Justin Timberlake has unleashed the 2nd part of his The 20/20 Experience, seeking to continue ruling the airwaves and further cement his spot at the top of Pop music. Because of a general disinterest of the genre, ten years ago (hell, two years ago) I would’ve never guessed I would be reviewing a Pop album, but I was given the task so here this is. With that premise, I’m basing my assessment of this album solely on what it delivers sonically.
When you think of a Pop album, you immediately seek out the “singles”/club bangers. I always figured that albums from “Top 40” artists were essentially collections of potential hit singles with a bunch of filler to warrant a full album price. This album appears to attempt going against that norm and trying a more artistic route with all but one track (ringing in at 4:32) lasting longer than 5 minutes. However, it appears the album doesn’t reflect that intent and instead feels like the songs are dragged on for longer than they need to be.
The album starts out decently with songs like “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” and “True Blood.” They sound a bit more tropical than what I’d expect from JT and they’re certainly not what I typically consider hit tracks. “Cabaret” was simply an OK song until Drake’s part comes on to liven it, giving it more energy and a better “feel” overall. The same can’t be said about “Murder,” featuring Jay Z; the formula worked well on MCHG but the lack of a proper hook makes it feel a bit dull.
The album’s lead single, “Take Back The Night,” holds a nice, retro vibe and evokes the sound of Off The Wall-era Michael Jackson. The faux-Country of “Drink You Away” does not sit well with me and it appears to be completely out of place here.
Tracks I believe are the strongest are the last two, “Only When I Walk Away” and “Not A Bad Thing.” The penultimate track feels like it could’ve been a Rock song and the last track is a proper ballad that most likely won’t be heard on the radio but surely will be a fan favorite.
I give props to JT for attempting something different here. Using traditional instruments and “Big Band” production is a nice change for what we typically get from modern Pop music but that isn’t enough to make a great album. The new direction should only be part of an experimental phase for the former N*SYNC frontman, given that this album has few highlights and it doesn’t hold tracks that get stuck in your head even when you don’t want them there.
Key Tracks: “Cabaret,” “Take Back The Night,” “Only When I Walk Away,” “Not A Bad Thing.”