The last time Justin Timberlake put out an album, I was a hilarious fourteen-year-old with impeccable music taste and a knack for trouble. Seven years later, I’m still hilarious, almost at the legal drinking age, and still a slight badass. Just like me, Justin Timberlake has changed immensely, whether expanding as an actor or taking risks with his new album, The 20/20 Experience. Although the sexiness and content of his previous albums flew way over my head, I’m smart enough to know now that Timberlake is no longer a pass-over artist. He’s a big force in today’s media culture, and he’ll only continue to get bigger as he perfects his craft.
Which is why listening to The 20/20 Experience is so exciting. This album provides examples of Timberlake’s natural talent in music and his ability to create detailed musical experiences. He essentially takes on a whole new persona, transforming from preconceived assumptions and turning into something almost unrecognizable. Not entirely, though, as this album comes equipped with typical Timberlake charm and style, allotting for lust-filled lyrics and blunt imagery, which allows a clear picture of his objectives.
The best part about this album is the perspective it takes. With the trend currently focused on music that lacks any real substance, it’s nice to have Timberlake’s all-natural way. His utilization of a “big band” feeling or the inclusion of real, well-played instruments gives his music a certain edge and makes it valid.
From the very beginning it’s clear this album is going to provide a genuine listen. “Pusher Love Girl” tells a story in under 30 seconds, providing an exciting beginning while fanning off into fairytale-like music, only to have Timberlake’s sweet vocals come in to calm any extra excitement the intro might have caused. The songs only get better as “Suit and Tie” makes you dance, “Spaceship Coupe” makes space travel sexy – if it wasn’t already – and “Blue Ocean Floor” turns into an enjoyable slow jam. Even the transitions, which tie the album together, are enjoyable.
I only have two complaints about The 20/20 Experience. One focuses on how shallow some of the content seems to be. It’s no secret that I was initially not a huge fan of “Suit and Tie” because of lines like, “I can’t wait till I get you on the floor goodlookin’/Going so hot/ so hot like an oven/”. And after an initial listen to the rest of the album, I found similar issues with other songs, specifically, “Don’t Hold the Wall” and “Strawberry Bubblegum.” It seems silly to base entire songs off of a single silly theme like dancing or preference of taste.
Another problem is getting used to the experimentation in the songs. Introductions include low voiced or sung narrations that take a second to adjust to. Some of the instruments distort and then die out, only to be replaced by another mutated sound.
However, those things become easier to handle. The content isn’t necessarily “shallow,” it’s just cloaked under catchy melodies and trendy rhythms. This album is uplifting and feel-good. It also subconsciously reminds you of your self-value and encourages all types of success. It’s an advocate of true love. But I had to get through all the fancy bass lines and Timberlake’s extremely impressive range to find those.
In all honesty, this album defines what it means to “come back.” It’s creative and true to form. It’s familiar but exotic, pushing its own limitations to impress. It’s a little over the top, but not flashy enough to be considered a nuisance. As an advocate for everything JT, I’m not surprised this album came out the way it did. It’s only the work of a true gentleman, and Justin Timberlake is the finest gentleman in all the land.