With his first album in seven years, Justin Timberlake is back in full effect with his third studio album, “The 20/20 Experience.” Timberlake returns with the same producers from his previous two albums, Timbaland and Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon, yet “The 20/20 Experience” is quite different from its predecessors.
“The 20/20 Experience” has a much more mature feel to it, musically and lyrically, when compared to Timberlake’s past albums, “FutureSex/LoveSounds” and “Justified.” Rather than the typical womanizing themes from his previous albums, “The 20/20 Experience” gives off a strong vibe of faithfulness and genuine love.
Rather than the euro-dance-pop/electronic style of “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” “The 20/20 Experience” is full of neo-soul instrumentation and falsettos. Songs like “Let the Groove Get In” and the first single off the album, “Suit & Tie,” have very heavy ‘70s and ‘80s influences and are reminiscent of music of the late R&B artist, Curtis Mayfield.
Although Timberlake and Timbaland drew inspiration from older music, that doesn’t mean they didn’t fuse that genre with their stapled futuristic/electronic style they developed together in previous works. “Strawberry Bubblegum” and “Spaceship Coupe” both have very futuristic, electronic samples while also having very soulful, R&B vibes.
Debuting Timberlake’s entrance back into the music scene, “Suit & Tie” became more than just a single, and more the assertion that he is back and ready to top the charts again. The song starts with a slow hip-hop beat. After a few repetitions there is a slight pause and the whole song changes to a cool, laidback groove consisting of horns and many different percussive instruments. The song eventually goes back to the hip-hop style from the beginning, but this time guest artist on the track, rapper Jay-Z, fills the void with a fun, boastful verse about his excellent style and lifestyle.
The sixth track, “Spaceship Coupe,” is a sensual yet groovy tune about an out-of-this-world love experience. Having the potential to be the new go-to slow jam played in the late hours at nightclubs around the country, “Spaceship Coupe” continues the soulful, R&B vibe but also has a certain futuristic feel to it. With a breakdown including synthesizers and a guitar solo, this song is only a small part of the experience on the new album.
The next track, “That Girl,” starts out with a club/bar type feel. Timbaland introduces the man himself alongside the Tennessee Kids, Timberlake’s new live orchestra that often accompanies him on performances, on stage at the Grammy’s last month. This is the only song on the album without any futuristic/techno samples. It’s an old-fashioned soul/R&B tune about loving someone and not caring about their wealth, ethnicity or where they come from.
“Mirrors,” the second single off the album, is the one song on the album that could have easily been placed on one of Timberlake’s previous two albums. The instrumentation consists of some beat-boxing by Timbaland, a heavy lead guitar and claps on top of the beat-boxing and drum synths. Also one of the more emotionally arousing songs on the album dealing with the realization that his lover is his other half, “Mirrors” focuses on the trials and tribulations of that relationship and how the issues have been resolved. This song is clearly about his marriage with actress Jessica Biel. The lyrics, “It was easy coming back to you/Once I figured it out, you were right here all along,” most likely refers to their widely publicized, yet brief, break-up about a year before their marriage.
The album wraps up with “Blue Ocean Floor,” about the undying love he has for his woman. It has the same sort of lyrical message as popular oldies like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I’ll be There.” In this song, Timberlake basically states that no obstacle will keep him from being with his lover.
Although there are certainly standout songs on “The 20/20 Experience,” the album is meant to be what it says: an experience. Nearly every song is over six minutes long and effortlessly leads into the next song, building off the previous tune. The album is meant to be listened to in its entirety rather than listening to certain songs; listening to a particular song from the album will not give the full feel of the album itself.
Timberlake explained the inspiration for the title of the album in an interview with Ryan Seacrest. “It more or less came out of I was playing some of the stuff for my friends and they would come in and out of the studio and I’d say, ‘What do you think of this?’ And my best friend said, ‘This is music that you can see,’ and for some reason that stuck with me.”
“The 20/20 Experience” has something for everyone, whether a relentless JT fan or not. With groovy instrumentation and catchy lyrics, it’s hard not to enjoy this excellent work of art. It’s safe to say this album has the potential for many Grammy nominations as well as the potential for a few million records to be sold.
“The 20/20 Experience” will be officially released on Tuesday, March 19 and is free to stream for a limited time on iTunes.