The 20/20 Experience
Apr 17, 2013 Web Exclusive
You can count on one hand the number of artists who have made the breakthrough from teen-baiting boy band member to important, acclaimed darling of the critics. Sure, Robbie Williams, Donnie Osmond, and That One From The Backstreet Boys broke free and sold millions, but their adoring fan bases remained pretty much the same as when they were part of a group. Plus, y'know, they were all shit.
Justin Timberlake has probably already earned his reputation as a pop artist but has certainly cemented it with The 20/20 Experience, his most ambitious album to date. It would be easy for him to follow in the footsteps of his contemporaries and turn in a dubstep-influenced record and sell zillions, and there is a hint of EDM and Frank Ocean's pop/hip-hop sensibilities here, but ultimately this is a far more ambitious record than we might have expected.
Timberland's production is as helpful as ever here, giving full prominence to the weird electronic effects you might expect more from a Radiohead album than the former 'N Sync man. These are backed by a relentlessly sex-drenched, LCD Soundsystem-esque bass that will be enough to have both drunken 18-year-olds and hardened journalists delighted in equal measure. The best tracks on here are the longest ones (and boy are there a lot of those), where JT allows him to explore every idea around a melody that occurs to him, on three occasions for over eight minutes.
At times it can feel that The 20/20 Experience is a little too concerned with indulging in its own slickness—see Jay-Z featuring single "Suit & Tie"—and nothing is of quite the same dreamy magnificence of "Mirrors." While it may be a little overlong at nearly an hour and a half, there are influences from 40-odd years of pop music expertly melted together by a master craftsman to create an album of consistently brilliant songs. (http://www.justintimberlake.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
Average reader rating: 7/10