Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
R&B music has been extremely lacking in passion and originality lately. When I hear the hopped-up club beats of Chris Brown or the remarkably similar Usher songs, I feel as if the genre has forgotten about creativity, and is just focused on making money and producing music people can dance to. “The 20/20 Experience” is the first R&B album in a long time that feels new and fresh. Justin Timberlake reaches for the stratosphere and ends up in this star in what might be his magnum opus.
Justin leaves behind all the pop stylings of “Justified” and “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” instead going for a more grown-up style of old-fashioned Motown soul. However, he stays modern by embracing electronic instruments even more than he did on his biggest hit, “SexyBack.” His soaring falsetto sounds beautiful and rich against both the lush violins and chugging hip-hop beats.
“20/20” opens with the best song on the album, “Pusher Love Girl.” It starts with Motown-style background vocals and piano, and ends with beautiful electronica similar to Portishead. Following that is “Suit & Tie,” the biggest pop track on the album and the one you’ve probably heard before. It’s fun to dance to and has a hot hook, and Jay-Z has a great cameo, but it’s not nearly as artistically brilliant as the rest of the album.
Timberlake is a newlywed, having married actress Jessica Biel last October, so it’s no surprise that most titles here are love songs. “Mirrors” is a beautiful, though long, love song with heaps of violin and synthesizers. It follows in the R&B love song tradition of greats such as Marvin Gaye. The beautiful strings remind me of one of Timberlake’s most ambitious songs to date, “What Goes Around … Comes Around” from “FutureSex/LoveSounds.”
Songs like “Don’t Hold the Wall” and “Blue Ocean Floor” show Timberlake pushing his creative limits far past club favorites like “SexyBack” and “Rock Your Body,” incorporating elements of jazz, trance, and even Radiohead-like indie rock, with his brave use of the theremin on several songs.
While some do run a little long, such as “Strawberry Bubblegum,” an eight-minute song about how his girlfriend smells like, well, bubblegum, Timberlake’s charm shines through on every track.
If you are a die-hard JT fan, an old-fashioned soul lover, or an indie-rock adventurer like me, I suggest you buy this album immediately. Justin Timberlake proves himself to be a true talent who can last for the ages. It’s really nice to see him becoming a master music craftsman again. But, then again, you can’t call it a comeback if he’s been there for years.