Release Date: Sep 30, 2013
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Dance-Pop, Contemporary R&B
After seven years, Justin Timberlake knew: The 20/20 Experience could be too much of a good thing. Keeping the focus sleek, its pop/soul songs come closer to the three-to-five-minute radiocentric realm. But with seven years between projects, someone so wildly creative had more to say, play, explore. 2 of 2 takes grooves deeper, lyrics freakier, the format hotter.
Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience was a rare thing in the pop world of 2013: an experimental blockbuster. Other artists roar like lions and bang like gorillas to get our attention. Having spent years proving himself a full-spectrum superstar in Hollywood and on Saturday Night Live, JT glided back to music with a 70-minute-plus LP of adventurous, stretched-out neosoul vamps he compared to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
You probably already figured, but it’s a pretty great time to be Justin Timberlake: His most recent album, March’s The 20/20 Experience, has sold more copies than any other album released this year so far; he’s about to embark on a world tour; and in between hangouts with President Obama and Jay-Z, he’s even found the time to squeeze in a 110-second reunion with his former group, ‘N Sync, during a performance celebrating a lifetime achievement award from MTV. Round 2 was imminent. Case closed, cut to commercial.
It's a difficult proposition to release a second album in a year and not have it feel like an addendum. Justin Timberlake knows this, so he's wisely chosen a different direction for this second volume of The 20/20 Experience than the first. Where the strings and slow grooves of songs like "Pusher Love Girl," "Strawberry Bubblegum" and "Mirrors" gave the original The 20/20 Experience a leisurely Sunday afternoon vibe, volume two feels like Saturday night: vivid, indulgent and bass heavy.
By this point, complaining about how long Justin Timberlake's songs are is probably beside the point. It was hardly a surprising revelation that there would be a second installment of March's The 20/20 Experience—an album that, with its roster of marathon-distance jams, didn't exactly want for extension. When Michael Jackson was given MTV's Video Vanguard Award back in 1988, he spoke for a minute or two; Jimmy Fallon's distended introductory speech on Timberlake's behalf at last month's Video Music Awards lasted at least twice as long.
One of the first lines Justin (once and always a boyband first namer) sings on this second instalment of a comeback is: "If you're looking for an animal, hop in my cage." Of course JT, the paragon of affable showmanship, can never be a tiger, only a sleek pop pussycat, and there's a campy, tongue-in-cheek quality to this whole effort. Nonetheless this is a tighter record than the first volume, particularly the come-to-bed cheek of Cabaret, featuring his current chart competitor Drake. Things get slushier towards the end with Only When I Walk Away and Not a Bad Thing: the best JT incarnation is the showman who knows he's performing, not the songwriter pretending he's emoting.
Daft Punk may have ushered in the summer, but it's the second half of Justin Timberlake's 20/20 Experience that welcomes autumn. Part one gave us a pair of bona fide pop gems – Mirrors, and Suit and Tie – in one of 2013's most experimental pop albums. Part two is similarly ambitious. There's room for blues riffs and reggae (Only When I Walk Away), a predictably self-indulgent verse from Drake (Cabaret) and a vampire-referencing soca tune (True Blood), which isn't half as bad as that sounds.
Clearly, the six years of time between FutureSex/LoveSounds and the now two-part 20/20 Experience felt like a long time to Justin Timberlake as much as it did to his fans. When Part One of 20/20 dropped back in March, it was a sizeable event, promoted on just about every major website that one can imagine, with lead single and future wedding staple “Suit & Tie” heading up its airwave dominance. The LP’s gargantuan publicity machine made no illusions about the type of music within it; this first part is dominated by ornate, huge pop songs that run upwards of eight minutes, with string arrangements, booming choruses, and slick grooves abound.
Maybe it’s just me, but after two smash hit singles, a massive hit of a comeback album, frequently appearing in commercials, guest-appearing in a mediocre Jay Z song, and a VMA performance/tribute that made the man appear as a God amongst mere mortals, I began to think that maybe we’ve had enough Timberlake for one year. Not to say that it hasn’t been a pretty good ride. The 20/20 Experience, for all its excesses, is still one of the sharpest and most dazzling pop records in recent memory, and though I’d love to go a day without hearing one of them, Suit & Tie and Mirrors are still pretty great singles.
