When you sell 968,000 copies of your first album in seven years, you can afford to let your fans hear your follow-up for free. In a very “f*ck the establishment” kind of move, Justin Timberlake streamed “The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2” on iTunes a week before the album hit shelves.
And while JT has proven he can create eargasm worthy records, on the second half of his musical opus, Mr. Timberlake suffers from the kind of problems other musicians wish they had such as consistency, and musically going too far.
The 11-track album opens with “Gimmie What I Don’t Know (I Want)”, a song about a jungle, animalistic like sexual desire.
Now take me to your jungle, I’m not afraid/ And if you’re looking for your animal, hop in my cage/ Fall in a terror of height, don’t talk/Come in, come in, baby gimmie what I don’t know, I want
The up tempo track is drenched with Timberland’s beatbox, and later accented with a lion’s roar, and an elephant’s trumpet wail to play up the jungle theme. But after three minutes of the wild safari, listeners may begin to feel like their trapped inside Jumanji.
You see, while “The 20/20 Experience” was jovial and filled with elegance and old-Hollywood charm, the second half is darker, aggressive and more suggestive. Themes such as love, sex, and murder are all explored on the record. It’s kind of like this is the “experienced” older sister with the nice rack who wears lace thongs, which is a good and bad thing.
On the house inspired “True Blood” and the futuristic “TKO” JT and Timb sit comfortably in a familiar pocket where the music is confusing, yet still rhythmic. The formula has worked since “Justified” and helped them craft their bullet proof sound, but hasn’t allowed for any clear distinction. And while Timb and Justin have worked together for more than 10 years, consistency is the plus side of this union, while diversity is what suffers.
And like the majority of the album, Timberlake and Timb can’t seem to stop a song at the respectable three minute mark. Instead both songs play for nearly 20 minutes, which is almost a third of the 72-minute album.
It’s only five tracks in on the Studio 54 inspired single “Take Back The Night” listeners hear something new. The infectious shoulder-swaying track inspires your body to move without your conscious giving it permission. But it’s the song’s spiky horns that give the track its feel good feel.
“And the horns say “Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!”
There’s only two features on the album. Everyone’s favorite Canadian, Drake is on the lackluster “Cabaret” and Shawn Carter spits on the fast-paced “Rocky” esque “Murder” a double-entendre (because you know Jay is all about the double entendres) about a woman who’s body kills the competition and who JT wants to sexually devour. And while the track is cool, once again JT suffers from being so intrinsically drenched within his musical lane, venturing out is more like sitting on the stoop, instead of leaving the house entirely.
But the album’s sweet spot is “You Got It On.” Borrowing elements from Charlie Wilson’s “”There Goes My Baby” the smooth track is a welcome surprise, kind of like waking up on a Monday morning and your boss calling to give you the day off. Justin musically relaxes for a bit and makes all the Janes feel sexy and sensual as he professes his love for the female physique.
Listeners are brought to the end of the experience with the 11-minute ballad “Not A Bad Thing” which echoes of his former “TRL” boy-band heydays. But with just an acoustic guitar, on the second half of the song, The Tennessee Kid sings of freeing his love from all the perils of the world and while that particular record lacks all the bells and whistles the others have, there’s a sincerity this song seems to effortlessly capture.
Will the album disappoint? No. The Michael and Quincy tandem Justin and Timbaland have created will no doubt push this project , like all the others, into greatness. Even before you press play, its familiar. But Justin is so nestled within his own sound that instead of suffering from a lack of musical identity, JT now lacks musical diversity.
Trust me, I get it. I understand I’m critiquing the man who left his heart on the stage at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. But even the best of ’em sometimes get a little…
Well, I won’t go that far.
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