Sunday, April 20, 2014

Justin Timberlake- The 20/20 Experience (2013)

Why did I review the album?  Love JT
Did I like it? Yes…eventually
Will I listen again? Yes
I didn’t like this album at first, in fact, I hated it. But, that’s why I listen to albums at least two times before I start writing reviews. My first impressions of music is usually harsh because I’m exposing myself to the music for the first time, so I do not notice the nuggets of brilliance in songs.
My main problem is the track length. The songs are too long. They did not hold my interest as much as the tracks on FutureSex/LoveSsounds (FSLS). I felt the songs on FSLS were long with a purpose whereas 20/20 Pt.1 relied upon catchy production and charm to elongate the songs. In short there is a bit less substance than I’d like.
For Instance, on FSLS “What Goes Around Comes Around” turns a common phrase into the basis for a song. Also, it’s essentially the meaning of karma. Through the lyrics he is able to weave in a story about betrayal and the results of the betrayal (Karma). Add an interesting beat to tie it together and the song explodes with content and sound.  All of that is explored in 7:30,every bit was needed to fully explore the ideas he examined in the song.  
20/20 matches the production level of its predecessor but severely lacks the lyrical depth found on JT’s previous LP’s. Because of that, I originally found the songs boring and drawn out. 
The album excels at merging and concocting sounds and is carried by the charm and allure of JT
Although I did eventually find endearing qualities in the songs, I still believe it’s his weakest work to date. After a seven year absence I was expecting a bit more
My Favs
3. Spaceship Coupe
2. Strawberry Bubblegum
1. That Girl
Overall Rating: 73 with a recommendation to Listen then decide
Pusha Love Girl- Compares the company of woman to being intoxicated with drugs. Hardly original, but skillful delivery and characteristic JT charisma push this song past mediocrity.  3.5/5
Suit & Tie- It sounds like JT had fun making this record. And because of that, I enjoyed the track more than I probably would have otherwise. Jay-Z features in the song as well. His verse isn’t bad, but his presence broke the carefree vibe JT created and the song wasn’t able to reignite the spark it had.  3.5/5
Don’t Hold the Wall- One of the few JT songs I can’t stand. At least Suit & Tie had (a bit) of depth.  This song blatantly favors sound over substance. So much, that I feel insulted. I really like the beat because it’s something I’ve never heard JT use. It has a Middle Eastern sound that would likely sound weird if anyone else used it, but he manages to make it work. If he worked on the lyrics a bit more the song would unleash its potential, but as it stands, the song offers an innovative sound wasted by sophomoric repetitive lyrics.   2/5
Strawberry Bubblegum- I had high hopes for this song after the intro and JT didn’t let me down. The song starts off with JT and a deep voiced man saying this goes out to you. Who is that you? Well, we’re left in the dark for a while. I thought he’d leave it open because by doing that he could literally be talking to anyone. Someone in his family that he really appreciates. His fans. Whoever bought the album. The point is, each person that listens to the song would have to decide for himself. It turns out this person is an unnamed woman (what a surprise).
One of the lines is don’t ever change your flavor because I love the taste. This is probably a double entendre. He likes the original personality that attracted him the first time they met, so he doesn’t want that to change. At the same time he could be talking about the way it feels when he’s making love to her. The reason why I love double entendres is that they give an artist flexibility. To a ten year old it’s a reference to the title and nothing more. However, a worldly listener might understand the second meaning.
The song is broken into two parts. The first five minutes and the last three. I love both parts, but I think the last three might be best because I can tell he’s having fun with the sexual tension he builds.  He’s sexualizing the woman, but it’s not crude. I’ll love you till I make it POP!  It’s genius, he’s practically joking with the listeners. I can imagine him laughing as he made this track
This an example of how to sexualize with class. It’s up there with Blow(Beyonce)  as one of my faves
Sound collides with substance in this track and I LOVE it.   5/5
Tunnel Vision- The beat reminds me of Ayo Technology(50 Cent) for some reason. JT is infatuates with a beautiful woman in this song and uses cinematographic and photographic metaphors to describe his attraction to her.   4/5
