Album Review: Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience

Actor, entrepreneur or musician, there is no doubting the talent of Justin Timberlake. The 20/20 Experience, his first record in six years, reminds us that you can write good, catchy pop songs, and be damn cool while doing it.From the song lengths alone it can be said that chart topping is not Timberlake’s priority, with nine of 12 tracks on the record passing five minutes. He moulds progressive R’n’B with soulful pop in a fashion few could manage.If the overly optimistic euphoria of opening track “Pusher Love Girl” wasn’t already enough, the bold “Strawberry Bubblegum” embraces a pop sensibility which could easily have been revoked on the record where progression reigns. Wedged somewhere between the stylings of MJ’s “PYT” and Marvin Gaye’s “Midnight Love”, the strings and bass vocals that introduce “Strawberry Bubblegum” should come across sleazy, yet the effortless confidence of Timberlake makes it cool (some guys are born with it).The epic ballad “Mirrors” is undoubtedly a standout track, with a melodic hook that will stay with you for days (even if the Lil’ Wayne-esque ‘Uh Ohs’ are a touch unnecessary). The extended album version really shines, as the latter part of the track leaves the soaring chorus for a melancholic dub feel as he sings “I just wanna see your face light up since you put me on”.Lyrics of admiration, bordering obsession, for one miscellaneous girl fill the record, as Timberlake professes that “there’s only room for two” on the chilled “Spaceship Coupe”, and declares “I’m ready to marry you/yeah right here in this restaurant”. Indeed, lyrics shift from cool confidence to dreamy uncertainty as tracks transition in and out of pop, dub-infused R’n’B, soul and funk. Meanwhile, the Latin-influenced “Let The Groove Get In” and “Body Count” seem a little out of place, but by the eighth track he’s already won you over, and it’s gonna take more than some token salsa to change it.Timberlake has always been a master of writing infectious, seductive pop that could easily win the hearts of teenage girls while also being the guilty pleasure of the self-affirmed connoisseur. But with The 20/20 Experience, JT adds a level of sophistication which will not only make the critic happy to leave the album out in public view, but also be happy to defend Brendan Wrigley

April 5th 2013
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