Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Recommended if you like: Miguel, Bruno Mars, Usher
For nearly a decade, 1993 until 2002, male harmony groups dominated the world of pop music. You may have even secretly listened to one the internationally famed “boy bands” when no one else was looking. Their tremendous success is absolutely undeniable; The Backstreet Boys have sold over 130 million records worldwide and *NSYNC has sold over 50 million. All of this fame went away almost as quickly as it appeared, and the jury is still out on why exactly they disappeared the way they did. There was certainly not a shortage of former members trying to make it on their own; nearly every member from Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, 98 Degrees, Dream Street, and countless other tried their hand at solo careers with a high percentage failing to have any commercial success. One did make a very successful name for himself in his attempt, and that was Justin Timberlake.
In 2002, just months after the “temporary hiatus” of *NSYNC, Timberlake released Justified as his attempt to shed the “boy band” image and try his hand as an R&B artist. It was a huge success. As of 2011, the debut release has sold over 7 million records worldwide. His follow-up FutureSex/LoveSounds was an even bigger success, selling over 10 million records worldwide. However, after 2004’s Super Bowl appearance with Janet Jackson and the infamous “wardrobe malfunction,” Timberlake decided to put his musical career on hold to try to move into the movie industry. After seven years, Timberlake has made a return in an attempt to change the status quo of pop music again.
The first thing most people will notice about The 20/20 Experience is the length of each song. Every one of the 10 tracks on the album clock in over 4:30 with the longest one at 8:06. This unorthodox song arrangement style may throw off most pop listeners, but the long songs are hardly noticeable after just a few songs.
“Pusher Love Girl” opens up the album with a stunning R&B influenced orchestral intro followed quickly by the flawless vocals from Timberlake fitting right into the mix. The lyrics tell the metaphorical story of his love affair with a pusher girl , and the drug she is dealing to him is love. The chorus belts out “So go on be my dealer babe. Cause all I want is you baby.You’re my little pusher love girl.”
The lead single for the album is “Suit and Tie,” with a guest vocal appearance by future tour mate Jay-Z. The introductory chorus comes in at a slow pace, preparing the listeners for a laid back song, but the ad lib bit from producer Timbaland leading into the verse helps push us forward into the dance-worthy tune. Throughout the song, Timberlake sings about the high-class lifestyle of dancing around in suits in a way that makes you want to go out and buy a suit on the spot. The pace of the song kicks back to the first chorus with the introduction of Jay-Z, and the half time feel helps the song feel more versatile.
With the song “That Girl,” we are formally introduced to Timberlake’s backing band, “JT and the Tennessee Kids.” The band definitely does not disappoint with their incredible brass section, jazz guitar sound, and of course JT. Even though the song is pretty simple lyrically, it certainly has the capability of being a future single.
The second single from the release is “Mirrors,” and sonically is the song closest to his former releases. Lyrically though, the song tells a story of completion and wholeness thanks to his wife, which puts him in a much different place than his earlier albums. The song has a very epic feel to it, with an opening guitar riff, some beatboxing to help keep the rhythm, and Timberlake’s vocals doubled over to give a bigger presence. The song builds up to the halfway point in the track where the chorus is repeated a cappella to show off his tremendous vocal talent. In the last two minutes of the song after the instrumental breakdown, Timberlake goes into a laid back verse singing “Baby, you’re the inspiration of this precious song. And I just wanna see your face light up since you put me on. So now I say goodbye to the old me, it’s already gone, And I can’t wait to get you home.”
This 10 song opus is an album that has the potential for a lot of polarity. Traditional pop music fans will have several barriers to overcome in order to fit this into their 4:00 or less music attention span, but many people, including Billboard and Rolling Stone, are up in arms about the potential this album has to change the landscape of the pop music scene in 2013.