Album review: Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience”


by Kaitlyn McCurdy

Guess who’s back, back, back, back again.

Yes, I did just reference Eminem when I’m about to review Justin Timberlake. Deal with it.

Let me tell you, I’m both excited and nervous to review Timberlake’s album “The 20/20 Experience,” and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be (now if you got that loose reference, we should be best friends).

Six and a half years have passed since “FutureSex/LoveSounds” (which is still one of my go-to albums, by the way) and fans have been waiting restlessly for the next JT effort. He’s truly come a long way since ‘N Sync and has proved himself as just as great of a solo act.

The loud, booming beats of “FutureSex/LoveSounds” are now replaced by a brass section and jazz feel. The shortest song is just shy of five minutes while the longest is just over eight minutes, which explains why the album only has ten tracks. Let’s get to it.

“Pusher Love Girl” is kind of the best album opener I’ve ever heard? It sets the album up so well, with strings that sets the jazz-inspired feel of the album. And then Timberlake’s absolutely dreamy falsetto kicks in and I’m basically melting on my couch. Wow. The lyrics compare being in love to being a drug addict, which, admittedly, has been done a fair few too many times (Ke$ha’s “Your Love is My Drug” being the first to come to mind) but lines like “just tell me, can I get a light? / roll you up and let it run through my veins” set this one apart, along with a fantastic breakdown at the end of the song. The album is already off to a great start.

Let’s just be honest, even though I blast this song from my car every time it comes on, “Suit & Tie” probably wasn’t the best pick for a lead single after a long hiatus. It can’t compare to “SexyBack,” and “Mirrors,” the second single, is far better. Within the album, however, “Suit & Tie” fits perfectly. I still hate the radio edit for cutting out the opening, though.

If DJs don’t take advantage of “Don’t Hold the Wall” when they have gigs at clubs, they’re idiots. Absolute idiots. The track is literally the perfect grinding song (not that I condone grinding. I shield my eyes at Homecoming, seriously). It’s so hard to talk about this track, because there is so much going on, from the tribal drums to to the breakdown roughly four minutes in that gives the song a darker edge. It’s well crafted and has definite single potential.

There’s not a lot I can say about “Strawberry Bubblegum” considering I’m a staff member of a high school newspaper and the song is pretty sexually driven. Just know, this is pop music at its finest. A stunning track.

“Tunnel Vision” is one of my favorites from the album. It’s extremely obvious Timbaland had major influence over the track’s instrumental as JT croons, “I look around and everything I see is beautiful ’cause all I see is you.” I can admit that the constant loop of a high pitched “I know you like it” throughout the song is pretty annoying, but it’s a minor flaw in an otherwise genius track. At over six minutes, the track isn’t the longest on the album, but it’s worth it. The song unfolds beautifully and more smoothly than the other tracks on the album. I’m in love.

“Spaceship Coupe” is probably the weakest link on the album. Romance in space, whoa!!!!! But seriously, the beat is once again well crafted, and JT’s voice is as lovely as ever, but the track just seems out of place. Unlike the rest of the album, you can tell the track is seven minutes long. Actually, it feels like ten. It just drags, and while I don’t hate it, I can’t love it.

An introduction reminiscent of “Señorita” kicks off “That Girl.” The main track is simple, with its jazz ensemble and clear lyrics (“so what if I’m from the other side of the tracks, so what if / the world don’t think we match / I’ll put it down like my love’s on wax, guess what / I’m in love with that girl / And she told me, she’s in love with me”). It’s incredibly suave and one of the album’s strongest tracks.

“Let the Groove Get In” is the most upbeat moment on the album. The Latin flare makes it impossible to stay still, even JT demands you move, shouting “are you comfortable, right there right there / let the groove get in, feel it right there.” The track will be stuck in your head for days and I can’t wait to see live performances of this from JT.

Ah, “Mirrors.” I’m extremely grateful for whoever decided this had to be a single, because it’s absolutely perfect. The lyrics are beautiful (“the vacancy that sat in my heart / is a space that now you hold / show me how to fight for now / and I’ll tell you, baby, it was easy / comin’ back here to you once I figured it out / you were right here all along”), JT’s voice is gorgeous (okay, really, when isn’t it?), the instrumental fits the song so well. I feel horrible for those of you who have only listened to the radio edit, which cuts out a breakdown that repeats “you are, you are the love of my life” and is just as beautiful as the main track. (On a side note, the music video is absolutely incredible, as well). I’m just. I can’t even. I don’t. I have no more words.

“Blue Ocean Floor” ends the album on an unexpectedly depressing note, compared to other albums I’ve listened to from 2013 that like to end on a hopeful note. The chorus croons “if my red eyes don’t see you anymore / and I can’t hear you through the white noise / just send your heartbeat / I’ll go to the blue ocean floor / where they’ll find us no more / on that blue ocean floor” and the instrumental is fairly haunting. The track is extremely mature and pensive and absolutely amazing. It’s something we’ve never really heard from JT. Stunning, really. It’s a bold choice to end the album, but the payoff is worth it.

I highly recommend just buying the deluxe version of “The 20/20 Experience” to get the bonus tracks. “Dress On” and “Body Count” are great additions to the album, and they’re worth owning.

This is honestly one of the most well-crafted albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Each song was meticulously, lovingly put together all the way down to the finest details. The almost-seven-year wait was definitely worth it, and I’m thankful JT didn’t rush a release just to please everyone. Maybe “The 20/20 Experience” is so fantastic because it is so different than “FutureSex/LoveSounds.” Both are great in their own unique ways, and JT’s growth between the two is outstanding.

Basically, is it November yet so I can own the second part of this album?! (Yes, there’s a second part, and I’m gonna be straight up here, I almost cried when I found out).