Release Date: Mar 19, 2013
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): R&B, Pop/Rock
Review Summary: Optometry puns aside, 20/20 is a turning point in mainstream pop and R&BIt's convenient that just as I post a review decrying the emergence of idiotic terminology that essentially describes a modern revitalization of contemporary R&B, Justin Timberlake releases a profound manifestation of this very concept. The 20/20 Experience is a retaliation to the pressure placed on major-label R&B and pop as a whole over the past two years by a burgeoning indie underground. And it succeeds at this very goal; the millions of dollars available to major label artists should yield a product this polished and forward thinking.
Justin Timberlake is such a natural entertainer – such a charismatic and effortlessly appealing singer, dancer and showman – that it's easy to ignore how weirdly, how willfully, he's gone about his career. He graduated from the Mickey Mouse Club to 'NSync to solo superstardom – a natural enough progression – but then, at the height of his success, he spit the bit, jettisoning music to dabble in movies, SNL viral videos and, um, golf. Timberlake released his superb second album, FutureSex/LoveSounds, six and a half years ago, an eternity in pop music.
Review Summary: Claims of revolutionism aside, it is very nice to hear Justin Timberlake sing again.I want to point out the specific moment from The 20/20 Experience that made me realize the album’s merit. Toward the end of “Mirrors,” the song starts a lengthy wind-down process (a format that most of the album’s songs follow), and underneath his falsetto, Justin Timberlake repeats, “You are, you are, the love of my life,” ad infinitum. The line has a robotic cadence to it that is further accentuated by effects on the vocals, and I was actually surprised when I realized what he was saying.
Review Summary: Well? How do you like it?Of all the maddening things said in the initial slew of reviews concerning Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, by far the one that irks me the most is a statement by Sputnik contributor Nathan Flynn who claimed the album “reeks of entitlement. ” I mean, really? Has pop discourse fallen so far that we must chastise any popular artist who dare make us listen to songs longer than four minutes? And with reductive, Tumblr-esque insults no less! “God, Justin,” thought I after reading those three words, “there are musicians out there who don’t have the spotlight to push the boundaries of what we’ll listen to on our radio. Check your Goddamn privilege.
From Mouseketeer to boy band heartthrob to MJ disciple to Timbaland sidekick to “Dick in a Box” crooner, Justin Timberlake has crammed more unpredictable brilliance into his career than any other pop star on the planet. He knows this, too: In 2006, he released FutureSex/LoveSounds, a groundbreaking, nearly unclassifiable sophomore album that blended his own effortless pop suave with Timbaland’s psychedelic, electro-funk production. And then, at age 25, having just blown open the doors of modern pop, Timberlake punk’d us all—fleeing music to boost his sketch-comedy credentials, save a fledgling social networking site and star in forgettable rom-coms.
Justin TimberlakeThe 20/20 Experience[RCA; 2013]By Chul Gugich; March 18, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThere’s a singular telling aspect of how fans of pop music are willing to receive Justin Timberlake that goes the farthest in explaining why America remains obsessed with him: no matter how closely the man positions himself to the absurd, we are willing to forgive him the fact that our collective chains are being pulled for the sake of perpetuating his fame. And trust me, on JT’s new album, The 20/20 Experience, absurdity is just a hair’s width away at all times. If we’re meant to laugh at the now five-time host of Saturday Night Live when he dresses up like a giant block of tofu, why aren’t we also meant to laugh when he croons ridiculous lines like “I want to find the alien in you," as he does on the 20/20 slow-grinder “Spaceship Coupe?" Whether you actually take the line as a serious come-on or a playful non-sequitur, your final reaction is the same: “Ah, that’s just Justin being Justin again.
Consider 'N Sync's 2001 hit "Pop", a defensive track co-written by Justin Timberlake that takes aim at boy-band haters. "All that matters is that you recognize that it's just about respect," he sings. The song was on 'N Sync's final album, Celebrity, which sold nearly two million copies in the U.S. in its first week-- and by that point the group had gone platinum about 30 times over.
It's been over six years since the internationally renowned pop star Justin Timberlake released his world-wide critically acclaimed sophomore album FutureSex/LoveSounds. Since that time Timberlake has taken on the role as actor. In some cases he succeeded in films such as The Social Network and Trouble With The Curve. He also at times felt like a part-time cast on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ And with the amount of time that has gone by, it almost seemed as if all hope was lost for his return to bringing sexy back.
