New Timberlake Album Mirrors Perfection

If the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is true, then the end of the late 90’s boy band craze must have given Justin Timberlake superpowers.

Ten years after ‘N Sync bit the dust, he’s still one of the most well re­spected pop stars the world has today, and his latest monster of a record, The 20/20 Experience, is undeniable proof of this.

Where the rest of his boy band brethren have all but faded into ob­scurity, Timberlake has been a con­sistent, omnipresent force in the world of pop culture since his 2002 solo debut Justified, along with his breakout mega-single “Cry Me a Riv­er,” took the music world by storm.

His second album, 2006’s Future Sex/Love Sounds, was an innovative album that further cemented Timber­lake as an important figure in mod­ern pop music. Basically, Timberlake could not be stopped.

Since “SexyBack” casted Timber­lake as this futuristic music fiend, the curly-headed artist/singer set his sights elsewhere, proving his come­dic side through numerous appear­ances on Saturday Night Live, acting in movies like The Social Network, and marrying actress Jessica Biel in late-2012.

It seemed like he has done it all in the last six years… except make new music. Timberlake had become so preoccupied with other pursuits that it seemed like a new album would be unlikely. Timberlake himself even denied the possibility of a new record just a few years ago.

This makes The 20/20 Experience something of a return, and a pretty triumphant one at that. Clocking in at over 70 min­utes with all but two tracks ex­ceeding the six-minute mark, The 20/20 Ex­perience is one of the most ambitious pop albums to be released in re­cent years, with the album’s dense, cosmic produc­tion taking tracks to soaring heights. But when all is said and done, this is a Justin Timberlake album through and through, and each track is just as fun, sexy, and infectious as anything the man has put out before.

By now, you’re probably well ac­quainted with “Suit & Tie,” the al­bums debonair first single about the high one can get from looking their sharpest. The song isn’t perfect – the verse by Jay Z, for instance, adds very little – but it’s still undeniably catchy, tailor made for dancing, and will probably be played at dance halls and bar mitzvahs for years to come.

The single also signals a dramatic shift in Timberlake’s sound. Where his last major hit, “Sexyback,” was a grimy, sweaty sex-romp of a pop song, “Suit & Tie” feels undeniably mature and straight laced, exud­ing a more classic ballroom vibe 

rather than a space-age sauna. This largely has to do with the songs pris­tine, elegant production, supplied by Timberlake’s long-time collabora­tor Timbaland, which makes the song sparkle and pop like fine champagne.

In the end, The 20/20 Experi­ence is defined by its glorious production, as each expansive track becomes its own unique, colorful ecosystem defined by its own signature sound.

Opening track “Pusher Love Girl,” for instance, glides along the dance floor with funky guitar lines, dynamic horns, and romantic strings, while the mysterious “Don’t Hold the Wall” is spiced up by a few ethnic-flavored touches and almost tribal-sounding percussion.

Throughout the album, Timber­lake often feels like he’s got one foot in the future and one in the past. The jittery, cyberpop “Tunnel Vision” and the slow motion, psychedelic “Blue Ocean Floor,” for instance, take Timberlake’s music to places it’s never been before, proving what an audacious artist he can be.

However, a number of moments on the album bring to mind the Jus­tin Timberlake we knew ten years ago. When Timberlake says, “I’m gonna love you ‘til I make it pop,” in the cool-as-ice “Strawberry Bubble­gum,” for instance, it brings to mind the later N’ Sync hit “Pop.” Single “Mirrors,” despite its eight-minute time length and sky-high produc­tion, feels not too far off from some of Timberlake’s earliest singles, and actually manages to overstay its wel­come halfway through.

If one thing is consistent through the record, it’s Timberlake’s smooth, buttery vocals, which add just the right amount of soul and charisma to each of the album’s tracks.

These vocal talents are probably best displayed on the albums simplest track, “That Girl,” which dials down the craziness and stupor to give Tim­berlake the floor, with the spotlight shining on him and his microphone alone.

Timberlake recently announced a follow up is due later this year, but in all honesty, do we really need one so soon? With the ten dense, hypnotic, and incredibly infectious tracks Tim­berlake has provided us with The 20/20 Experience, it’s safe to say that fans will be satiated for a long time to come.

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