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Justin Timberlake, ‘The 20/20 Experience’ – Album Review

Justin Timberlake 20/20 Experience
RCA

The movie star/SNL scene-stealer/rap historian/new hubby who goes by the name of Justin Timberlake reminded the world this week that he used to sing. His new album, ‘The 20/20 Experience,’ is the past, present and future of recorded music all wrapped into a 70-minute sonic kaleidoscope.

JT is so confident about this heartbreaking work of swaggering genius, he streamed it for free on iTunes ahead of what will surely be a massive sales week when it officially drops on March 19.

If you believe Questlove of the Roots (who just played with Timberlake all week on ‘Fallon’), this trip is only halfway over. In a recent online post he revealed: “Spoiler alert. 20/20 Vol 2 comes out in Nov. (10 songs now…..10 songs later = 20 vision).” OK. Maybe JT’s final vision will be 22/22, since the Target edition has two bonus tracks (‘Dress On’ and ‘Body Count’).

Almost every song on the album clocks in at a radio-unfriendly seven minutes or longer. Fear not pop fans with short attention spans, there are songs within these songs — just when one good groove sets in, JT switches up and reverses it. The flow is so constant, you could drop the needle anywhere on the record and set off on your own adventure. If you have the album on constant repeat, you’d be hard-pressed to know where the whole affair officially begins and ends.

Ambition is the operative word on this album. Just like Stevie Wonder, Prince and Radiohead before him, Timberlake isn’t dumbing down his record to satiate the needs of casual fans who want a quick fix pop hit and an instantly hummable hook. Old school (hip-hop, Philly soul and new wave) collides with really old school (’70s funk, doo-wop, classical and jazz), modern rap, pure pop and futuristic electro throughout the 25 or more melodic “suites” within the album’s 10 tracks.

Hats off to producer Timbaland — after releasing some questionable records with Chris Cornell and Duran Duran, he is back in fine, funky form. ’20/20′ and Missy Elliott‘s upcoming, tentatively titled, ‘Block Party,’ should help Mr. Mosley reclaim the throne as one of pop music’s best producers.

1. ‘Pusher Love Girl’
Love is clearly the drug that JT is thinking of as he sets the ’20/20 party into motion: “People call me a user / and I want you to go on and use me too.” The chorus, if one can call it that, is dangerously close to the vibe of ‘Suit & Tie,’ which segues effortlessly into… oops, wait a minute — just when you think it’s over (as the orchestral strings wash back in at the 4:45 mark), ‘Pusher’ twists into its very own extended dance remix.

2. ‘Suit & Tie’
If this sprawling, ambitious, silky smooth, constantly shape-shifting smash hit is too jarring within your Spotify playlist, here it perfectly ‘n syncs with the groove of the album. [Listen Here]

3. ‘Don’t Hold the Wall’
When this track first set in, we had to check our computers to make sure we didn’t accidentally click over to a totally different website. Tribal rhythms, crickets and an audio transmission from outer space set the groove until JT shows up and demands that you dance.

4. ‘Strawberry Bubblegum’
This delicious song recalls classic Paisley Park-era Prince, complete with orchestral synths, electro blips, crisp beats and a deep, ominous voice from beyond.

5. ‘Tunnel Vision’
You know that feeling when you first lay your eyes on the love of your life from across a crowded room? Clearly this man is in LOVE. The song has got endless moves, grooves and surprises — just like JT anytime he takes the stage.

6. ‘Spaceship Coupe’
This silly, thriller of a futuristic love song features a guitar solo that would turn the Purple One green with envy. Elliot Ives is no random axeman for hire, he is a member of FreeSol, a group signed to Timberlake’s Tennman Records. Nice way to keep it in the family, JT!

7. ‘That Girl’
Out of nowhere, another musical group audio bombs the party picture — Timbaland introduces scrappy up and comers, JT & The Tennessee Kids. Watch out One Direction, these boys are coming after your girls with their ridiculously sexy slow jam vibe.

8. ‘Let the Groove In’ 
This extended jam session of Curtis Mayfield sexy cool and Michael Jackson theatrics promises to be the show stopper on JT’s upcoming tour with Jay-Z.

9. ‘Mirrors’ 
This long, funky workout is clearly a love letter to his new bride Jessica Biel. Four minutes in, the verse/chorus/verse we’ve been hearing in concert gives way to a looping “you are the love of my life.” [Listen Here]

10. ‘Blue Ocean Floor’
The album’s quietest and most beautiful song ends Vol. 1 on a quiet beat — actually, no beat at all. Just a dreamy backwards synth loop and Justin’s most delicate vocals in a decade.

Deluxe Tracks:

11. Dress On
The endless love letter to his bride continues — and this one is hawt: “There’s something about your body / But girl I’m ready to marry you / And start on our honeymoon, while you still got your dress on.” Now, as you’ll remember, Jessica Biel’s wedding dress was bee-utiful. Over a thick, wet beat and multi-tracked vocals that echo ’80s popsters Scritti Politti, JT hits some some heavenly high notes and gets a rich, bass-heavy rap assist by Timbaland.

12. Body Count
But enough about Jessica’s slammin’ body, it’s time to make Justin’s body count. The beat is faster, more furious and sexyback as hell. Built on the vocal loop “make my body count,” this track is the proper high-energy album closer we needed to tide us over until November, when the officially confirmed ’20/20 Experience Part II’ is expected to drop.

So, will the party continue this November? One can only hope we won’t need to wait another six and a half years to see what this audio genius comes up with next.

Next: Watch Justin Timberlake Perform at SXSW


 

Watch the Justin Timberlake ‘Suit & Tie’ Video Feat. Jay-Z

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