TOP FIXED NAV

SoundTable Discussion: Justin Timberlake’s New Album Is Quite An ‘Experience’


After seven years away from the scene, Justin Timberlake returns with The 20/20 Experience, entirely produced by frequent collaborator Timbaland (and confirmed to be the first of two Timberlake albums this year). This would explain why he's been on more TV screens than Barack Obama and the NBC peacock combined, pulling off a promo campaign that would break anyone not named Beyoncé. So we figured we'd do justice to his herculean promo grind by convening a SoundTable listening session at SBHQ, even inviting poet, mental health advocate and Timberlake superfan Bassey Ikpi to join in as a guest panelist.
Center

Butta: Okay, let's get into it. What did everyone think about the album in general?

Bassey: This album has no idea what it wants to be. I don't
understand why it exists, and I feel responsible like I pressured him into it.

Remi: You and a
legion of fans did, I think. It really doesn't sound like he has that much to
say.

D-Money: I agree.
It's horribly disjointed. And about these song lengths... I'm all for a jam
session, but it has to hold the attention. A lot of these I got bored with
after (and many times before) the standard four-minute mark.

ChrisAlexander: I
actually appreciate (some of) the song lengths. It feels more like an album of
15 tracks versus 10. And though it is not nearly as cohesive as FutureSex/LoveSounds (an impossible challenge),
it's enjoyable as hell, musically. Compared with FutureSex and, say, Janelle
Monáe
's The ArchAndroid as
examples, this is more of a collection of (insert descriptive adjective) songs
versus an "experience" as labeled.

Remi: I strongly
disagree, ChrisAlexander. The song lengths feel forced as hell in most cases.
Very "trying too hard," which is awkward, considering much of the
album could've benefited from a little more focused effort. Like, "let's write the
song (and I use the terms "write" and "song" very loosely) and
then figure out how to tack on another two minutes."

AudioDiva: I
understand with this album Timbo and JT wanted to extend the whole "suite" technique that worked so well on LoveSounds,
but nothing, and I mean, nothing will
top the peerless lacing of "My Love", "LoveStoned" and
"What Goes Around." That was genius work right there, a pure Halley's
Comet moment for the both of them.

Butta: I, too,
didn't mind the super-sized songs. Sure, in some cases the extra inches could
have made for an interlude or two, but I appreciate that JT isn't a two-minute
brother.

*silence and slow blinks*

Butta: What? Well, let's go track by track, shall we?

"Pusher Love Girl"

Remi: Look at you
changing things up, Tim!

ChrisAlexander: In
my opinion, the standout of the album. The strings win for me here. 

D-Money: I wouldn't
say it's a standout. It's decent, at best to me.

AudioDiva: A solid
one for me, liked it at the GRAMMYs and still like it now. Like the knock-off Parade / Jill Jones "Mia Bocca" strings embedded in and the groove
itself.

Bassey: I hate
this track. Aren't we over the sex/love/drug analogy yet?

Butta: I'm not here for the drug references, but I thoroughly enjoy this song and the sound of it. After the ho-hum of "Suit & Tie" and "Mirrors," this track gave me hope that there'd be some gems to be had on 20/20 and I was right.

Remi: I actually
quite like this. On a better album, it would be a decent album track (or a
wholly overrated GRAMMY performance). But here, it's a clear favorite. 

D-Money: That
last part ruined it for me. Especially him calling out the names of drugs, as
if we couldn't understand the metaphor.

Remi: There's no room for subtlety in pop music -- you know this. I absolutely agree it
didn't need the tacked-on bit. But at this point, it's more efficient to point
out the tracks that did benefit from
the extra two minutes.

Bassey: And it's
so awkward and uncomfortably done here, I feel like it should come with some
sort of PSA afterward. Too many clunky drug metaphors. He wants to roll
her up and put her in his veins? And why does he include plum wine on his list
of vices? Is he a 12-year-old trying sushi for the first time? And she's both
the dealer and  the drug itself? I don't think he thought any
of this through. And the last bit, he's trying for the gorgeous transitions
between songs found on Sexy Butter Love Walls.
He failed. This pains me. I do like the hook, though.

