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After a seven-year hiatus, the world has been granted a second superb, though long-winded album from renowned pop artist Justin Timberlake. From ‘N Sync heartthrob to the solo artist piloting “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” from well-acclaimed actor to husband of actress Jessica Biel, Renaissance man Justin Timberlake returns to his musical roots with his new album “The 20/20 Experience.”
The album, an installment of two parts, quickly became the top selling album on iTunes. The central jazz-pop sound and Timberlake’s sultry vocals combine to create a great album, however, the unfortunate length of most songs fails to impress.
Timberlake’s musical evolution in the pop style is impressive. In this regard, “The 20/20 Experience” expands beyond the typical pop sound of Timberlake’s first album. Timberlake’s newest album takes the musicality of “SexyBack,” slows it down and adds mature instrumentation. For example, the first song on the new album, “Pusher Love Girl,” begins with a string orchestra prelude for about 30 seconds before fading out and allowing the plodding beat to take over.
Timberlake switches up the style on each song, like giving “Mirrors” a smooth pop-rock feel. In addition, “Let The Groove Get In” takes on an African feel with bongo drums and fast strings while “Don’t Hold The Wall” sounds more Middle Eastern with soft percussion and sweltering Arabic tunes. Timberlake’s decision to change up the style of the songs helped diversify his album from those of other pop artists.
Yet, the most outstanding quality remains Timberlake’s vocal performance. As a singer, he has the ability to hit high notes while maintaining a masculine timbre and combining it with his classic low, seductive tone. Timberlake’s vocal performance on tracks like “Suit and Tie” and “Mirrors” stand out exceptionally as the singer shows his ability to capture the ears and hearts of listeners.
And once again, adding fellow artist Timbaland on certain tracks strengthened “20/20.” Timbaland’s performance on the album, especially in “Tunnel Vision,” exhibited musical chemistry similar to the duo’s 2006 hit, “SexyBack.”
In Timberlake’s new album, the two successfully re-sparked this surprising fusion which greatly benefited the advances in sound and style.
One minor drawback to the album is Timberlake’s poor choice of lyrics. The length of the songs full of shallow, repetitive lyrics can become monotonous, such as in the song “Strawberry Bubblegum:” “Cause she’s just like nothing/That I ever seen before/Baby please don’t change nothing.” Timberlake’s use of frivolous lyrics detracts from the otherwise superb album.
The song lengths on the album may also turn listeners off. The shortest song, “That Girl,” is just under five minutes, while the longest song, “Mirrors,” plays on for over eight unnecessary minutes.
While certain songs, such as “Pusher Love Girl,” have a turn where the song takes on a new beat and feel, almost like a new song, the song’s duration and repetitive lyrics lead to frustration. Many of the songs start off great, but once a song continues on for longer than it should, it loses its original spark. The beat of the songs in the album, while eclectic, can also add to the monotony of the album. Timberlake relies on beat loops, allowing the same produced rhythm to repeat itself throughout the song.
Sometimes this works for him, such as on the shorter track “Suit and Tie,” however, on longer songs like “Let the Groove Get In,” the consistent beat becomes old quickly due to the length of the song and lack of variety. Some of these songs sadly begin to bore before their end.
Overall, Timberlake’s comeback to music scores with “20/20.” The singer’s signature vocals and unique musicality outshine the weak spots, leaving listeners pleased and anxious for the second part of the album, to be released later this year.