The hoopla surrounding the release of Justin Timberlake’s lead single “Suit & Tie” off his third solo album The 20/20 Experience was massive. It was less of a release and more of an event. The video had its own trailer sponsored by Budweiser Platinum with the tagline “one platinum hit deserves another,” using liquor’s version of The Secret to prematurely predict the success of the record.
There was a time when US R&B was one of the most sonically adventurous genres going. It seems a stretch to believe it now, with committee-written club formulae dominating the pop charts there, here and everywhere, but on the cusp of the millennium the low-oxygen altitudes of the charts boasted backwards choruses, trumpeting elephants and samples of Indian devotional music. People even danced to them.
Since 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, JT has been focusing on the visual medium over the aural type, albeit with varying success – The Love Guru and Yogi Bear being cases in point. Yet he also challenged himself as an actor through key roles in Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales and David Fincher’s The Social Network. Indeed, the incomprehensible breadth and nature of Southland Tales – which will always sharply divide opinion, from cult classic to self-indulgent dirge – shows that Timberlake isn’t easily daunted or scared: he enjoys taking risks.
You can count on one hand the number of artists who have made the breakthrough from teen-baiting boy band member to important, acclaimed darling of the critics. Sure, Robbie Williams, Donnie Osmond, and That One From The Backstreet Boys broke free and sold millions, but their adoring fan bases remained pretty much the same as when they were part of a group. Plus, y'know, they were all shit.
When Dan Aykroyd reprised his classic role as the bumbling Czech Festrunk brother on a recent episode of Saturday Night Live, he said something classic toward the oblivious slow jam duo played by Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg: “I thought you guys were black. ? The joke cuts deep for Justin Timberlake, who spent the better part of his career swatting accusations of pretending to ?be black? ? the criticism didn?t relent until he pursued acting. After *NSYNC, Timberlake positioned himself as an R&B artist, with his 2002 solo debut Justified produced and co-written by The Neptunes and Timbaland.
I find this album less and less ridiculous the more I listen to it, which is pretty much the opposite of what I was expecting. In fact, the first thing that hit me (well, after “Geez, JT sounds more like MJ all the time, doesn’t he?”) was how needlessly bloated each track was. I thought I’d accidentally stumbled on some deluxe version where each song was immediately followed by its own remix.
The punalicious Justified - and its colossal singles - has stood the test of time amazingly well, and follow-up FutureSex/LoveSounds’s sexy disco-funk had an impact on the pop scene that resonated long after 2006. As ever, Justin Timberlake’s latest record demonstrates that he has his finger firmly on the pop zeitgeist - The 20/20 Experience, like most of 2013’s pop, wears its EDM influences proudly and, inevitably, has taken a few pointers from channel ORANGE. To be fair to JT, there’s not a single neo-house synth progression or a dubstep wob to be found, so he can hardly be accused of the same mainstream pilfering as many of his popworld compatriots.
Okay, Mr. Timberlake, you have our attention. The 20/20 Experience (his third studio effort and first in six years) is the pitcher of water handed to those who've staggered though the mainstream pop desert desperately seeking something to quench their R&B-lite thirsts. As an artist and now multi-hyphenate media personality, he presents a unique specimen, mainly because there exist R&B/soul artists who have been, and are currently doing, the same type of material that's on this album, but who lack the label backing or mass pop appeal.
After taking a six-year break from the music scene but never from the public eye, Justin Timberlake’s grand musical return was never going to be a modest one. Amidst a flurry of high profile appearances, including a live comeback at the Grammys, hosting and performing on Saturday Night Live, spending a week hanging out with Jimmy Fallon on Late Night, in addition to well-timed but questionably executed Target and Bud Light adverts, it seems that Timberlake has been everywhere you look in the days leading up to the highly-anticipated release of his new album. And it turns out that his sprawling third solo studio record, The 20/20 Experience, is all over the place as well, assertively blending styles, influences, and concepts from throughout music’s rich history, all to varying degrees of success.
On his 2002 debut, ‘Justified’, Justin Timberlake was the guy in all-white tracksuits, chirpsing “Gonna have you naked by the end of this song”. On this, his third, it’s all drinks, dinner and plans to “make love on the moon” in his “space lover cocoon” (it is on the R Kelly-styled ‘Spaceship Coupe’ anyway). In 2013 JT’s on that marriage and luxury bath shit and while it’s a good listen, every song drags.
