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


Matt said...

The sample in "Spaceship Coupe" is "Baby Let's Rap Now" recorded by the "Moments" from 1980.

Justin L. Brown said...

The American pop artist on-screen character's name is Justin Randal Timberlake. He was conceived in Memphis, Tennessee on 31st January 1981. His folks Lynn Harless and father Randall Timberlake. Soon after his introduction to the world his folks' isolated and both remarried. His relative Laura Katherine passed on not long after birth and is specified in his affirmations in the album"NSYNC" as my "Holy messenger in Heaven". Justin Timberlake's boy band Powered by Blogger.
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