The take on the new Timberlake
Ladies and gentleman, Justin Timberlake is finally back with a new album.
“The 20/20 Experience” opens up with the swirling strings, warm bass and perky keys of “Pusher Love Girl.” Thirty seconds in, and Justin Timberlake’s boyish charisma takes the song over. The golden sound harkens back to an age where real instruments were commonplace and dapper suits were expected. Seven years removed from music, and it seemed like Timberlake was back to reclaim his throne.
Unfortunately, “Pusher Love Girl” proved to be a tease. Though it has its moments, “The 20/20 Experience” ultimately is a slight disappointment.
The biggest problem here is that Timberlake fails to captivate. Outside of the opening song, it’s unlikely any of the songs here will become seminal moments in pop in the vein of his previous efforts. You won’t find “SexyBack” or “Cry Me a River” here, though he does try.
Following “Pusher Love Girl” is single “Suit and Tie,” which has been all over the airwaves lately. It’s even the focal point of the album’s advertising campaign. Many critics noted the song fell short of expectations. It’s worth mentioning it’s a great follow-up to the premise of the opener, so it isn’t as glaringly underwhelming here.
He follows up with “Don’t Hold the Wall,” a club joint that has a good chance of being the next single. It has a unique, Middle Eastern-flavored beat, and for a while it’s enjoyable. But it suffers from a trait shared by many of the songs on the album: an excessively-long runtime.
Despite having 10 songs, the album is more than 70 minutes long. As a comparison, Frank Ocean’s acclaimed debut “Channel Orange” clocked in at 55 minutes. The shortest track on “The 20/20 Experience”, “That Girl,” clocks in at 4:47. “Don’t Hold the Wall” checks out after 7:10 minutes. Several other songs approach 8 minutes in length.
Yes, this is a long ride.
Many of the songs on “The 20/20 Experience” have their own concept. Some songs explore the soulful sounds of the ‘70s, other songs are almost quiet-storm like in their subtlety. Nearly all of them overstay their welcome.
Perhaps the runtimes are what removed much of the enjoyment from the album. None of the songs are bad; in fact, many of them are good listens. But they don’t push the envelope enough, and the length of the songs exacerbates that.
Perhaps Timberlake wanted to separate his album from the flurry of Euro-pop dance hits that have dominated the radio in recent years. In this case, he succeeds. “The 20/20 Experience” is one of the most original pop efforts in years. But he relished the uniqueness of his effort, and in turn, undermines his own accomplishment.
The top songs on the album are “Pusher Love Girl,” “Don’t Hold the Wall,” “Strawberry Bubblegum” and “That Girl,” a Motown-esque throwback. If you trim the length of the songs yourself (read: skip after boredom sets in), there’s a lot to enjoy here.