Last month, one waggish journalist responded to the excitement surrounding Justin Timberlake's arrival in London by posting an old photo of the singer and his former paramour, Britney Spears, on Twitter. There they were, teen pop's young dream, posing on the red carpet in 2001, having made the fateful decision to attend the American Music awards in matching stonewashed denim outfits. Resplendent not merely in a stonewashed denim suit, but a stonewashed denim Stetson, sunglasses and rapper's gold chain, Timberlake looked the epitome of the clueless boyband doofus, making the most of his fleeting fame.
Once Justin Timberlake finished touring in support of FutureSex/LoveSounds, music making slid to the side as acting, endorsing, investing, and talent grooming took precedence. The few appearances from 2007 through 2012 -- through collaborations with Madonna, Duran Duran, 50 Cent, Ciara, and new jack ballad mode Lonely Island, often in partnership with Timbaland -- confirmed that the cutting edge was not his concern. Aligning with the Neptunes in 2002 and with Timbaland in 2006 were not bold creative risks either, but working with Timbaland once more makes it plain that Timberlake wanted to remain within his comfort zone.
Few albums in the download era have been more zealously presold as Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, but as pointed out in the New York Times recently, Timberlake has moved beyond the realm of pop superstardom into something closer to a brand identity—a suit and tie with a packet of strawberry bubblegum tucked behind the lapel. He aims to bring the suavity, but can’t ever completely sublimate his impish sense of humor, and both poles wrestle for supremacy while his music takes an increasingly supporting role in the equation. Hence his follow-up to the precocious Justified and the self-servingly epic FutureSex/LoveSounds is caught somewhere between a craven and vaguely desultory act of feigned noblesse oblige and Return of the Macky Dolenz.
Nearly seven years have passed since Justin Timberlake released his last album, 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds: an eternity in pop. You’ve got to give the guy credit for the nonchalance with which he stepped off his pedestal — at the height of his career, no less — to further develop his brand as an actor, fashion designer, restauranteur, host of Walmart shareholder’s meetings, and, most famously and incredulously, a golfer. It was a controversial decision, but ultimately, also a smart one.
Since the release of 2006's FutureSex/LoveSounds - inarguably the best pop record of that decade - speculation about Justin Timberlake's inevitable return to music hasn't ceased. At the creative and commercial apex of his music career, he dropped the mic and smarmily sauntered off to Hollywood to hide in plain sight. Undeterred by his questionable acting career and mogul moves (he owns part of the new MySpace), we waited.
No matter how you feel about Justin Timberlake, you still have to marvel about how hard the man has worked to get us to not completely hate him. After all, that he become “respectable” after fronting the biggest boy band of the ‘90s is no small feat, and through his unrelenting effort to prove his talent across multiple mediums, Timberlake has managed to stand out in a way that none of his contemporaries have been able to, making Nick Lachey and even his own *NSYNC alumnus JC Chasez become mere footnotes in the big book of pop music. (Although, it’s certainly not for a lack of trying on their parts, even after Chasez had Timberlake co-write and produce a would-be solo hit for him).
A note, to begin, on the outros. Because they’re where this album lives or dies, at least in the public consciousness. I’m a fan, for reasons I’ll get to later, but the point is that this is the dirty secret of Justin Timberlake’s career: we never quite think he can pull this shit off. And we love that about him, for the most part.
Early last January, Justin Timberlake teased his return to pop music on a one-minute video that instantly went viral. Shot in black and white for full dramatic flair, the video shows Timberlake making his way into a recording studio while in voice-over he wrestles with the question everyone’s been asking during his seven-year sabbatical: “So are you just done with music?” His reply: What a jumbled and oddly defensive response to a question he’s surely answered countless times in private on film sets, at fashion shows, and on putting greens. The video ends with JT putting on headphones and speaking two words into a microphone: I’m ready.
In the flurry of big-name returns announced at the start of the year, the musical re-emergence of loverman extraordinaire Justin Timberlake was, arguably, one of the biggest. He's been away from music for seven years since his second album, FutureSex/LoveSounds, pursuing his acting career, putting in a nice turn with 2010's David Fincher-directed The Social Network, and whipping up some fine self-parody with The Lonely Island. Then, with a melodrama-freighted teaser clip of Timberlake walking through studio corridors, he announced his return in January, declaiming "somebody asked me the other day, 'so are you just done with music?' It means more to me than anybody else in the world [.
Timberlake’s third solo album is all mood and no tension, exclusively foreplay fare. Christina Lee 2013 With his first new music in seven years, Justin Timberlake acts a suave frontman to a Whispers-inspired ensemble. When he asks, Jay-Z gets up from his seat. Timberlake prides himself on his ability to command an audience, and to damning expectations.