Justin Timberlake
The 20/20 Experience


4.5
superb

Review

by ghostalgeist USER (22 Reviews)
October 13th, 2021 | 17 replies


Release Date: 2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Aren't you something to admire.

JT sure loves making people wait, doesn't he? At the time, the four-year wait between his solid debut Justified and his mature, colorful followup FutureSex / LoveSounds sure seemed like a hell of a wait, but the masses had to wait seven whole years to hear from him again on 20/20 Experience. Admittedly, it's not like Timberlake vanishes into hiding during the interims between his records - Timberlake had made quite a name for himself as an actor inbetween FutureSex and 20/20, after all. Even so, making people wait this long for something new is an unheard-of tactic in the highly-competitive, perpetually-moving music industry, something that would probably kill a lesser-loved artist's momentum. But Timberlake is clearly cut from a different cloth - something about him makes his fanbase more than willing to wait for something good.

And to be fair, if Timberlake kept delivering albums this pristine, then the wait would be worth it indeed. 20/20 Experience is a formidable pop record, one that was frankly snubbed of its rightful Grammy For Best Pop Album at the time. This is a record that takes itself seriously - the songs are unusually long (the shortest cut on this record is almost five minutes), the composition & production are austere and experimental, and even the album title & cover insinuate that you're about to embark on a unique and unparalleled pop experience. And unique 20/20 Experience certainly is - it's chock full of surprises like the tribal percussion and sinuous syncopation of "Don't Hold The Wall", the unexpected hints of DnB present in the brisk "Tunnel Vision", and the blend of warm, old-timey RnB and speedy synthfunk of the wonderful "That Girl".

For what might be the first time in JT's entire discography, everything is finally working in tandem. Timbaland's production is deliciously funky, a delightful dance of warm and futuristic neo-soul that matches pace with Timberlake's smooth, sleek voice perfectly, a voice that hasn't sounded as confident and soulful as it does here. Timberlake is finally an active element in his own music, adding a lot of character and charisma to the music of 20/20 whereas his silky tenor merely felt like another instrument on Justified and (to a lesser extent) FutureSex. It took him a while to get to this point of finely-tuned naturalism, but now that he's here, you can feel the passion and confidence bleeding out of his voice on every track ("Mirrors" and "That Girl" are particularly strong vocal highlights).

The standout tracks on here are pop-music mastercraft - "Pusher Love Girl" feels like a sugar-sweet sequel to Prince's "Do Me, Baby", blessing the listener with a tasteful dichotomy between the sexy, stop-and-go verses and its' swelling, horn-and-organ-dominated chorus. "Suit & Tie" is a sophisticated slice of synth-drenched RnB, grooving along like an updated, more-timeless version of JT's own "Rock Your Body" years back, the wonderful "Strawberry Bubblegum" marries JT's harmonious vocals, cavernous synths & strings, and a slick drum machine together to create an achingly bittersweet groove, and both the tender, anthemic "Mirrors" and the serene-yet-spooky "Blue Ocean Floor" are an impeccable album-closer duo that ends 20/20 on the perfect note of grace and glory that it needed.

20/20 is excellent, man, and that's really all there is to it - the complaints I have with this record are ultimately somewhat minor in the face of 20/20's surprising sense of consistency and coherency. Yes, Jay-Z's feature and lame verse on "Suit and Tie" feels baffling and out-of-left-field when you consider that the album has no other guests, but it's a momentary derailment at best. Yes, the lyrics are juvenile and basic at times, and clash somewhat with the album's desire to express its maturity, but they're not distracting enough to detract from the color and texture of Timberlake's voice and music. I can't even say I have a problem with the overall length of the songs this time around compared to FutureSex - given how expressive and expansive everything is here, I feel like the tracks justify their length pretty perfectly, with only a couple of exceptions here and there ("Spaceship Coupe"). 20/20 ranks among the top tiers and echelons of modern pop music - simply put, it's an honest-to-God great album, and given what Timberlake would release in the wake of 20/20, that quickly became a more precious commodity than initially expected.



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user ratings (1514)
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
ghostalgeist
October 13th 2021


537 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

RECOMMENDED TRACKS:

Pusher Love Girl

Strawberry Bubblegum

That Girl

Mirrors

Blue Ocean Floor



this slaps

bigguytoo9
October 13th 2021


1149 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

his tour for this album was fucking unreal

MyMentality
October 13th 2021


162 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review! I love this album! Some of the best examples of pop music from the past decade. Still stands out even today.

ghostalgeist
October 13th 2021


537 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thank you man, and sonic CD ruuuulez, one of the GOAT VGM soundtracks, undeniably



and i agree, it literally still sounds great

Scoot
October 13th 2021


20808 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

this was such an anomaly release



jt is a talented dancer, singer and actor but i had no idea he was capable of creating an album like this



and then he just made an absolute shitshow in man of the woods

ghostalgeist
October 13th 2021


537 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

might as well have called it the lightning in the bottle experience

Storm In A Teacup
October 14th 2021


35569 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Heck yeah

Digging: Funeral for a Friend - Four Ways to Scream Your Name

Ryus
October 14th 2021


25918 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this good

futuresex/lovesounds > tho

Digging: Kraus - View No Country

ghostalgeist
October 14th 2021


537 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i could see how someone'd prefer it

Storm In A Teacup
October 14th 2021


35569 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah yeah yeah

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
October 14th 2021


58181 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I haven't heard this since probably 2014 but man it was good

Digging: Penfold - Our First Taste of Escape

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
October 14th 2021


11734 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review. This has always been really close a 5 for me, but unfortunately the lyrics are the one thing that's always prevented that from happening. I wouldn't have expected amazing lyrics or anything, but songs like Strawberry Bubblegum just get really cringy after a while in that department

ghostalgeist
October 14th 2021


537 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

exactly my thoughts - there is just something slightly holding it back from being a 5

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
October 14th 2021


11734 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Luckily the music itself is what pulls it through for me. The arrangements might get predictable after a while (verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-extended outro) but I love how creative he gets with those bridge and outro sections, and the way they tie in with each song overall. Plus the immaculate production and mixing, of course

ghostalgeist
October 14th 2021


537 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

it's a shame it's been almost ten years since JT ever put out anything this good

Piglet
October 14th 2021


8150 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i really enjoy not listening to this album

ghostalgeist
October 14th 2021


537 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

same but the opposite



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