I’m inclined to follow Justin Timberlake because his extreme passion for his craft resonates so much with his listeners. His return to music meant the return of a becoming legend, but after a while, the first half of The 20/20 Experience became underwhelming, almost dull. The freshness wore off, so the return of the rest of the 20/20 project, The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2, doesn’t excite me.
The album’s introduction is generic. A sci-fi intro couldn’t distract me from Timberlake’s vibrating voice and lyrical attempt at exposing our “primitive sides”. I can’t blame “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” for trying to arise the animal inside. The lyrics, “Ready I’m like the gentleman that your momma would love/ooh get to know me/Baby you act like a lady/don’t have to cover it up/things you wanna show me” really inspire the destruction of anyone with enough courage to say that shit to me. The insinuation that Timberlake doesn’t want it, but boy I’m going to give it to him, really grinds my gears in a traditional bad way. It’s just so off-putting to people with other things to think about than, “now take me to your jungle/I’m not afraid/and if you’re looking for your animal/hop in my cage.”
I spent the entirety of my listens in a state of misunderstanding, as every song forced some strong emotional reaction. My distaste lies in Timberlake’s inability to focus on anything besides women, sleeping with women, or the devil powers women seem to possess. The subject matter of “Cabaret” is self-explanatory, but his puns and descriptions leave an awful taste. “Now can we discuss how fast you just got undressed/girl, if sex is a contest, then you’re coming first” didn’t give me a chuckle or turn me on or whatever else it is these lyrics are trying to do. “TKO” tries to use a fighting analogy, where the woman is evil and knocks Timberlake out, with her crazy woman lust no doubt. “Take Back the Night” ensures the woman that only by remaining extremely close to Timberlake will she feel real power. But, my favorite track is “Murder.” Timberlake warns the people of that girl, “Ooooh that girl is murder/everybody get down,” which isn’t too bad. At least he’s attributing some powerful action to women.
Now, I hoped for a musical salvage of this album. Again, I’m disappointed. “True Blood” starts with some weird auto-tuned “beats” that never progress past being odd. It turns into the mean cousin of a bad club song; it doesn’t grow up, it remains bland. “You Got It On” is soulful, but again, never moves past a generic, amateur soundboard sound. “Amnesia” has a grand introduction, with that pretty orchestra sound. All the string instruments create a clean climax. But, instead of following through with that, the strings disappear and there’s only a weird “blub” sound and a basic melody.
“Drink You Away” is the only song that has a likable melody. It has this twangy, rustic guitar. The country feel gives it character, and Timberlake never ruins it with some overhyped idea of a tune. It remains pure.
I feel like Justin Timberlake has used this album series as a testament to his willingness to modernize his material, and has attempted to celebrate the human sexual experience. Certainly his material varies from current “pop”, but it does so in a Timberlake fashion. However, I can’t get behind his idea of sexualizing and attraction, especially when the lyrics are simple and a little distasteful. This album doesn’t really reach a wide audience, and I think Timberlake failed in his ability to connect with half the population. Art is what you make of it, but he lacks respect.