Okay, so let’s face it – there is a clear lack of charismatic male figures in modern day mainstream pop. The girls got LADY GAGA, they got RIHANNA and maybe even LANA DEL REY. And besides all gender topics – what’s with the guys? ROBBIE WILLIAMS clearly had his peak ten years ago and we won’t even dare to call DAVID GUETTA or CALVIN HARRIS popstars. So much mediocrity and no great male entertainers. We don’t know if this was crucial to the comeback of JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE. But somebody needs to do the job – so why not letting the former boygroup member bringing sexy back in 2013? The 20/20 Experience is his first album in seven years. In the meantime he did quite good as actor or part-time comedian. TIMBERLAKE clearly is a multitasking show talent, a classical entertainer, a lovely lad and a fancy singer. Unabled to ignore him – even for NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION.
Prior to the release of The 20/20 Experience, JUSTIN stated that he needed to feel the hunger again to go back to music. He’s not an artist who’s dropping records every two years – probably a reason why the music of the 32-year old doesn’t need do be desperately innovative. On the other side, his new record is quite ambitious for a mainstream pop record. Featuring ‘only’ ten songs, most of them are around 7 or 8 minutes long with the The Girl being the shortest with only 5 minutes. Extending the radio compatibility and bringing some class back into pop – quite a challenge. TIMBERLAKE‘s new album sees also a comeback in form for producer buddy TIMBALAND who got a bit lost after receiving major success in the late 00s. Comibining smooth r’n'b with classical string moments, he really creates a great atmosphere. The record feels very classy, especially with such a smooth string start like Pusher Love Girl.
With his new look and the official comback anthem Suit & Tie (featuring JAY-Z) it almost feels like JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE wants to bring a certain style from the 1920/30s into the 21st century, combining old swing-like sounds with modern day electronica and r&b beats. This might be an explanation for the album title as well. Further elements include oriental percussion and samples (Don’t Hold The Wall) or hypnotic electronica (Tunnel Vision). Quite groovy, but not as desperate ‘four-to-the-floor’ as most of TIMBERLAKE‘s colleques. Even if he and TIMBALAND go crazy in a song like Let The Groove Get In – which basicly mixes everything from arabic pop to funky disco – it’s always with style and taste. There’s no room for cheesy dance and eurodisco beats in the world of The 20/20 Experience.
Another factor that makes the album so intense is the concept of the songs. They usually start as normal songs with typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure. But in the second half – and that explains the length of the tunes – they develop a life on their own. These extended outros almost felt like a psychodelic continuation or alternative version to the first half. Almost like a well-thought-out jam session. Probably a bit exhausting on the whole duration when you expect ‘just’ a regular pop album. But it gets more and more reasonable with every spin.
Well, of course – like on every TIMBERLAKE albums – there are the hits (Mirrors) and mediocre tracks (Strawberry Bubblegum) going hand in hand. And lyrically it’s still just ‘girls, girls, girls’ and ‘love’ for the man. Quite boring and one-dimensional, especially when you get quite cheap sci-fi references in a song like Spaceship Coupe. But on the other side – especially on the reduced and tender closer Blue Ocean Floor this works out quite well. There is surely a lot to discover on The 20/20 Experience – although the very shallow and high-glossing sound clearly does not apply to everyone. But within his very own microcosm JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE creates something that doesn’t desperately want to be a hit. It all feels very natural, very easy floating – time to suit up!