Mar 12, 2013

Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience Album Review

I am behind, but I just saw the tweet from JT saying his album is streaming on iTunes this week, which is stupendous considering I've been anxiously awaiting to hear the studio version of 'Pusher Love Girl.' (You know this ish is in my pre-order downloads.)

We've all voiced our complaints: 'Suit & Tie' sounds like a poor man's Robin Thicke single, and not even Hova could get me excited about it; 'Mirrors' is MY JAM, but sometimes I catch myself singing "You don't have to say what you did/I already know/I found out from him" instead of "Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul/I couldn't tell you there's no place we couldn't go." Justin, you done and scared me. But after jamming the entire album tonight, you've still got my trust bro. 

Let's be honest though: you could have come out with an album only covering The Brady Bunch theme song, and it's going to be a musical masterpiece in my book. 

Full disclosure though. It's not all rainbows and butterflies when it comes to my feelings about J. Randall Timby these days. Boyfriend wants me to go homeless for three months in order to secure four floor-level seats to his concert at the Rose Bowl. Just remember, dearest Curly, that not all 20-somethings are making millions, like you were... and furthermore, I've been with you since I was 12. TWELVE. That's 16 dedicated years, nine of which were musicless. I'll get to that later.

Before I get to the meat of this post, here's the Cliffnotes version:

Pusher Love Girl: Easily my favorite. No specific reason... I just hum it in my head all the live-long day. And the interlude is just as good as the actual song. I'm going to be cycling to this one!
Suit & Tie: No.
Don't Hold the Wall: Missy Elliott should have laid down a rap for this one. Probably the most club-based track of the bunch. Unless you're hitting La Descarga, and in that case it's 'Let the Groove Get In.'
Strawberry Bubblegum: Overtly sexual with no apologies. If I were to pick his brain about two things, it would be about this song and about his alleged Brazilian Blowout. (Don't worry, it looks amazing. I mean, is he working with MoroccanOil?)
Tunnel Vision: Not the most memorable, but enjoyable nonetheless. Nice touch with the strings.
Spaceship Coupe: Justin is FREAK. NASTY. No doubt in my mind, he's a dirty man. Parts of this song remind me of 'Lay You Down' by Chris Brown. It's all kind of sexy. The guitar solo at the end is enough to get anyone hot and bothered. Only points docked are for originality, because there's a part that sounds straight from 'Until the End of Time.'
That Girl: Think of any of The Temptations songs (R&B Remix)
Let The Groove Get In: Miami Sound Machine. I would haved enjoyed a JLO duet on this one. I want the interlude to be my ringtone.
Mirrors: My future husband will agree that this is "our song" if he's smart. And I don't imagine my wedding (often) but I could see an acoustic, lyrics-free version of this one being a sentimental song to trot down the aisle to. :)
Blue Ocean Floor: Reminds of me of Psapp - Cosy in the Rocket, the Grey's Anatomy theme song; it's euphoric feeling. I didn't get why he left us with this song, but the entire album is an experience: a drug trip. Instead of coming down off the high, he leaves us in the state of grace. (Don't worry, Mom. It may sound like I know what a drug trip is like, but frankly I'm too much of a goody two-shoes to know.)


The album is only 10 tracks long, but hits a little over an hour in length. Needless to say, it's gratuitious. Songs spiral off into their own experimental wonderland of beatboxing and interludes/preludes, but Timbaland and Justin made the effort to define each song from start to finish. There's no question when the next track starts playing. While some complain that the length of the songs is self-satisfying, I don't mind it. It's nice to hear his voice for what it is: an instrument, and not just a parlayer of lyrics.

I've read a lot of reviews of this album, and Buzzfeed Music had this long piece about how Justin Timberlake is a luxury brand: we wait on him to deliver music when he's truly inspired; he's all about the Tom Ford suits and Louboutins. 'Suit & Tie' may have been a song about class and prestige, but it shouldn't be used to measure the entire album. Remember that Justin, at the root of his music, is an R&B baby. That is how I'd describe 20/20. 'Don't Hold the Wall' sounds like Missy Elliott may come out for a cameo. Not unexpected, thanks to Timbo. 

However, I get where people can label this a "luxury album." There aren't too many mainstream dance tracks on this one. It's not a Katy Perry 'Teenage Dream' kind of album; not even a Future Sex/Love Sounds. He's got plenty of money, so it sounds like he really did things on his own terms.

This album isn't entirely radio-friendly, if you're going by the standard definition of the term. These tracks make you want to move, but more along the lines of "to the bedroom" instead of "to the dance floor." I'd equate a lot of the content to "Set the Mood (Prelude)" and "I Think That She Knows." There aren't many songs I see being a "My Love" or a "Rock Your Body" from 20/20. But who knows, maybe JT is about to revolutionize modern radio, where the DJ's play eight-minute-long-songs without many lyrics... but don't hold your breath.

