idea of composing pop songs that far exceed the average radio hit’s length is a very forced and deliberate attention ploy. There’s nothing wrong with having lengthy songs at all, and this would not be an issue that needs to be addressed if said songs were constructed to sustain themselves for over a running time of 4-minutes, but the tracks on the first part of The 20/20 Experience
enervated themselves by continuing long after all their ideas had been used up, and unsurprisingly, The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2
shows more obvious signs of suffering from this.
This isn’t bad music, it’s just trying to be overtly infectious by repeatedly hammering out the hooks in a fatigued way, rather than concentrating the music into precise and focused forms. When these hooks are first introduced however, they’re copiously solid. The brazen brass section coupled with the vigorous funk stomp of the jungle-themed “Gimme What I Don't Know (I Want)” kicks off the album is a legitimate and concise manner. As “True Blood” then follows suit and roars (quite literally) in with its samples of wolves howling and siren-sounding synthesizer in rotation, Timberlake’s uniquely cunning and ferociously titillating vocal performance is undermined by levels of lyrical cheese that go from fun and lovable to flat-out insufferable over its 9-and-a-half-minute expanse that gradually grows more and more tedious and pointless by the second.
“TKO” could’ve been acceptable as a standard fare stomp and clap anthem if your hands and feet didn’t go numb as the sixth minute clocks in. “Take Back the Night” keeps the cornball rolling forward with some disco-revival that might have echoed Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams’ recent tributes paid to the era had the song put more emphasis on immediate catchiness rather than Timberlake’s tired lyricism about the same character-deprived female figures. That’s not to say riveting lyricism is something you’d look for in a solo album from a former member of a boy band, but Timberlake’s choruses are already lessened in their engrossing nature on this album as a result from constant repetition over these lengthy songs, so the awkward sexual innuendo involving nameless woman coming from a now married man doesn’t aid in 2 of 2
’s enjoyment narrative-wise. Drake and JAY Z offer some hip hop grooves and rapped lyricism of their own, but this is the Timberlake and Timbaland show, so despite their efforts they really can’t help but feel grievously out of context and overshadowed by the rest of the starkly contrasting music’s elements.
What’s interesting is that the shortest songs that are around the 4-5-minute range are the most forgettable ones in comparison to arena-scaled, swagger-induced southern rock heat of “Only When I Walk Away” and the weeping strings of the crestfallen (or at least as sad as Timberlake can probably get) “Amnesia.” And that’s a real shame that the most infectious tracks are bogged down by unnecessarily excessive filler outros and the cyclical nature of their verses, because if Timberlake and Timballand didn’t stretch sugary adult contemporary R&B ballads like the closer “Not a Bad Thing” to an irrationally overblown 8-minutes, the combined forces of the diversely inspired production on Timballand’s part and Timberlake’s irresistible falsetto would work wonders on abbreviated songs that last within listeners long after they’re over, as opposed to just lasting until the initial absorption is diminished. As it stands, the central and glaring flaw of both The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2
and its brother album is that it gives you no real good reason to listen to the rest of the songs after they each lay all their cards down on the table; and not to mention within a time frame of what would have been the radio edit anyway.