Spaceship Coupe- JT meets a woman and wants to spend time with her. How does he decide to do it? He takes her to outer space on his Spaceship Coupe. One of the reasons I love JT is his ability to make mundane topics interesting by introducing a foreign element. His talent on display here. Clever lyrics that make reference to the space element and creates sexual tension coupled with a nice beat that includes an electric guitar solo= a nearly perfect song. 4.5/5
That Girl- The song has its own intro. That’s pretty cool and made the song stand out before the song started. And when it did start, I was in heaven for four minutes. I love the beats he and Timberland manage to create, but the simple beats with instruments I can identify are still my favorite. This song returns to that.
Everything in this song screams “old school”. The intro in the comedy club/lounge adds an intimate feel. Also, all the instruments used would be found in a jazz band. And whenever I think of jazz it reminds me of 20’s through 60’s a time when jazz was popular.  And the people in the background singing reminds me of the backup singer for the major groups in the 60’s and 70’s.
 I can’t think of an R&B song that deals with love between two people that aren’t supposed to be in love (for whatever reason). It’s been done in other media Unthinkable music video (Alicia Keys), The Notebook film, and Romeo and Juliet play (Shakespear). Well, it’s finally discussed here. The funny thing is, he doesn’t even reveal why the two cannot be together. I think not answering that question is strategic. The thing that actually inhibits their relationship is not important, but their act of defiance is. If he named the obstacle, the message would be limited to those facing that specific obstacle. Not disclosing the obstacle leaves a broader message.
I have a crazy theory about this song…  but I think I might be overanalyzing things.
Maybe it’s because of the old school vibes I remembered listening to this song. What if the obstacle is that JT is white and whoever the lady is is a minority? Given the 20-60’s timespan it makes sense. It would make their forbidden love even more powerful and have societal effects. But if that is true, why would he make the song now?  
Even if none of that is true, That Girls is my second favorite JT song of all time 5/5
Let the Groove Get In- The first five minutes of this song is a complete waste of time. He’s literally saying Let the Groove Get In for five minutes. To say that I was disappointed in JT is an understatement. This section of the songs get 1 star from me. The last 2:11 is masterful. It’s the same type of ending as Love Stoned and it works well here. The last two minutes receives 4.5 stars from me. Still, two minutes of bliss doesn’t justify the five minutes on nonsense I had to endure to reach that point. 2.5/5
Mirrors-If you’re going to make a song and dedicate it to your wife (and grandmother/grandfather’s relationship), it better be great. I’m happy to say that this one passes the test. I like it because it not sappy. It has a balance between idealism and realism. He’s hopeful that the two of them will bring out the best in each other (although he mainly focuses on her role). But, at the same time, he pay homage to the rocky parts of their relationship. By doing that he acknowledges that that the hard moments in relationships make the joyful ones just as desirable, which sappy songs seem to forget. I believe that he believes every word he’s saying. Whether he carries out the lifestyle he’s created in this song is another story. We’ll have to judge that as time passes. 4.5/5

Blue Ocean Floor- I’ve broken the cardinal rule of reviewing. I don’t have an opinion. I’ve listened to this song almost 15 times and literally NOTHING comes to mind. It’s a song that details his love for Jessica Biel using the ocean as a metaphor. N/A

Note: I was probably a bit harsh to JT in this review because if anyone else came out with this album it would receive a score in the high 70’s. But JT has set a standard for himself with his previous work, and while entertaining, this one did not stand up to his previous work. It’s the same reason I’m generally critical of Jay-Z’s work. If you don’t believe me check out my review of Justified and FSLS. JT is still my favorite singer. Someone once said to me that when people don’t care enough to tell you what’s wrong, then you are in trouble because that means they have stopped caring. I’m critical because I care.  


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