I say that, but let's not get it twisted: I don't think Justin has ever made an album for radio appeal. Future Sex/Love Sounds was shockingly popular, even though it wasn't the typical pop candy we were used to. 

I'm not a music professional by any means, so I know this is not the proper term, but that slowed-down, chopped & screwed voice we heard on 'Suit & Tie' makes a few appearances throughout record. And I ain't mad at it.

If you like Justin, or are just a fan of electic records, you're going to love this album. It has a lot to offer, in addition to the R&B and sweet love songs: 'That Girl' caters to a 70's sound. It feels a little like Ray Lamontange mashed-up with The Temptations; of course it's all signature JT, adding his own R&B flair to each and every song.

I hate the word epic because it's constantly associated with "fail." And it's misused for effect's sake (I'm guilty of it), but that's the best way to describe the feeling of several tracks. The combination of the electric guitar and addition of the symphony really catapult 'Pusher Love Girl' and 'Mirrors' to a larger-than-life listening experience. When you hear those intros, it conjures up emotion — they're two of the strongest love songs on the album, so it's no accident. Plus, the way the strings are incorporated into the characteristically R&B sound create a gorgeous juxtaposition. 

The harmonies make me happy because they remind me of *NSYNC. I'm not saying the boy band pumped out any critically acclaimed hits, or produce a song that really gave food for thought (eh, perhaps 'Digital Getdown'?) but out of all the boy bands on the charts, *NSYNC always kicked ass at their harmonies. Notable tracks: Strawberry Bubblegum, Tunnel Vision

Where are we going to hear this?
Like I said, I don't imagine that 'Strawberry Bubblegum' is going to be a breakway hit on KIIS FM, but I can hear it at a gallery opening, on Prabal's Spring 2014 runway, and sue me — getting down at some vinyasa flow yoga. Also, at house parties where people enjoy good, carefully crafted music.

Not sure what his next single will be, but just based on mainstream success, I'm going with 'Pusher Love Girl.'

What is this new suit kick?
This is unrelated to the album itself, but can we all hop off the criticism of JT's suit habit? Because that's exactly what it is: a habit. Lest we forget the cover of Future Sex/Love Sounds. We couldn't get the man out of a suit vest to save his life. He has an affinity for suits and he decided to write about wearing one, dammit. Let him be.


Justin is a veteran musician based on industry standards, but being in the limelight since '98, he's only produced music (albums -- not cameos) for seven years: *NSYNC ('98-'01), Justified ('02), FS/LS ('06) and now 20/20. It's kind of amazing that his fans have stayed faithful. Many artists who go on a four-year hiatus don't come back for seconds; you're never recovering from a seven-year stretch. 

I loved the creative freedom he explored on this one, especially with the preludes and interludes.

So Justin, if you're reading this: I love you. I've spent, literally, thousands of dollars on your music and your brand; I dealt with your fedora phase, the studded jeans, and marionette era. And for the love of all things sane, I permed my hair IN EIGHTH GRADE, so (I'm somewhat ashamed to admit this, but screw it) I could wear bedazzled bandanas, like you, and feel like we had a connection. "Justin Timberlake wears bedazzled headbands and studded jeans, so I WEAR bedazzled headbands and studded jeans." Do you understand how traumatizing that is for a teenager? Seriously man.

Straight hair at this point, thank you sweet baby Jesus

Throw Mama a bone and hook me up with some backstage passes and front row rezzies to your show. Four will do. We can chat about your hair and Bud Light Platinum. X

Mar 3, 2013

Planet Salon in West Hollywood: The Salon Files

323 S. Robertson Boulevard, 90211

If you're blonde, this Planet is definitely for you.

I imagine myself to be super annoying when it comes to my hair. I'm okay with professionals trying different things, but I know what looks good, ultimately. I love exploring different hairstyles, but I feel very strongly about the phrase "if it's not broke, don't fix it." I've been around the block with hair color and styling; I know that my hair needs bend to it or else it looks ratty. I also know that I need to grow out my hair, but during this in-between phase, my "bangs" are too heavy, so they need to be curled back so they sweep away from my face... or else I'll look like I have some kind of harsh angular cut, and it's just not attractive. I also know what my hair does or doesn't do when it comes to color.

Knowing all this, I was in the market for a new hair salon. I booked an appointment at Planet Salon by referal from our Style Director, Meg. I needed my roots touched up (after my mother's harassment) and wanted to find a place closer to work (I had been traveling to the west side) that used either Aveda or Wella color. My hair had a hideous yellow tint on camera that wasn't flattering at all, and I figured out that it was because of the color being used on my hair. 

