Time is on Justin Timberlake’s side. Here are a few factors to explain my reasoning: He has managed to escape the music scene for seven years to pursue a movie career, launch a clothing line, and work on other non-music related projects. He also got hitched to actress Jessica Biel in 2012, which I’m sure was a life changing experience for the 32-year-old entertainer. Now, he has reached the point in his career where he just wants to share all of the life lessons he has learned since being away from the mic. Well, all we can say is: it’s about time!
His new album, The 20/20 Experience(out today) is an example of his journey into full manhood as there are nothing but signs of grown and sexy floating throughout every love induced track. 20/20’s pop/soul/hip hop sound is not a far cry from his techno roller-coaster ride, FutureSex/LoveSounds, which was released in 2006 and shot to the top of the charts, initiating JT as the newest blue-eyed soul brother on the block.
But, while FutureSex/LoveSounds was an attempt to completely integrate his soulful persona with a myriad of genres as well as erase any ounce of boy band innocence, his new album solidifies his complete comfort as an artist. He doesn’t rush a thing and instead takes his time to create a mellow, ambient vibe, which is evident in the 8-plus minute length on almost every song.
His musical partner in crime, Timberland masterfully orchestrates the electro soul beats that echo dance fever on some parts, such as on “Let the groove get in,” a Latin-tinged up beat number that is slightly reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”with its tribal chants. There are also hints of exotic beats on the jungle-esque tune “Don’t hold the wall,” where Timbo reverberates the chorus while Timberlake creates a sexy atmosphere for the ladies.
We already know JT can make a decent dance record (Rock Your Body, Sexyback), but the true essence of the album comes from the love-themed tracks that all seem to be a result of his newlywed status. In “Pusher Love Girl,” he equates his woman with being a drug he is addicted to. While the drug-love reference is a bit overdone, the song still makes for a nice touch with its mid-tempo, bluesy vibe via the organ instrumentation and JT’s crystal falsetto.
His second single, “Mirrors” is a complete love letter to his wife. The hook bleeds sincere affection: “Cause I don’t wanna lose you now/I’m lookin’ right at the other half of me/The vacancy that sat in my heart/Is a space that now you hold.” The song sounds almost as if it could have been recorded during his days with N’Sync, with its pop-driven melody with underlying romanticism. But, one thing is clear: JT is not a teenager anymore, but a married man in love.
That grown man facade is clearly evident on the laid back club banger “Suit and Tie” which features Jay-Z. While this song wasn’t the best impression he could have made in music, especially it being his big comeback song, it more so showcases his new, grown and sexy style rather than his musical prowess.
Another unattractive vibe from the album was the long length of each track, most of which went way over the 4 1/2 minute time of most R&B songs.
Maybe the lengthy album was his attempt to capture the long instrumental song structure that was introduced in the 1970s by soul giants like Issac Hayes and Barry White.
Whatever the case, he makes up for the length flaws by producing a great project that is both soulful, captivating and creative in musical texture.
Roots drummer and producer ?uestlove has set the rumor mills on fire by announcing that JT is going to release a follow-up album in a few months, titled the 20/20 Experience, Volume 2. I certainly wouldn’t doubt him possibly releasing more music very soon. He’s been gone seven years, so I’m sure he has a lot more to say, and his fans are ready to listen.
4 out 5 stars