AudioDiva: I guess
my youth growing up with Scruff McGruff has made me into a real prude, but
Bassey articulated perfectly why the lyrics to this song are hella silly. I
appreciate the groove and overall feel of this track, but the drug
references/metaphors are serious overkill.

Remi: Totally
agree about the clichéd subject matter. But let's be honest, 90% of R&B/pop
songwriting mines the same old clichés. Can't even hate him for this one.

D-Money: But we
can hate him for not doing it well.

Bassey: Yes, I
expect more from Mr. JT. 

Remi: This is
where we differ, Bassey. I really don't. Still, it's got a great groove to it.

Bassey: And "candy
jelly bean?" Are these drugs I've never heard of? Or is he just naming things
that rhyme? My prom queen. My Cee Lo Green!

Remi: +1!

"Suit & Tie" (featuring Jay-Z)

Butta: This song
has grown on me since my first reaction of hating every single thing about it. Hearing it in a nightclub on their sound system was what did it, because it surely wasn't the music video. I still despise the chopped-and-screwed portions.

Remi: Seriously,
I maintain that the screwed intro was added to make the rest of the song sound
decent by comparison.

Bassey: When I
first heard this track, I thought it was the worst choice for a lead single. I
felt the same way about Beyoncé's "Run
The World," I thought it undermined the strength of 4 (great album, IMO). But after hearing 20/20, I can't think of anything else he could have led with. 

ChrisAlexander: I
will admit that this song did absolutely nothing for me until I saw
choreography to it. And even then, I simply hated it less. It has nothing to do with the remainder of the album, and
features what could be Shawn Carter's
worst verse ever.

AudioDiva: Jay needs
to check into Shady Pines. I always have said that rappers have expiration
dates. He is sour milk now.

Bassey: Yup. Just
like with "Run The World," I didn't like the song until I saw it performed.
It's easily my favorite now, though Hov could have stayed seated. 

Butta: Jigga
could have stayed home and burped Blue Ivy, Timbaland needed some musical Viagra on this and it's a so-so first single at best. But the live performances sold me. And, dammit, I love a man in a tailored suit and tie. *fans self* 

D-Money: I'll
admit that this has grown on me. The production wins for the most part. The
lyrics here, however, get the stank Latrice
Royale
face.

Remi: I still
think it's a shit song, but damn if being surrounded by garbage doesn't help
make it palatable.

Butta: We definitely have a difference of opinion because this is one of the weaker songs overall on this album. The tracks preceding and following this are way better and much more likable.

Bassey: I hate
that it gave me a false impression of what the album was going to be like. I
was thinking it was all Rat Pack/Ocean's
11.

Remi: Ugh. That
would've made me vomit violently. There's nothing I hate more than
costume-retro posturing. Ask Christina Aguilera
about the dead wildlife she received in the mail from an anonymous source during
her Back To Basics era.

AudioDiva: Yeah...this
song blows. Delete.

"Don't Hold The Wall"

D-Money: I. don't. like. this. song. at. all.

AudioDiva: Didn't
like this one at first, because it's really a reheated leftover from Nelly Furtado's superb Loose, but it's grown on me.

Bassey: No, Jason Derulo passed on this. 

Butta: Jason Derulo? Yeah, no. He wishes he could freak a track like this. I'm really wondering if I listened to the same song as you all, though. This is a jam. The bass could have been boosted on the mix a bit more, but I think that it has a nice throwback vibe to J & T's previous work together. Plus, I already see the music video and choreo with body rolls aplenty in my head.

Remi: Seriously?
Talk about dated. It sounds like Tim has been holding on to this since 2001
when he wrote it for 'N Sync.

Bassey: I said it before
on Twitter, but Timbaland and Timberlake need to break up.

Remi: Not likely,
Bassey. I feel like Justin may be his new Aaliyah.
I expect in his 2023 Behind The Music, he'll confess to poisoning Jessica
Biel
's chocolate milk.

Bassey: +1!

