Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience: The Complete Experience
September 27, 2013
What It Sounds Like: Slick neo soul done on about as grand of a scale as you can imagine.
You don’t gotta worry what you wear tonight
Those heels lift you up where you fit me right
Said oh, you already got it on baby
Tell me what’s better than the two us
Cause you by yourself is more than enough for me.
Remember that episode of Family Guy where Brian and Stewie find out that Miley Cyrus is really just an android, manufactured by the Disney Corporation in order to cash in? There’s a small part of me that almost thinks that good ol’ JT is an android too, manufactured to just live the life of luxury, enjoying success after success. Don’t get me wrong though; while Miley may think that taking her top off any time the cameras are on is going to gain her some points (and it may if you’re, well…just not smart – there’s a mind-blowing Lewis Black rant in there somewhere), Mr. Timberlake does keep it respectable, and mostly classy. The 20/20 Experience isn’t ‘N Sync. It’s not even hitmaker pop music like his previous records leaned towards. It’s soul to its core, complete with songs that fade into the night, clocking in many times at six or seven minutes, plus. What other pop artist could attempt this type of feat and still manage to sell just shy of a million copies of his record the first week of its release? It’s not nineteen-ninety-nine anymore!
No, Justin Timberlake isn’t an android. He really is just that good at what he does. An entertainer at it’s finest.
Let me tell you something else about this record: This thing will end relationships. You know how they say that women shouldn’t watch The Bachelor because it gives them unrealistic expectations of what true love should look like? The 20/20 Experience is the same thing, except for the fact that it goes in your eardrum, and not your eyeball. You know what happens when Justin starts singing about Strawberry Bubblegum? You know what happens when he starts whispering lines in her ear like Don’t ever change your flavor ’cause I love the taste / Love the taste / And if you ask me where I wanna go / I say all the way? I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. Your girl is going to hear those words booming through her earbuds on her iPod (probably because she’s about to go out for a run because she wants to keep herself in shape for you, idiot), and she’ll simultaneously look over at you lounging on the couch with Enchilada Supreme Doritos littering your face, laughing at Daniel Tosh mock some drunk frat boy that just face-planted on the edge of a pool because he thought, in his infinite wisdom, that with a running start he really could make that ten foot leap from one side to the other. Babe, did you see that?! That kid just ATE it!!
To look at the “review” portion of this for a minute, let me just say that there’s just no way to come at this album for a solid review that’s going to be anything less than five thousand words, and I just don’t have the total energy for it. The Complete Experience, which brings together parts one and two of The 20/20 Experience (released a couple months apart) is a massive beast. Both parts together comprise twenty-one tracks, which stretch to a marathon length of one hundred and forty four minutes. That’s only half an hour shy of The Fellowship Of The Ring! Could a thorough review be written? Of course. But you’re not going to find it on NoCoda. I have other fish to fry.
(Side note: Have you ever had the Grilled Salmon from Sunset Grill in Nashville? Phenomenal.)
Everyone knows Suit & Tie, along with Mirrors. Fine tracks with thorough differentiation, and solid choices as singles. But if you haven’t heard the likes of Pusher Love Girl, Tunnel Vision, or TKO – you don’t know what you’re missing. These are killer, sit-in-the-groove jams, equally made for the club (which I don’t frequent – why would you?) and intimate, late night dance sessions in your living room with that special someone (which I do aspire to – why wouldn’t you?). Not A Bad Thing closes the record in a heart-on-your-sleeve fashion, with a pure 90s pop push coupled with some sweet simplistic wordplay that make for, in my opinion, the best lyrical exhibition of the whole 20/20 Experience.
Are there missteps? Sure. Blue Ocean Floor is an attempt at ambiance, but is so boring during its seven-minute duration that it’ll make you want to walk the plank yourself. Drink You Away has true aim in what its trying to accomplish, but its jagged, gospel chorus just doesn’t flow, and seems better suited for a Kidz Bop compilation with alternate lyrics. Caberet, a duet with Drake, should have been a b-side. It’s completely mediocre and predictable.
It’s obviously Justin’s persona to throw some attitude around and make the girls scream, but its at his contemplative moments where he really makes his mark. Amnesia cuts deep, as he leaves a past lover to the left of his timeline where she belongs. He follows it up with the scorching Only When I Walk Away, which, no lie, sounds like something Jack White would write if he ever decided to add full blown marketable R&B/pop to his already darkened soul styles and have Kanye West produce it. The dirty electronics that he puts on his voice fit like a glove when he delivers the essential burn: You should see the look on your face / Baby when I finish what you start…..She loves me now / She loves me not / She loves me now / But only when I walk away.
So while The 20/20 Experience isn’t perfect – the pros outweigh the cons by a huge margin. It’s easily outdoes Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds, serving as a more than fitting expansion of his sound, and excels in leaps and bounds of maturity in stepping forward.
He could have gotten Dr. Luke in here and made some sugary-sweet beats that would have topped every chart across the world.
Instead, he did something original and grand. My hat’s off.
If you had to listen to two tracks off of Volume 1 (Besides Suit & Tie and Mirrors): Strawberry Bubblegum / Tunnel Vision
If you had to listen to two tracks off of Volume 2: Only When I Walk Away / Not A Bad Thing