Best Albums of 2013: #7
7. Justin Timberlake -The 20/20 Experience (1 of 2)
It’s been seven years too long, but it’s still nice to have the prince of pop back on the scene
Faces in the Crowd*
“The last time this musician/actor came out with an album was in 2006! He’s finally made a comeback with the 20/20 experience. The album is full of catchy tunes and seductive lines. The album starts off strong, reeling in fans early, with “Pusher Love Girl.” While the song is quite cliché, comparing a man’s love interest to drugs, the song is still quite enjoyable. The big hit single, “Suit and Tie,” is what I like to call the crowd pleaser of the album. He really made me believe that if I put on a suit and tie, I would be able to accomplish anything through sheer chivalry. ”Strawberry Bubblegum,” can easily be a fan favorite, it was for me, with his nice and enticing lyrics in this song. Overall, the album is full of infectious beats and grooves, such as “Don’t hold the wall,” and “Tunnel Vision.” Definitely have to give this one a 5 out of 5.”
It’s been a long time coming. Seven years, actually, since Justin Timberlake released a studio album. That’s an absolute eternity in pop music. Especially for pop’s greatest male artist of this generation. With that said, you need to understand the circumstances, Mr. Timberlake was busy pursuing an acting career, making(and drinking) tequila and wifing Jessica Biel. His devoted fans were just fine with waiting, because it made sense. Wifing Jessica, drinking tequila, and making more money on the movie front makes perfect sense to even the most idiotic of people. But the more we saw Timberlake in movie after movie and taking part in his other endeavors, the more we thought JT would never make a new album. The longer everyone waited, the more we began to worry. Then, out of nowhere, came “Suit and Tie”. A song that would be his next album’s lead single, and sweet lord, did that start a frenzy? Timberlake would then partner up with Target to put out commercials for his new album and suddenly the anticipation was on! The 20/20 Experience was coming and the joygasms would ensue. The album sold 968,000 copies in it’s first week, the highest of Timberlake’s career.
Soon after the album had been released, Timberlake broke the news that there would be a second 20/20 Experience on the way in the fall. At the time we were really stoked but looking back on it now, it didn’t really need to happen. The only thing it really did for JT was hurt his Grammy chances. Which is sad. The 2nd installment of The 20/20 Experience kind of lacked. It basically was a b-sides album that was trying to pose as a full length. We were still riding high on the first installment. How could we have even fully grasped the sequel or second part? It’s like the after-after party of albums. This is why I chose to recognize the first half of The 20/20 Experience on the list because many lists didn’t know what to do with it so they left it off. But how could we? Timberlake’s comeback was more than a success, it was a triumph. JT and his partner in crime, Timbaland, are up to some of their old tricks but in the time between JT’s absence, the duo’s affinity for space and sound has only deepened.
We find out this from the jump when we hear the luxurious, funky grooves of “Pusher Love Girl”. There’s so much going on in the production on this track. There’s horns, strings, faint synths. It’s got everything rolled into one. It reminds you what it’s like to hear great pop music. Around the 5 minute mark, just when you think the song is over, the song changes key. This sets the tone for the rest of the album because I can assure you that the key changes and various soundscapes don’t stop here. “Suit and Tie” is probably even more lush than the opening track. It just oozes class and expense. And who’s better to ask to contribute a verse on a track that oozes expense and class than Jay Z? Obviously, this and “Mirrors” are the two tracks that are directed for the radio, that is for sure. They’re both especially catchy and simple. Jay Z’s verse is okay, not really anything special but Hov’s worst verses are better than many artists’ best. So there’s that.
“Don’t Hold the Wall” is a complete ying/yang. For the first half of the song, it has this woozy sample, hard hitting drums and just has this very raunchy vibe to it. On the second half of the track, like many others, it breaks into a club banger. It’s like the first half is the original and then the second half is a club remix. Timberlake’s vocals become more spaced out as each song goes on. He lets the production do a lot of the talking. “Strawberry Bubblegum” is another very dreamy, woozy track. The production is less elaborate. It’s one of those tracks where you feel like you’re gliding. The second half of the track has this Stevie Wonder vibe to it. It’s very relaxing, funky, and appropriately sweet. “Tunnel Vision” is a track that could have easily been on FutureSex/LoveSounds. It’s a straightforward dance track. It sounds futuristic, upbeat, and very much like the track they did with 50 cent “Ayo Technology”. “Spaceship Coupe” seems to be a track that resembles the 90’s slow jam. More neo-soul inspired.
“That Girl” is Timberlake letting his Prince/Stevie Wonder influences shine through. Timberlake showcases his vocal talent over top of funky guitar playing. “Let the Groove Get In” is essentially Timberlake’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”. It’s a song based off of rhythm and flow. It seems as though Timberlake and Timbaland are trying a new approach to make listeners tap their toes. “Mirrors”, like “Suit and Tie” , was obviously intended for radio. It’s probably the most generic, forgettable track on the album and I really believe that the best part of the song is the outro that isn’t even featured on the radio single. The “YOU ARE, YOU ARE, THE LOVE OF MY LIFE” part. The album finishes off in an unexpected way with the intoxicating “Blue Ocean Floor”. The production just glides. It makes me feel like I’m floating into the blue that Timberlake is constantly referring to. It’s probably my favorite track on the album just because it features Timberlake in a completely different realm. It leaves me wondering if we’ll see more of this type of music from Timberlake over the next few albums of his career. It’s an exciting end to an altogether brilliant pop album.
The 20/20 Experience seems to be focused on something more classier, luxurious and mature than what we last heard from Timberlake in FutureSex/LoveSounds. I think this album is as very much Timbaland’s as it is Justin Timberlakes. After doing three albums together now, the duo’s impeccable chemistry with one another is the reason why this album is able to pull off all of it’s ambitious, woozy and unpredictable production. The 20/20 Experience tries to shed some catchiness while focusing more on sonics. It’s an extremely vigorous comeback record that it’s genre sorely needed. Needless to say, it’s good to have Justin Timberlake back at work.
Listen to “Tunnel Vision” by Justin Timberlake:
BEST ALBUMS OF 2013