AudioDiva: I also
have to remember that Aaliyah's death makes us not have nice things
anymore...so even though it hurts me, I agree with Remi on the fact that JT is
Timbo's new muse and that I'm just gonna have to punch the air like Cuba Gooding Jr. did in
Boyz N' The Hood and deal with it. 

D-Money: This
song is essentially him just saying "Dance! Don't hold the wall!" for
seven minutes. And for a song commanding that, you'd think it'd be a bit more, I
don't know, danceable. 

Remi: No, D-Money.
A danceable song wouldn't need the commands. It's like a BDSM scenario -- I
don't walk into Baskin Robbins asking for their "Bootheel" flavor.
Only Mistress Jade gets me in that space with her not-so-gentle suggestions.

D-Money: These convos always tell me so much about you that I don't actually want to
know, Remi.

Remi: You're
welcome.

Bassey: And who
is he talking to? Who is holding the wall? The girl from the beginning? Or just
the entire club? It's like he wrote this for a sixth grade dance to get the
girls from one side and the boys from the other to come together in the middle.
Or was that just my middle school? 

Remi: Hahaha. Possibly,
Bassey. We were a little too "fast" at my school.

Bassey: Oh. Well,
considering I was in college when I had my first kiss... It probably was just
my school.

Remi: Oh wow.
These SoundTables are revealing.

"Strawberry
Bubblegum"

Butta: Truly, madly, deeply in lust with this song.

D-Money: Corny
intro aside, this is a jam. The first moment on the album that I actually felt
Timbo and JT actually went for something different.

AudioDiva: Yeah, I
feel JT stopped sniffing his pit and got down to business and did some Justified-esque stuff. The lyrics are
hella moronic, but this is the type of spacey soul sound I was wanting him to
go into from jump.

Bassey: But it's
so juvenile! "Strawberry Bubblegum"?

Remi: I can deal
with a small dose of juvenile, 'cause it's often meant to trigger nostalgia. You know, middle-school dances and the like. 

D-Money: I mean,
he's on that Mariah Carey with the
song title. But the groove and vocals really do something for me.

Remi: Precisely.
When this came up, I thought Mariah's "Candy Bling" (another jam-and-a-half
with a silly title).

Bassey: Again, I
like how he's singing the song, I
just wish someone else wrote it. 

Remi: Tim's
jacking Noah "40" Shebib on this one. Usher's "What Happened To You" comes to
mind.

D-Money: I
definitely see the Noah jack (though he himself does a lot of Tim posturing).

Butta: This ethers damn near everything on Usher's last three albums.

Bassey: Am I the
only one who keeps thinking "You're in your 30s and married. Who are you
talking to?" I'm the reason why celebs shouldn't get married. 

Remi: He
creates such a great, pillowy vibe that the lyrics feel like an afterthought -
all that matters here is the groove. But when you do pay attention, it gets little disturbing. If the lyrics are to be believed, he's in
love with a cannibalistic piece of strawberry bubblegum. ("You're my little strawberry bubblegum / smackin' that
strawberry bubblegum.")

D-Money: LOL! I
didn't even think about that Remi. It's either cannibalism or possibly a little
gum-on-gum action...

Butta: Metaphors, people! Metaphors!!

Remi: Metaphors only work when executed properly, though. The
pseudo-Bossa-Nova twist it takes on the extension isn't offensive, but one
thing Tim was good at was knowing when he lucked into a killer beat, leaving it
to burn long after the vocals ended. Brandy's
"Who Is She 2 U" being the perfect example. And speaking of Mariah, even The-Dream knew to let "The Impossible" burn
for a while, even spilling into a subsequent track. And now, when he's seemingly
contractually obligated to make each song last seven minutes, he goes and kills the
best thing about it? #TimFail

D-Money: See,
this is the only song where I enjoy the extension of the track. It works. On
the rest of the album, it feels like sitting through the last minutes of a
lecture.

Bassey: Okay D-Money
you got me. I like this song.

D-Money: I always
get my way Bassey. Just ask Remi. ;)

Bassey: That
sounds personal. D-Money and I already know too much about Remi's personal life
and what he likes at Baskin Robbins.

