The 20/20 Experience is the upcoming third studio album by American pop-star, actor, former Mickey Mouse club and ‘N Sync member, and all around nice guy, Justin Timberlake. It comes almost 7 years after the release of previous album FutureSex/LoveSounds in 2006 and it was getting to the point where I was wondering if JT would ever return to the music industry. In his hiatus Timberlake got married and became a fully fledged movie star, appearing in numerous high profile films (including Academy Award winning The Social Network). As a big fan I was nervous about what the album would be like; would he bring Sexyback or would I be left crying a river?
Lead single ‘Suit & Tie’ was released in January and I was personally very disappointed. It’s not that it’s bad (far from it) it just isn’t GREAT. I was expecting the next ‘Like I Love You’ or ‘Sexyback’ (his previous two lead singles). It features rap superstar Jay Z so I’d expect it to be the perfect combination, however it just doesn’t have the charm that his other singles have had. Next single, ‘Mirrors’ shows JT well and truly back at his best. Being his typical self, the full-length version of the track is an epic 8 minutes and 4 seconds; but the song never gets boring or monotonous. It was produced and co-written by Timbaland, featuring Timberlake’s ever-successful falsetto vocals and the famous handclap beats that were so prominent in FutureSex/LoveSounds. The track has already topped the UK charts for 2 weeks and looks set to stay there for a while.
Album opener ‘Pusher Love Girl’ is another flawless track. Beginning with a string crescendo, R&B beats soon weave through the layers of huge orchestration. Although the lyrics are at times questionable (“My heroine, my cocaine, my plum wine, my MDMA, I’m hopped up on it, it won’t go away”), it’s another marathon of a track (lasting just over 8 minutes), which never lulls. ‘Don’t Hold The Wall’ showcases an eastern sound, demonstrating Timberlake’s wide range of influences for this record. This is followed by the chilled out ‘Strawberry Bubblegum’, which is a reflective moment of calm in what has up to then been a pretty intense series of tracks.
‘That Girl’ opens with a mock compère announcing “JT and the Tennessee Kids”. With the lyrics “I’m in love with that girl, and she told me, she’s in love with me” it could be painfully sickly; but Timberlake’s crooning vocals turns it into a romantic R&B ballad. ‘Let The Groove Get In’ is reminiscent of Michael Jackson, and is a slice of upbeat pop with a great Latin American-style trumpet section. To round off the album is the truly emotive ‘Blue Ocean Floor’; and although it is by far the most mature track he has ever released, it really reminds you of the Timberlake you learnt to love all those years ago.
Overall, The 20/20 Experience is an incredibly strong album from Mr Timberlake. Although he was away for almost 7 years, this offering makes the wait worthwhile.