Breaking down “20/20” track by track
He who says it first says it best. Justin Timberlake wrote this open letter to the fans in January 2013. In it, Timberlake announces a hiatus from his hiatus from music.
“Back in June of last year, I quietly started working on what is now, my next journey with that thing I love called MUSIC.
The inspiration for this really came out of the blue and to be honest, I didn’t expect anything out of it. I just went into the studio and started playing around with some sounds and songs. It was probably the best time I’ve had in my career… Just creating with no rules and/or end goal in mind and really enjoying the process.
What I came up with is something I couldn’t be more excited about! It is full of inspiration that I grew up listening to and some newfound muses that I’ve discovered along the way.
I’m calling it “The 20/20 Experience,” and it’s coming out this year.
I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it….
Get ready. This is going to be fun (well, at least it is for me).”
– Justin Timberlake
JT’s third album drops March 19.
It’s already one of the bestselling albums on iTunes, where you [could] stream the whole thing for free. The album sounds like what it sounds like. It sounds like Justin had a lot of “fun” messing around with textures, eras, sounds and genres. Is the end result as fun for listeners? You be the judge. Here’s my take, track by track.
Pusher Love Girl: 8:02
Heads up: every song on this album is twice as long as it needs to be. In “Pusher Love Girl”, Memphis R&B and big band music underscore close harmonies. The second half uses R&B guitar motifs as heard on “My.Beautiful.Dark.Twisted.Fantasy”, Kaye’s 2010 masterpiece. When I try to imagine what “Pusher Love Girl” sounds like I can’t help but think of “Kanye’s Workout Tape” from College Dropout. A strong opener that gives a good idea of the genre- mashing to come.
Suit & Tie: 5:26
The much- anticipated first single from “20/20” grabbed me by the earholes and held me captive for a week and a half. I was just so ecstatic to hear some new JT jams that I didn’t care what they sounded like.
After marinating in the world of pop culture opinions, I eventually realized that yes, the slow intro completely blows (“shit, tie, shit”… really?). But I give Suit & Tie an A all around. Although it still reminds me of the clock in It’s A Small World at Disneyland.
Don’t Hold The Wall: 7:10
“Don’t Hold The Wall” brings on a darker mood and uses some Indian- inspired wailing. The aesthetic sounds like the Steampunk- meets- Bollywood sound used in Baz Luhurman’s Moulin Rouge! The glock beat sounds straight out of Nelly Furtado’s “Say It Right”, another Timbaland collab. Overall, it’s kind of an aggressive way to get people on the floor, but gets props for use of exotic sounds. It’s probably one of the best songs on the album, Reminds me of getting sweaty in da jungle.
Strawberry Bubblegum: 7:59
JT steals some of Katy Perry’s candy- flavored innuendo. In this sticky sweet track, JT calls his lady love the strawberry bubble gum to his blueberry lollipop. Together they are a berry blowpop.
Tunnel Vision: 6:46
For this music video I propose JT and Jessica Biel at opposite ends of a long hallway whilst the world folds down around them, Inception style. I find it ironic that there’s a song called “Tunnel Vision” on an album called “The 20/20 Experience”.
Spaceship Coupe: 7:17
Quick! Somebody make a mashup of “Spaceship Coupe” and “Space Cowboy”! But make it more “Space Cowboy”. “Spaceship Coupe” loosed points because of the creepy alien sex sounds at the end.
Let the Groove Get In: : 7:11
This song wins. It has single potential, dance potential, and hit potential. “Let The Groove In” merges Latin with Motown for a spicy and stylish mix.
When I first caught wind of “Mirrors”, I thought it would replace “LoveStoned/I Think That She Knows” as my favorite fast/ slow combo song. It totally didn’t. And not just because every song on this album follows a 2- part formula. “Mirrors” starts out steady and gets slower, eventually dissipating into a soft repeating chorus that resembles “I Think That She Knows”, but uses rich harmonies less and synthesized bass more. Also, about the lyrics: I know I’m not a Roman god like J.T., but sometimes when I look in my mirror, I’m downright terrified. I would definitely not compare my lover to a mirror.
Blue Ocean Floor: 7:22
“Blue Ocean Floor” makes me want to drown. By the time it’s over, you forget about how good the rest of the album was, but that’s okay because by that time you’re probably getting laid and/ or you’re asleep. It winds up settling on the ocean floor, the lowest point of Earth.
At first listen, “The 20/20 Experience” can’t top “FutureSex/Lovesounds”. It’s not as good as “FutureSex”, or “Justified”. It’s not even as good as “Celebrity”, N*Sync’s third and final album. Most of the tracks don’t demand your attention, they just sound… nice. Nice music to play while you seduce that exotic supermodel you brought home from the club. Nice music to play while you make your wife some seafood pasta. Nice music to play while you cruise your BMW down the strip after a long night of expensive cocktails. Very few tracks have the versatility or catchiness of “Rock Your Body”, “SexyBack”, or even “Pop”. “The 20/ 20 Experience” sounds more like an experiment than an experience. But I like that.
At this point, Justin Timberlake has such a formidable persona that he’d have to produce a Kevin Federline album to knock him off Mt. Olympus. True, you can’t revolutionize music with every album. But when you wait seven years, and you’re Justin Timberlake, we kind of expect you to.