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Justin Timberlake, ‘The 20/20 Experience’ – Album Review

Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience
RCA Records

Justin Timberlake may not be bringing sexy back, but he’s certainly ushering in sophistication. His third album in nearly six years, ‘The 20/20 Experience,’ is a joyous collection of soulful grooves, tender-loving crooning and Timberland‘s savvy production.

On the album, love is the metaphor throughout the 10 tracks (12 if you cop the deluxe version at Target). He compares women to drugs on ‘Pusher Love Girl,’ a sweet-tasting candy on ‘Strawberry Bubblegum,’ an extraterrestrial vixen on ‘Spaceship Coupe’ and a leading lady on ‘Tunnel Vision.’

If you think Timbaland has lost his production edge, think again. The veteran hit-maker incorporates every worldly sound on here and magically it fits without missing a beat. We also have to give props to Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon, who assisted in producing the album as well.

And yes, Timbo is to Timberlake what Quincy Jones was to Michael Jackson. Evidence of that is on ‘Let the Groove In,’ which takes its cues from Jackson’s ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.’ Its afro-beat sounds make it a rather ambitious song, considering that the R&B landscape has changed drastically in the past six years since Timberlake’s absence.

And that’s what makes ‘The 20/20 Experience’ such an enjoyable listen. JT is having fun without taking himself too seriously. He’s not trying to play catch up with today’s R&B singers, he’s staying in his lane and letting the groove take control.

Timberlake’s ‘The 20/20 Experience’ is one big soulful party and you’re courteously invited.

1. ‘Pusher Love Girl’
JT kicks the album off on a high note using the woman-is-a-drug metaphor. “So high I’m on the ceiling baby / So go on and be my dealer baby / All I want is you,” he sings. The song’s highlight comes at the end when the track switches over to a raucous beat and Timbo’s beat-boxing vocals.

2. ‘Suit & Tie’ Feat. Jay-Z
Another fun song featuring a great cameo from Jay-Z. With its thundering beat, melodic piano grove and horns blasts, if this song doesn’t make you want to do the two-step, you better check your pulse. Show them how to do it Timberlake! [Watch the Video]

3. ‘Don’t Hold the Wall’
A tribal-esque club banger featuring JT’s call-and response (“Let go, dance / Don’t hold the wall”). The crooner plays a smooth player as he lures a beautiful wallflower to the dance floor. The song’s ending gets thisclose to the EDM sound without taking a full giant leap.

4. ‘Strawberry Bubblegum’
Timberlake’s Marvin Gaye/Curtis Mayfield falsetto carries this somewhat cheesy ballad about a woman he finds as tasty as a sweet piece of candy. Again, like the previous tunes, the song takes a sonic turn at the end with its Moroccan sound. Nevertheless, he makes this tune a satisfying listen.

5. ‘Tunnel Vision’
On this orchestral-driven ballad, JT is a filmmaker directing his leading lady in the bedroom. The woman he’s eyeing is so beautiful that he can see nothing else. The song also drags a bit and outstays its welcome.

6. ‘Spaceship Coupe’
Another standout on the album with its thundering beat, JT provides doo-wop vocals and Timbo flips orgasmic samples in the mix. On the song, Timberlake describes his ladylove as an extraterrestrial being who should jump in his spaceship so they can “make love on the moon.” It’s a cheeky love ballad but it works nonetheless.

7. ‘That Girl’
Timberlake introduces his big-band orchestra The Tennessee Kids on this guitar-driven, doo-wop crooning ballad. He gives a wink and a nod to Al Green and the Memphis soul sound on here.

8. ‘Let the Groove Get In’
Another highlight on the album. The song boasts African rhythms and worldly sounds that will make you jump out of your chair and dance. At seven minutes long, the party gets a little tedious. After a while, we were hoping for JT to chant, “Mamasaymamasamamakusa.”

9. ‘Mirrors’
Timberlake takes it back to his ‘Justified’ days with this poppy ballad. The singer yearns for the love of a former flame after he goes through self-reflection. See what we did there? The tune is weighed down a bit by being a little too long, so look for the radio edit. This has the potential of being a big hit for him. [Listen to 'Mirrors]

10. ‘Blue Ocean Floor’
The album takes a detour sonically with the ethereal ‘Blue Ocean Floor.’ The populous opinion here is that Timberlake is trying to mimic Frank Ocean with this song. Timberlake’s lyrics are certainly abstract as he sings about a lost love. “If my red eyes don’t see you anymore / Then I can’t hear you through the white noise / Just send your heartbeat I’ll go / Under the ocean floor,” he croons.

Next: Get the latest News on Justin Timberlake

Watch Justin Timberlake’s Performance of ‘Suit & Tie’ on ‘SNL’

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