As a comeback album, the first part of The 20/20 Experience created a lot of controversy amongst Justin Timberlake fans and critics alike; and six months later, the second part of his musical experiment seems to be no different.
Having described parts of this album as a continuation of his FutureSex/LoveSounds album himself, Part 2 demonstrates Timberlake’s development as an artist far more clearly than the first part, although it provides less obvious single choices.
Opening with ‘Give Me What I Don’t Know (I Want)’, we are introduced to the sleek production and R’n’B which features heavily on part two of Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience. However, it also brings us the Timbaland production which steadily becomes the downfall of the album, and the excessive song length of Part 1. Although it’s instantly catchy through Timberlake’s seductive vocals and heavy bass lines, we see the first of many unnecessary passages, which just detract from the overall experience.
Unfortunately for Timberlake, Timbaland’s contributions seem to do little for the album, despite their obvious aspirations. Whilst it’s undeniable that he is a fantastic producer, he seems slightly outdated, and his vocal “contributions” on songs like ‘Cabaret’ and ‘TKO’ spoil what could be remarkable tracks and makes them very dull.
When The 20/20 Experience: Part 2 of 2 is good, it is very, very good; but when it is bad, it’s bad due to its indulgence. Prime examples of this are seen in tracks like ‘True Blood’ and ‘Murder’. Even Timberlake’s overwhelming charisma struggles to redeem these over-produced songs. Surprisingly, on ‘Murder’, it’s Jay-Z’s guest verse which saves it. Although it is one of few guest spots on the album, Jay-Z shows why he and Timberlake deserved the title of “Legends of the Summer” and is very different to their previous collaborations, ‘Holy Grail’ and ‘Suit and Tie‘.
The last half of Part 2 shows us why Timberlake is regarded as one of the most phenomenal artists of our time. ‘Drink You Away’ takes us back to his Tennessee roots, in an unexpected way. Being very bluesy and adopting a Country style, it provokes surprising emotions, as it’s just so relatable. Asking questions like, “Tell me baby, don’t they make a medicine for heartbreak?” we see a more vulnerable side to Timberlake; much like ‘That Girl’ on The 20/20 Experience Part 1.
The following track, ‘You Got It On’, only adds to the brilliance of Part 2. It is such smooth R’n’B that it feels as though it belongs amongst the finest artists of the ‘90s in the genre. Timberlake’s vocals and harmonies shine here as he’s at his most seductive. Add in a simple bass line, some sultry lyrics and a subtle string accompaniment, and you have an instant Love Song classic. (I warn you, ladies, breakdowns could be caused by this track!)
The final song of the standard edition of The 20/20 Experience: Part 2 of 2 reminds us of how fantastic JT can be and how far he has come. ‘Not A Bad Thing’ is an eleven-minute epic which is reminiscent of *NSync at their finest. A simple pop ballad, but with a more grown-up spin, Timberlake shows that he has grown alongside his fans. Its descent into an acoustic serenade justifies its length, and the minor melody, whilst unexpected, is beautiful. An ideal album closer, and well worth waiting for.
Although it’s highly hit-and-miss at times, mainly due to Timbaland’s clear influences, The 20/20 Experience: Part 2 of 2 is most definitely an “Experience” worth checking out.
Released 30/9/2013 on RCA Records.