Butta: I'll take "Strawberry Bubblegum" flavor over "Bootheel" any day.

"Tunnel Vision"

D-Money: While
this one is also a rehash ("Ayo Technology," anyone), I'm here for
it.

ChrisAlexander: One
of the more forgettable ones. Tim is getting his Diddy "take that, take that" on here, reminding you
that, "Yes, I produced this. Hear my voice? Yes. It is I."

Bassey: I really
really really hate Timbaland on this. He's distracting. "uh huh uh huh what
what?" Negro, shut up! Let the white boy sing!  That's why I preferred Justified to Super Sexy Love Pains  I don't need Timbaland ad-libs. 

D-Money: See, I
actually like the ad-libs. It brings me back to the days when Tim was all over
the track.

Bassey: Uh were
those good days D-Money?

Remi: Production
has a nice, ominous vibe. But damn, this is dated. The most recent album this
belongs on is Justified.

Butta: I wouldn't say Justified as much as I would say this sounds like a "bonus" track from FutureSex/LoveSounds. Here again, I don't mind the nod back to previous work. It works for me and, although not one of my favorites on this set, it's not a bad song. I'm not irked by Timbaland putting his vocal stamp all over this either.

Bassey: I would
like this song (dated or not) if Tim would have stayed home that day. 

Remi: Forget
"Ayo Technology" or even Justified,
I'm pretty sure Aaliyah turned this beat down during the One in a Million sessions.

Bassey: I wonder
if Tim makes Justin wear an Aaliyah wig during certain production sessions.

Remi: Hah! And
a little midriff-baring shirt.

D-Money: Justin
probably voluntarily puts the wig on...you know, to feel the groove. Also, I'd like to point out that this is the only song that
goes along with the dumbass title of the album.

Remi: Hah. I
smell a Lenscrafters tie-in.

"Spaceship Coupe"

Bassey: This song
is so stupid it makes me want to throw things at children. The mixed metaphor
is so painful.

D-Money: "I'm
trying to find the alien in you" makes me want to kick small puppies,
personally.

Butta: Are we really parsing every word, every line, every lyric, every song title on 20/20 for depth and the meaning of life? This is a Justin Timberlake album not Deepak Chopra.

Remi: When he positions himself as the lovechild of Prince and Michael Jackson, he should expect the analysis. I mean, Ginuwine or Ciara could've performed this song. (And it sounds like it was written by sentient box of Sci-Fi
fridge magnets.)

Bassey: Seriously?
He has the windows tinted because the stars are too bright but puts the top
down because of reasons. And make love on the moon???? I hate you, song!

D-Money: I
could do without the moaning and baby cooing here.

Remi: I won't
even comment on the fact that the scream loop at the end sounds suspiciously
similar to the one on Robin Thicke's
"Meiple." I won't.

AudioDiva: Why are
those baby coos from "Are You That Somebody," grown-up and in college,
making erotic cries at the end? Stop it, Timbo, stop it.

Remi: Sonically,
it's a poor man's "Until The End of Time." And we all know that itself was a more-pauper-than-Prince mashup of the little big man's best
work.

AudioDiva: When that
"eehhhh!!" scream comes in, an angel loses its wings. Dear God what
an ear bleed. Ratchet back the falsetto, Justin, you are not Prince.

D-Money: I was
just going to say that. It's like a song that Prince would've written while
hopped up on allergy meds and cocaine.

Bassey: Wow Remi.
I'm impressed. I have no musical ear so all I hear are lyrics.

Remi: If all you
hear is lyrics, then this song must be like staring directly at the sun right
after a dilation test.

D-Money: Hey, Remi.
Another tie-in to the album title!

AudioDiva: Also, why
is every review I'm reading comparing that guitar solo to Funkadelic's Eddie Hazel?
Do people just like flinging those names out for cred? Okay, I'll play their
little game. It's a pure '80's Babyface/LA Reid guitar solo à la Karyn White's "Secret
Rendezvous" and nobody can tell me otherwise. There. I can be a crappy
"music journalist" too.

