Track by Track Review: Justin Timberlake – ‘The 20/20 Experience’

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I really enjoyed 2006’s ‘FutureSex/LoveSounds’ and so I know I was not the only one looking forward to a follow up from 32-year old Timberlake, especially when we all found out superstar producer Timberland would be overseeing production throughout the whole disc. Released around March 19th in most territories the LP will feature the Jay Z assisted ‘Suit + Tie’ and UK number one ‘Mirrors’ – – -> bring it.

The ten-track project just leaked and so I’m definitely getting on that bandwagon, so let’s run down the tracks…

Pusher Love Girl: The first cut is a slow string and brass driven stomper and is a merging of new sounds/ideas with an older set piece. There are some nice vocal runs and vocoder effects on the track before it switches up and sees JT drop some lines about this addictive chick, “my heroine, my cocaine, my plum wine, my MDNA.” Doesn’t scream opening track to me but does pretty much lay out the tone and many of the ideas that dominate ‘The 20/20 Experience.’

Suit + Tie (Feat. Jay Z): The Lounge-y first single, which I always liked. The track is not too much, doesn’t try to be and attempts to capture a by gone era whilst still managing to have something say about the future of R’n’B – I do put that down to Timbo and his genius.

Don’t Hold The Wall: This slow grinding concoction complete with vox pop ‘Ooohs’ and shiny brass is another very Timberlandy driven seven-minute brainstorm. The track descends into a busy quote laden dance track, in which a listener can almost envision the JT dance routine if they try hard enough. I don’t think the song is strong has they think it is but it’s an inventive decent listen…wait, actually this could grow on me. Next Single?

Strawberry Bubblegum: With that falsetto in tow JT enters the ring again telling his girl to not change her flavour; “This goes out to you” our boy croons…the track is a mostly minimalistic, string laden eight-minute track which changes into a delicate, sex innuendo filled samba thing just after the halfway point…we even get an N*SYNC ‘Dirty Pop’ flashback here – you’ll see what I mean…it’s an OK track…

Tunnel Vision: This cut could have been a bonus track off the last album, I won’t say that it’s filler but it is modest Timberland complete with all his tricks and quirks, plus JT dancing in and around them with excited harmonies and builded melodies.

The 2013 Brit Awards

Spaceship Coupe: “Everybody’s looking for the fly-est thing to say, but I just wanna fly away with you” our man sings. His vocal on the somewhat grand track actually made me sit aside for a few seconds, particularly on the verses. Here we have some select alien/NASA metaphors before some electric guitar kicks in towards the middle Prince style. The track isn’t bad and production wise it’s like a treasure chest – all kinds of shit in there, it’s a really packed track in a good way…

That Girl: This track is a comparatively stripped down song where Timberlake proclaims his love for his baby. You could call the track ‘Suit + Tie’s little brother in terms of trying to adamantly reclaim a classic musical period gone by but still staying rooted in today. Timberlake largely pulls the record off and although lyrically this is standard fare JT is sincere and drops another pleasing vocal. I think people will like this one, can imagine it sounding impressive live…

Let The Groove In: LOL this is like Justin Timberlake’s ‘Run The World (Girls)’, I don’t know why but that Beyoncé song popped into my head when initially hearing this. Not really in a good way. I am sure for JT this one was pure experimentation but I think this will go over most of the fans heads. It is fun though…it’s like Nelly Furtado ‘No Hay Igual’…again not so much in a good way…the way the song ends sounds a little more listenable in that MJ way…I’m convinced the song started out inspired by some MJ track…

Mirrors: I think when people say this song sounds a little generic that it is a valid criticism, but Timberland just does here what he did so well with ‘What Goes Around’ etc. What I really like about this track is the way it evolves and breaks down just after halfway through the track – which naturally radio don’t play with the song clocking in again at eight minutes. The harmonies, the Timberland nuts-ness in the back and the luscious vocal always ends up getting replayed by me – I love it. Timbo done good here.

Blue Ocean Floor: I’m sure there is a deeply profound meaning behind this song but I won’t look for it. The song is a contemplative, candlelit, synth-y, wistful ode to his love. The haunting melodic track is a fitting end to the album and does the job of lowering you heart rate and putting you at ease. I think it is a track that would have to be listened to a few times to fully enter it…yeah this one craves investment…if that makes sense…

Overview: Full of as many 7/8 minute tracks as you want, this record is sonically interesting production wise and is worth a good listen. The Timberland/Timberlake dealership always creates something that is forward thinking and this LP is no different. I like the way the album frequently makes classic feel modern without it getting boring or stuck. The album is a little more chilled (and naturally, dare I say…mature?) than the previous two. There are some great vocals, some amazing Timberland quips – you get the impression that JT wanted to deliver some decent tracks, and get creative rather than tidal wave the charts.

55th Annual GRAMMY Awards

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