When Justin Timberlake announced he was releasing a second part to The 20/20 Experience (the name makes a bit more sense now), one couldn’t help but feel a little unsure to say the least. As alluded to in the initial review for what is now 1 of 2, the fact Timberlake was determined to make a substantial pop work was to be highly applauded. Indeed, he arguably helped reinvigorate the pop album, especially with tracks such as the eight-minute Mirrors.
It didn't have to be this way. Justin Timberlake could have capped his comeback year with a final single from 2013's top-selling album, The 20/20 Experience—perhaps the breezy "That Girl"—before heading out on an upcoming victory-lap arena tour. He could have left us with images of a dignified pop star, as seen in David Fincher's flawless "Suit & Tie" video, or the beguiling second half of the visual for "Mirrors", where he offers graceful steps inside of a mysterious, reflecting maze.
In January, Justin Timberlake released a video about his über-selective music making process. "I don't know that I could physically torture myself that much year in and year out," he said. Muffin. Funny, then, that he's just released 13 more tracks of the 20/20 Experience. The first installation ….
Allegedly caught in a multi-million pound contract wrangle with entertainment company Live Nation, it’s hard not to think of Justin Timberlake’s recent return to pop after an extremely lengthy absence as anything more than a cash cow. Released back in March, ‘The 20/20 Experience’ boasted just about enough blockbuster hooks and gossamer Timbaland beats to survive such cynical assessment. But this surprise, extremely swift follow-on looks, from the cover to the contents, like pieces from the cutting-room floor cobbled together on the cheap.
Just before the release of The 20/20 Experience, the Roots' ?uestlove, who opened as a DJ for Justin Timberlake's SXSW festival appearance, announced that there would be a sequel. A little more than six months later, it was released, consisting of more recordings from Timberlake's May-June 2012 sessions with friend Timbaland, Jerome Harmon, and James Fauntleroy. The construction is similar to that of the first volume.
This is not truffle season. In fact, to conflate the second part of Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience with the first part is valid in name only. The two share superficial similarities, just as they each share with both Justified and Futuresex/Lovesounds: Basically, they’re all Justin Timberlake albums that share his post-MJ Gatsby pop aspirations.
A great deal of how you feel about Justin Timberlake’s new album will depend on how you felt about his last one, and, crucially, where you stand on the notion of cutting room floor scraps being presented as fresh and exciting material. This is nothing new. You only need look to Green Day's recent ego-massaging trilogy of albums for an example of spectacular hubris in action.
opinion byPETER TABAKIS Only a few months ago Justin Timberlake released The 20/20 Experience, his first collection of new material in seven years. And what a muddled, overstuffed, and at times fabulous album it was. I guess releasing a blockbuster LP (the year’s best-selling, so far) felt so nice he had to try it twice. Thus, here comes The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2, its prompt and inelegantly named sequel.
Justin Timberlake was already pop royalty six months ago when he released "The 20/20 Experience," his first solo album since 2006 and the anchor for one of the most sustained promotional campaigns in recent memory. But that was before the record sold more than 2 million copies, more than any other this year, and before Timberlake played a string of sold-out stadium shows with Jay Z. And it was before Timberlake reenergized his loyal subjects by revealing that "20/20" was only the first half of a two-part project — yet another reason he fairly proclaimed himself "the king" onstage at this month's iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas.
Earlier this year, Justin Timberlake and long-time collaborator Timbaland released one of the best pop albums in years. It was clever and inventive without sacrificing heart or accessibility. It took the concept of throwaway pop gems and made them feel so important that you couldn’t throw them away, the songs complex and detailed yet still so honest and natural.
Justin Timberlake indulged his meandering musings — mostly on true love — on “The 20/20 Experience” and now he’s ready to have some fun on this sequel, “The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2. ” (The first installment has been retroactively appended “1 of 2. ”) Although he still goes on a bit long in places, with help from producer buddies like Timbaland, Timberlake — channeling his usual suspects from Michael Jackson to Prince — nails a more cohesive vibe on this follow-up.