Butta: Clearly I'm in the minority here, but I freaking love this song. And speaking of freaking, if a dude has this joint on his sexytime playlist then he wins and is more than likely getting the draws. But seriously, from The Stylistics' "Betcha By Golly Wow" sample to the Aaliyah-ish sound of the track, it is a bump-and-grind worthy slow jam.

"That Girl"

Bassey: This is
the song that sparked my race rant on Twitter. This song is clearly (or he
wants us to think) about a black girl. 

Remi: Hmm. It
does feel a little wink-nudge and baiting -- like, "There's still hope, sistas!"

Bassey: Ugh! Even
the opening is to point us in that direction. Just say she was black, JUSTIN!
"I'm in love with a black girl." That's what he wrote.

D-Money: Yeah,
the phrasing sounds like he wants to sing "I'm in love with a black
girl" instead of "that girl" here.

Butta: I'm trying to find the problem here. I'll wait...

Remi: Spot-on
with the point about the opening, Bassey. I've always been irritated by the
whole specious "He's southern, so he's practically black" line of
reasoning used to explain his hyper-Ebonic posturing during the Justified era.

AudioDiva: It
baffles me how people are just now finding out how crappy of a songwriter he is,
so I refuse to read too much into his lyrics. But it is glaring that he is
really trying to mask "black" with "that." But whatever, JT
was always a curious white boy...he just never had the cojones to go the
distance. So for this round: Thicke: 1; Timberlake: 0

ChrisAlexander: The
opener to the song? I can't. In general, I dislike the sound of Timbaland's
speaking voice. Reminds me of talented athletes who excel on the court/field
and complexly forgot to develop the part of their brain that handles, well,
speaking, conversation and opinions. He seems like the type to use third
person singular conjugations regardless of the subject.

AudioDiva: The whole
retro soul thing died when Amy Winehouse did, and I WISH people would stop
doing these little numbers, as it's 2013. But this one, I hate to admit, sways
nicely. Don't mind it at all.

D-Money: I would
love to hear someone else signing this track, though. Austin Brown especially.

AudioDiva: Or Bruno Mars

ChrisAlexander: D-Money,
I agree...Austin Brown could have eaten this.

Remi: (Resisting
the urge to tell ChrisAlexander "That's what Jessica Biel said.")

"Let The Groove Get In"

Butta: Hands down my favorite song on the album. I was stanning for this before that off-the-hook Late Night with Jimmy Fallon performance. It's a party that I didn't want to stop.

D-Money: Juvenile.
It sounds like a jump rope chant.

Remi: I really
should dig this, but it grates so hard on my nerves. I've never heard something try so damn hard to be final act of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." 

Bassey: I'm
loathe to admit that Remi's assertion that JT is trying too hard is illustrated
clearly here.

Remi: Oh Bassey,
I feel so close to you right now. But seriously, If you must ape Michael, don't rape Michael. Janelle showed it could be done with "Lettin' Go."

ChrisAlexander: I
also thought while listening to this that it was absolutely his attempt at an
MJ Off The Wall, "Wanna Be
Startin Somethin," hip-breaking-funky type of jam. It randomly occurred
that I'd love for Janet to attempt
something like this. Not that this is THE example, but the effect is
commendable.

Remi: Yeah, it
could work, but JJ probably fears sounding like an unholy union of her brother
and Gloria Estefan.

AudioDiva: I don't
care. I LOVE this song. It's messy like overloaded, artery-clogging cheese
fries, but s--t it's delicious and I'm gonna eat it. Sure it's very
"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" with Miami Sound Machine explosions, but I feel he and Timbo actually
had some fun and stopped trying to "prove" something.

Remi: Wait, that's what they sound like when trying
to prove something?

Butta: I am here for this and the ensuing cardio workout that results. I plan to sweat out many a curl dancing to this on many a dance floor.

D-Money: I group
this with "Don't Hold the Wall." Stop telling me what the f--k to do,
Justin!

Bassey: I'm
hearing a little Lionel Richie here.
Don't ask me why.

Remi: Yes! Shades
of "All Night Long."

D-Money: Definitely
shades of "All Night Long." I'm liking some of the Latin influences
here. If only they had built it out more instead of just adding the horns.

