Easily one of the most anticipated albums of the year, there’s both a pressure and excitement that ushers in the release of Justin Timberlake’s comeback LP ‘The 20/20 Experience’.
Due in stores on March 18th, the ten-track set is the star’s first collection of new material since the super-selling ‘FutureSex/LoveSounds’ hit the charts almost seven years ago. And while it’s this very fact fueling this project’s hype, being an artist of Timberlake’s caliber means there’s also ample expectation of the songs housed on the album.
Naturally, then, That Grape Juice were elated to be among the few outlets invited to listen to the LP late last month in London town. Introduced by the man himself on the eve of the BRIT Awards, the album was played in its entirety – allowing us to taste, chew, and digest Pop’s most anticipated offering.
In the weeks since, the album has been streamed for the masses – with ample debate surrounding how good it actually is.
Ever keen to plough through the smoke and mirrors, That Grape Juice has your answer after the jump…
1) Pusher Love Girl: A titillating tease when premiered live recently, the studio incarnation of the cut makes for an equally lush listen. From its orchestral intro, to its rousing chorus, this falsetto-heavy number makes for a stellar album opener. Is it the LP’s best track? We’d say close, but no cigar. It does, however, sonically set the tone for the rest of the listening experience.
2) Suit & Tie (ft. Jay-Z): Still as polarizing a track today as it was upon release, for us this makes for a markedly better listen when played at dizzyingly loud decibels. Take from that what you will.
3) Don’t Hold The Wall: With its prominent “knock” and heavy use of vocal layering, this moody mid-tempo is – like much of the album- trademark Timbaland.
Convoluted in places (to the point where it’s sometimes hard to decipher what is being sung), the track still “works” on the strength of its production value. Indeed, like each song on the album, it boasts an outro that teeters on being a different song altogether – yet is the best of example of how such a concept can work. Initially a mellow groove, the track builds into a Reggae-esque climax that will have you doing the “bogle” and “butterfly” ‘til your joints hurt.
4) Strawberry Bubblegum: With lyrics such as “She’s my little strawberry bubblegum”, this is as empty as its title suggests. Filler.
5) Tunnel Vision: Another classic Timbaland offering, the track is a mid-tempo that manages to be busy in the best of ways. For, it serves up heavily stacked vocals, tribal sprinklings, and of course, ample use of “that” falsetto. The track’s only Achilles’ Heel is its length, which may leave many wondering where the end of the tunnel is.
6) Spaceship Coupe: Standout alert! Musically, there’s little else that delights more than a track that lives up to the quirky demands of its title. As such, we were elated at how astronomically stellar ‘Spaceship Coupe’ is. From its radio-ready melody to its epic guitar solo, this has embedded within it the makings of a monster single. Timberlake sings “Welcome to my spaceship coupe, there’s only room for two”. In many ways we wish he was singing it to us, that way this gem of track could be our selfish little secret. Incredible.
7) That Girl: Motown-like and melody driven, ‘Girl’ is very much a sing-a-long-song affair. Timberlake belts “I’m in love with that girl, so don’t be mad at me” and after listening to this, we’d have no reason to be. Solid album track.
8) Let The Groove Get In: With its pulsating tribal intro, it’s clear from the start that the song’s title is more a command than it is a question. A hot pot of sounds, the track tackles “world music” with a contemporary flare – and will easily garner play in the club, on radio, and even at your local Salsa class! Infectious horns and cowbells leave the song ringing in one’s ear, while the catchy hook seals the deal. Timberlake chants “Are you comfortable (right there, right there). Let the groove get in!” One listen to this and you quite literally don’t have a choice. The best track on the album. Hands down.
9) Mirrors: Having just hit #1 on the UK charts without a video, it’s clear what the masses think of ‘Mirrors’. Does it innovate or titillate in the way other tracks on the album do? No. Yet, in tapping into the lyrical richness and sound that made ‘FutureSex’ such a hit, the mid-tempo serves as a safe, yet solid cut that has appeased the singer’s fiercest followers in a way ‘Suit & Tie’ couldn’t.
10) Blue Ocean Floor: While the schizophrenic production sparkles at points, it doesn’t pack enough to elevate this beyond filler status. What’s more, its “last track” placing somewhat mars the solid sequencing of the album. Random positioning for a random track.
With ‘The 20/20 Experience’, Justin Timberlake serves up a sonically cohesive set that potently sells the vision of who he is (or, at least, wants to be) artistically at this point of his career.
Is the album without fault? Of course not. Exhausting runtimes and pretentious intro’s and outro’s suggest the LP thinks it’s better than it actually is. Also, radio programmers may struggle to pin-point songs that are single-worthy. Indeed, the cuts screaming for “single treatment” here aren’t doing so because they meet a popular sound quota; it’s because they’re simply so good that they demand it. As such, when the hype has subsided, it’ll be interesting to see if radio keep spinning or tire of the song’s unstructured structure.
Whatever the case, the ‘Experience’ shines best as a body of work and should ultimately be celebrated as such.
That Grape Juice Rating:
‘The 20/20 Experience’ hits stores in Europe on March 18th, and a day later in the US.