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A Few Words About Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience" [Album Review]


Much has been said about the fact that Justin Timberlake's new "The 20/20 Experience" supposedly doesn't include any obvious radio singles. Water cooler critics point to Timberlake's previous two records that were loaded with chart hits and turned the singer into a global superstar. I understand their point of view, but all the emphasis on having singles really raises the question if, creatively speaking, a record needs to have many singles to be considered a successful album.

In my opinion, "The 20/20 Experience" was carefully, skillfully and purposely designed to be an album's album and not a singles album. Timberlake deliberately set out to create one, single non-stop experience for listeners that needs to be enjoyed from start to finish. It's not a loose collection of songs that twists and turns from one mood to another.

"The 20/20 Experience" is an album that is all about flow. Each song perfectly follows the other to take listeners on a journey and set a tone that is consistently maintained throughout the record. The singer chose to refer to the album as an experience for good reason.

Recording this record must have been a very liberating artistic experience for Timberlake because he wasn't constrained by common pop conventions. Instead of dutifully serving up 3 minute tracks that are apt for radio, he wrote songs that fully express what he was trying to accomplish. 

Sequencing this record may have been one of Timberlake's biggest challenges when finalizing the album, but he did a superb job assembling the songs into one cohesive effort that clearly communicates his point of view.

The album starts on an immediate high note with "Pusher Love Girl" (which is one of the best songs he has ever recorded) that segues neatly into the classy groove of "Suit & Tie." Other stand out tracks include the vibrant and cheery "Let The Groove Get In" and "That Girl" that he has performed during his recent intimate club shows. The intensely atmospheric "Blue Ocean Floor" is the grand finale to the experience that perfectly underlines the importance of flow and sequencing on this record.

Getting back to the discussion about singles, I also think Timberlake is not looking for a long, extended cycle where he has to promote several singles over a period of 18 months or so. "The 20/20 Experience" satisfies some of his creative urges and I'm sure that after finishing his Legends of the Summer tour with Jay-Z, he may go right back to pursue other creative endeavours. Perhaps acting or perhaps even another album as he suggested talking to Ryan Seacrest during his album release party in Los Angeles last night.

Regardless of what creative challenge Timberlake tackles next, "The 20/20 Experience" is a timeless and classic effort that underlines once again that the singer continues to pave his own way free from the burden of expectation and conventional standards. 

March 19, 2013 | Permalink