Butta: More like "All Night WRONG"! I'll give y'all "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," but the tempo is nothing near "All Night Long." And I hate that I have the image of Lionel's massive scary curl in my head now.

Remi: During my
first listen, I didn't realize how much I hated this until I paused to talk to
a friend. As soon as I turned it back on, I was in a foul mood. Making it
through the whole song is an endurance test. It's so grating you think "no
way I'm listening to an extra two minutes of this shit."

Bassey: It's so
long. They are all so long! 

D-Money: But this
is one of the moments where the extra two minutes is better than the rest of
the song.

Remi: True. If
you actually last 'til then.

Butta: Say what you want, but I listened to the end and loved every single minute of this joint. The chord change and harmonies on the last third of the song? Man, listen. That's the album highlight for me. And the live version slays. I've fallen into Justin's "Groove" and I don't want to get up.

"Mirrors"

AudioDiva: Hated it.
Delete.


Butta:
This is the most "pop" song on 20/20. I disliked it majorly at first, but it has also grown on me since then. It's still one of the weaker songs on the album. Bring on the third and fourth singles already!

ChrisAlexander: This
song sounds like more of a look back to a "classic" FutureSex-era JT/Timbo sound. It has
somewhat of a "Cry Me a River" bop to it. It really does
nothing for me, but I can see the appeal to Pop&B listeners. 

Remi: Yeah, after my review I
have nothing more to say about this mess. It's "Cry Me A River That Goes
Around." Next.

Bassey: Yes!

D-Money: I'm
actually surprised people like this. It sounds dated, it's obviously a rehash
and Justin's vocal is tired. Also, does that second part sound a little like
"Adorn" to anyone else?

Remi: I think
that's mostly your reaction to the distorted-vocal adlibs.

ChrisAlexander: It
is totally a leftover track from FutureSex.

Bassey: What's
wrong with me? Why did I think Justin was a better songwriter than this? What
made me think that? I like this song, but the poetic devices are so young.

Remi: I can't
enjoy this song. I just want to say hurtful things to make it cry, like
"You'll never be 'Cry Me A River' so stop trying to be like her. Oh, so you're wearing that, then? God, why
are you so insecure?"

D-Money: Haha! It
also shows how conceited this mofo is. "I like you because you reflect me,
and I like that."

Remi: Hah! D-Money
I think you just sold me on the song after all!

"Blue Ocean Floor"

ChrisAlexander: Haven't
given this song an honest listen. Got one minute in, and got drowsy, Frank Ocean
style. I'm typically not a fan of sprawling, sparse ballads.

D-Money: Because it's him trying to ape Frank, but without the lyrical cleverness. I
still have yet to finish it. I've turned it off twice and it put me to sleep
once.

Remi: From the
start, I thought "I'm gonna love this." I was wrong. Shame, 'cause the song
has potential, but it never raises the stakes or builds any tension to
eventually resolve.

Bassey: It is very Frank Ocean. But Justin can't quite pull off the awkward, melancholy melody. He's too "cool
kid."

Butta: I don't get Frankie O. at all, but this does sound like something that Jhené Aiko might sing. Nonetheless, this is not something I'll find myself listening to with any frequency. The album ends after "Let the Groove Get In" for me.

AudioDiva: The Frank Ocean references are kinda losing me. Just because it says "Ocean" in the title we're going that way? I think we're giving too much credit to the both of
them, IMO.

Remi: Wow, I
think AudioDiva just called you guys simple! #shotsfired

AudioDiva: LOL! Always starting something, Remi! But really, once
again the lyrics are non-existent, it's all about the ambient pop sound which
I'm a complete sucker for. He closed it out on a good one.

Bassey: Justin
has no idea who he is as a musician anymore. I blame The Social Network. And Jessica Biel.

Remi: I know
you're tired of hearing this, Bassey, but I don't believe he's ever been that
musician. It's always been about Tim and Pharrell Williams. I blame this new garbage on Tim's general decline.

