March 16, 2013

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Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience (Review)

This is the much-awaited 3rd album from the former boybander. His last album FutureSex/LoveSounds was released in the Summer of 2006. The music landscape has changed significantly since then. Those expecting Justin to do a full-on Dance/Pop album will be disappointed as this one is done in a strong R&B and Hip Hop style. It continues what was started with the previous albums. Entirely produced by frequent collaborator Timbaland, the songs run the gamut from smooth midtempos and ballads to party jams. The majority of the songs are arranged as extended suites with multiple sections including intros, outros, orchestral and percussion breaks, and codas. One could consider some of these additional sections as other songs.

Here is an overview of each song:

Pusher Love Girl This album opener discusses the love addiction he is afflicted with. It begins with an orchestral flourish, announcing the bigger things to come. The production changes and adds a stronger beat about 3/4 of the way through with Justin namechecking certain illicit substances one may become addicted to.

Suit & Tie (feat. Jay-Z) The lead single with its horn-dretched intro builds into the Disco/R&B throwback about getting all dressed up in the aforementioned clothing is so smooth and catchy. Justin's falsetto is a joy to listen to.

Don't Hold The Wall Sporting Bollywood-esque tribal drums and an ethnic vocal sample, this club banger makes it hard to sit still. The extended dance break leading to a bridge is one of the few Dance/Electronic moments on the album.

Strawberry Bubblegum Sweet and sexy, this song about his main squeeze being a delectable treat has  strong Michael Jackson and Al Green influences. The dreamy salsa-lite instrumental that comes in later is exquisite

Tunnel Vision The Hip Hop song calls to mind "My Love" from his last album except this is much prettier. The layered harmonies are perfection.

Spaceship Coupe This celestial-themed silky midtempo is lovely. Dim all the lights to set the mood while listening to this. The rock guitar solo comes in at the right time just as it would on a classic Prince song.

That Girl This has a strong 60s R&B flavor that doesn't let up.

Let The Groove Get In Strongly (unintentionally) influenced by Michael Jackson and Change, this uptempo is aimed at the dancefloor. The "Conga"-esque production and the "Wanna Be Startin' Something" rapidfire vocal delivery make for a deadly combination. The "Off The Wall" styled second section builds to a cold ending.

Mirrors The Rock-influenced song does immediately call to mind his very own "What Goes Around... Come Around", especially the drums. This one is deeply personal, most likely being about his wife.

Blue Ocean Floor The album closer featuring a hypnotic reversed string loop is extremely haunting. Justin's voice portrays a certain vulnerability that he has only let the world see only a few times before.

Timbaland's production is spot-on as are Justin's vocals. The lyrics on many of the songs may at times be slightly cliché and jejune, but coupled with all the other elements, it manages to work. Overall, this is a strong album, but it definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea. This is easily his least commercial album so far. It would be ranked below FutureSex/LoveSounds and above Justified, however, that is not to say Justified is a bad album or something. Only a couple of the tracks really could work well as singles with the right single edit, though certain songs may have to be reworked in the studio to be made appropriate for releasing to radio. Fans of Justin and Timbaland should still check this out.

The album will be released on March 19 in the U.S. on both CD and digital download formats. Target will be selling a special Deluxe Edition CD with 2 additional songs "Dress On" and "Body Count." A vinyl edition will also be available.

Grade: A


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