Justin Timberlake’s new album ‘The 20/20 Experience’ brings full clarity to his smooth, sexy sound

Austen Snodgrass
Contributing Writer

In my younger days, I despised Justin Timberlake. Indeed, the entire “boy band” phenomenon annoyed me greatly, mainly because of the endless amount of girls who freaked out at the mere whisper of the names “N SYNC” or “The Backstreet Boys.”
I vividly remember walking through the halls of my middle school, hearing countless young ladies giving mediocre renditions of “Bye Bye Bye,” and thinking to myself “Why are these groups so popular?”
Timberlake received the brunt of my displeasure, mainly because he was the most visible foot soldier of the boy band genre.
But at some point between the breakup of “N SYNC” and the beginning of his solo career, Timberlake segued from a boy-bander to a mature pop star.
His first two solo albums helped solidify this reputation, and sealed his credibility within the R&B field.
After seven long years, Timberlake has finally released his third album, “The 20/20 Experience,” which sees the artist seamlessly weave pop, soul and R&B genres into a piece work that plays more like a movement than a CD.
The ten tracks, which average over seven minutes in length, effortlessly flow into one another, with Timberlake’s familiar falsetto being the constant catalyst.
Nothing seems out of place. Even “Suit and Tie,” which served as the album’s slightly under-whelming first single, sounds much better within the context of the album.
It is difficult to think of an artist who can make seven-minute songs so engaging and listenable, especially in the current culture of short attention spans, and creating tracks specifically tailored to getting the most amount of radio play.
Timberlake achieves this with the help of producer Timbaland, who seemingly combined the best R&B sounds from the last 40 years with his classic futuristic sound.
The result is an album that runs the musical gamete, with energetic songs like “Don’t Hold the Wall” and the salsa driven “Let the Groove Get In,” giving way to the slower “Spaceship Coupe” and “Blue Ocean Floor.”
The hallmark of a truly great album is when you find yourself having a new favorite song after every listen.
While listeners now have the option of downloading a few specific songs off of an album, “The 20/20 Experience” makes this task very challenging. Each song brings something new and different to the table, and is unique enough to demand multiple listens.
The replay value of the album is very high, and it rewards the listener for coming back again and again.
I appreciate the fact that Timberlake does not sell out with this return album, and puts himself above the repetitive and often mind-numbing songs that constitute “hits” on the radio these days.
As an artist, Timberlake seems to understand and embrace his role. In early January, Timberlake released a one-minute video teasing his return to music, saying that “music means more to me than anyone else in the world.” This album backs up that statement. And yet, the composition is as much an ode to love as it is to the art of making music.
He seems to be rewarding his fan base for sticking by him for the past seven years, eagerly awaiting his return to the microphone booth.
With a second, ten-track album due out later this year, Timberlake seems to be making up for lost time.
While listeners anticipate this follow-up CD, Timberlake has left us with an album that focuses as much on the past as on the present, made by an artist who is clearly fixed on the future.


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