Review Summary: Sensual ear candy to Part 1's soulful ambition.
Justin Timberlake certainly got the media’s attention in 2013 when he announced the release of a two-part album, The 20/20 Experience
, after a six-year hiatus from music. The singles leading up to the release of Part 1 promised great things from the project. Lead single “Suit & Tie” was a huge hit, reaching number 3 on the U.S. and making the top 5 in numerous other countries. Second single “Mirrors” was as big if not bigger, hitting number 2 in the U.S. and 1 in the U.K. It was damn near impossible to avoid hearing either of these songs during the first half of 2013. After all the hype leading up to the first half of his project, The 20/20 Experience
matched expectations on all fronts and more. It could be argued that it’s a perfect pop album – the right amount of catchiness and the right amount of soul, phenomenally produced and maturely written, with every song oozing as much ambition and as many fresh ideas as the last. Songs range from five- to eight-minutes in length, which is unheard of in pop music, and the album itself was over 70-minutes long; it was obvious Timberlake put his heart and soul into the record. But as hype for The 20/20 Experience
died down halfway through the year, people either forgot about the second half of his project was coming, or they just stopped caring. Its lead single “Take Back the Night” was mildly successful to say the least, making it to number 8 in the U.S. charts, but musically it sounded like a blatant, albeit good, Michael Jackson impersonation more than anything. Even the most devoted fans knew that there was no way the second half could meet the expectations set by Part 1, and they were right. The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2
is stylistically simpler than its predecessor – it acts as the sensual ear candy to the first part’s soulful ambition. It's also longer than its predecessor at almost 75-minutes in length, which effectively alienates most of the casual listening fan base. All evidence points to Part 2 being a flop, and compared to Part 1, that’s essentially what it is.
It’s a shame too, because 2 of 2
features some of the catchiest pop songs of the past decade. “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” would have been a great choice for a single – a straight up dance tune with a chorus that’s more infectious than Ebola in a crowded elevator. The nine-and-a-half minute “True Blood” is possibly the downright sexiest song from the entire project, and single “Not a Bad Thing” closes the album with one of the most beautiful hooks Timberlake has ever sung. No track is as bombastic as “Mirrors” or as delicate as “Blue Ocean Floor,” but Timberlake didn’t want them to be. On 2 of 2
Justin doesn't want to reach out to your heart as much as he wants the songs to get stuck in your head. That’s not to say 2 of 2
lacks emotion in any sense, because the album's filled with it. “Amnesia” wouldn’t have been out-of-place on its predecessor – a string-driven ballad with lush harmonies and a tear-jerking outro that rivals “Blue Ocean Floor” as the most flat out gorgeous moment on the entire project. The flowing wall-of-strings, the seductive waltz feel, sweeping pizzicato lines sprinkled on top and Timberlake’s soothing timbre tying it all together with a glittery bow – hyperbole or not, it’s quite possibly one of the finest outros pop music has ever seen. The aforementioned “Not a Bad Thing” contains an acoustic hidden track halfway through, “Pair of Wings,” which is as powerful as it is subtle – a perfect way to close out the massively ambitious nature of the project.
People are right to assume 2 of 2
isn’t as good as its predecessor, because while Part 1 was flawless in almost every respect, unfortunately this is not. There are a couple guest appearances on the album that are nothing to write home about. Drake tries to make the most of his guest spot in “Cabaret,” adding a little flair to its upbeat groove, but sadly Jay-Z’s verse in “Murder” does the song more harm than good.
Yoko Ono, she got that Yoko Ono
You know that shit that made John Lennon go solo
Know that shit gotta be lethal
If that pussy broke up The Beatles
Yes, those are actually the lyrics, and the rest of his verse is just as asinine. And of course the most glaring problem with The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2
is its nonsensically long runtime. Many tracks go on for too long; in fact, every song sans one is over 5-minutes, which is highly unnecessary given the simplistic nature of the album. A couple of songs could have been cut from the tracklist altogether and the album would’ve been better for it – songs like “Only When I Walk Away” and “Drink You Away,” the latter sounding like an attempt to capture the laid back old-school rock attitude into a generic breakup song. Needless to say, it doesn’t really work.
Aside from a few bumps in the road however, The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2
proves to be an enjoyable journey through and through. It does pale in comparison to its predecessor, there’s no denying that, but then again most albums do. It was impossible for Justin Timberlake to improve upon perfection, and he relished in that fact, making the dirtiest, sexiest dance music he can possibly make. In Justin's case, I'd say his six-year music hiatus was well worth it. Now, along with Timbaland’s incredible production and Timberlake’s enhanced musical vision (literally), it's starting to seem like the man truly can do no wrong.