I look horrendous
Meg referred me to Dean, so I called and made a consultation so we could talk about what I wanted. First off, I wanted my natural color to grow in and become my lowlight, but I knew that would be hard because I hadn't done that in awhile, and because I had been using different lightening sprays on my hair, my natural color wasn't readily visible. 
I also wanted to convert from foils to balayage, but knew that would be hard too until my natural color grew in. I also wanted to be brighter, and maybe even a bit lighter (gasp!). 

At the consultation, I loved Dean's demeanor. He listened (novel concept) and offered solutions, and even took a look at the photos I brought in, and gave me advice based off seeing those pictures. He mentioned that most women tend to bring in several photos, but a lot of times they're all different colors of blonde or brunette, so it can get confusing figuring out what the client really wants. Sometimes you need a colorist to tell you what color family will work or won't work for you, and Dean is that guy. Luckily, the photos I brought in were all in the same color family, and he pointed out the characteristics of each photo that I loved and suggested we add them into my own hair. Was this man my hair soulmate? The Kristin Ess to my Lauren Conrad? Sure seemed liked it.

Luckily, after my consulatation he was able to take me immediately. 

And, bonus: Planet Salon is an Aveda concept salon, but they also have Wella color too — a perfect match for what I was looking for.

Here's what we did: Dean foiled my hair with a few shades (something I only had done in Texas and  was delighted Dean was going for): one highlight and one medium blonde. We had to foil at this appointment because my regrowth wasn't enough to start in with the balayage. To restore the health of my hair, he put on this ridiculous mask after the color. I sat under a dryer, which they refer to as the Wall-E, for about 10 minutes and afterwards my hair felt as soft as the day I was born. Baby hair is back, y'all!

My hair felt and looked fantastic, and in addition the lovely Aveda tea and amazing scalp massage, they also provide complementary hand and shoulder massages: the hand massage while you're in the chair; the shoulder massage after you've gotten washed up. You never know how badly you need your hands and fingers to be massaged until it actually happens. It's like the clouds parted and I was experiening some level of Utopia. 

I left a happy camper, but once I got to the studio, I knew I'd have to go back in to get "fixed." On camera, the color was still flat and had a twinge of yellow. (ARGH.) I don't blame Dean, I blame my hair. In person it looked great, but still a little one dimensional, so I called and booked again for the next morning. Dean was more than happy to accommodate me, and after chatting, he decided the best and most effective route was to create dimension by adding lowlights (something I figured I needed) and then would add a few more baby blonde pieces to accentuate my face. The lowlights made the color from the day before look brighter, but also will help get my natural color back into the mix at future appointments, since my regrowth will naturally blonde with the added lowlight. And then to tone down any yellow tint, he added a gloss. Hallelujah! 

FYI: If your hair keeps turning out yellow, it's because your colorist has not let the blonde process long enough. You want your color to look like the inside of a banana, not the outside, right? But if you color your hair and it looks yellow, it can be damaging to put bleach on again, so always explore the option of a gloss or a toner. They essentially mean the same thing, but glosses add shine while toning down the color of your hair. 

Also, with a new colorist or stylist, don't be afraid to go back in. It's a learning process to see what works or doesn't work with your hair. If you went on a date and had a wonderful time but wasn't 100% in love, you wouldn't just ditch him, right? You'd go for another date to see if you and him may have a promising future together. Same goes for colorists and stylists. If you love it the first go around, great! If it needs help, go back in and explain what you don't like. They're used to it, and they want their work to make you happy. 

For me, I know my hair doesn't take well to bleach, so it has to be left on a bit longer than expected. Dean hadn't ever worked with my hair before, but after my first appointment, we have our groove. Plus, we're both on the same page when it comes to shades, hair health, and the process of getting my hair longer and stronger. All things you should agree on with the person in charge of your hair's look and texture, am I right? 

PS: I'm thinking going for Lauren Conrad's new ombré blonde color in April. What do you think?

Everything about this salon was a delight, so I give it a solid A. It's clean, it's fun and upbeat, and everyone is friendly. No condescending stylist types here. Only downside: parking. It's on Robertson, so street park or try to find a lot.

My hair does look 1,000 times better. I will definitely be a regular at PS!

The KirbsNotes Version: Planet Salon
An Aveda Concept Salon
My hair: Fine, medium length
Service: Foil Highlights + Balayage Tips: $180 without tip
Parking: Street
Location: West Hollywood; Beverly Hills adjacent
Color: Wella and Aveda
Hours: Tues 2-9, Wed-Fri 9-9, Sat 8-8, Sun 10-4
Cleanliness: A
Services Offered: Color, Cuts, Straightening treatments, Hair repair treatments, relaxers, blowouts, extension application, waxing, makeup application
Blowouts: Done by assistant Powered by Blogger.
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