D-Money: Yeah, I
agree. Justin has always been a producer's muse. He's just lucky enough to be a
bit more talented than most other muses.

Bassey: Et tu, D-Money? Et tu? I can't believe that. Maybe it's true. This album is so disappointing, but I do believe that Justin is a talented musician.

Butta: It's only disappointing if you went into this with any expectations. I had none, so maybe that's why I love it so. I win!

ChrisAlexander: D-Money
It's the Aaliyah Effect. Alone, they seem pretty cool and likable, but one is
led to wonder how much they're actually bringing to the table. Kind of like how
Aaliyah without Timbaland would have just been Mya.

D-Money:
That perfectly describes it.

Remi: Bite your
tongue, ChrisAlexander. Aaliyah on her final album was largely without Tim. The
greatest myth about their relationship was that she was that dependent on him. The best moments on the Aaliyah album easily belonged to Key Beats. Tim only produced three (great) tracks on there, which I
think was a deliberate move on her part.

ChrisAlexander: Fine.
I agree. That last album was a winner for her, artistically. It still stands up
pretty well today.

Remi: You're
forgiven. But the long detour into
Aaliyah territory doesn't speak too well of this track.

Remi: So,
thoughts on the album as a whole?

ChrisAlexander: Overall, JT rarely disappoints vocally, but I think the real star here is Timbaland and his production. His recent Missy collabs and essentially anything he'd put his hands on in recent months (years?) has been stale and forgettable. He should be proud of his work here, as that s--t he and Missy are trying to peddle is a motherf--king no-go.

Remi: While I agree Tim does come with some surprises, I feel like The Evolution of Tim B. Land mostly involves aping other producers' recent work. Track by track, this album feels perfect for a game of "Who's Timbaland Impersonating Now?"

D-Money: Or "Whose Production Is Timbaland Calling His Own Now?"

Butta: Tim biting the styles of other producers who bit his style sounds like producer Inception. 

Remi: Or a grade-school "he started it!" retaliation. And that doesn't even apply to Pharrell, who came up at the same time as Tim. The bonus track "Body Count" is such an early-2000s Neptunes ripoff, it's offensive!

Bassey: But at least that would be thought out. This just seems like he threw a bunch of songs he had in his closet onto a CD. I put more thought into my outfit choices than he did these songs. 

ChrisAlexander: Meanwhile, Usher is somewhere with boot cut red leather pants around his ankles stroking it to this album, wondering where he went wrong.

Butta: Yes, this is the album that Usher wishes he made. He seriously needs to lock himself in a windowless room with this on repeat for a week and examine his life, his choices.

D-Money: Boot cut red leather pants, though? (Actually, I think Ursh did wear something like that as an opening act for the Velvet Rope tour.) To me, it's him attempting to be deep, but the concepts of the songs don't really have the depth to carry on for six+ minutes. And Timbo's beats just honestly aren't strong enough for me to listen that long.

ChrisAlexander: I guess I can't really compare Tim to other recent producers, as I've been pretty far removed musically from everything. I don't know who's doing what. Who's worth listening to right now?

Remi: Don't try to understand us, Pops.

Bassey: My feelings are legit hurt by this record. I keep looking at my iTunes and shaking my head at it like it forgot our anniversary.

D-Money: Haha. Yeah, I kinda picture Bassey listening and boiling a pot of grits (or possibly JT's pet rabbit).

Bassey: Ugh. I
hate this album.

D-Money: It's
pretty mediocre with a few decent tracks that standout out because of the
mediocrity surrounding them.

Butta: And I low-key love this album. I guess I'm confused about what y'all expected with on The 20/20 Experience? Well, maybe with the release of the second volume of the 20/20 project with 10 additional songs later this year, he'll appease those disappointed with this album. I'll happily have this on repeat til then.

Bassey: I spent
the last month listening to Justified
and Sexy Lovely Back Songs and this
doesn't even compare. The songs, if not generic, lack cohesion. "That
Girl" I take personal offense to. It's trite. It's cowardly. It's
disgusting. But it's an enjoyable song, at least. The rest are just terrible. 

D-Money: I was
worried that I might have to like a JT album. Gladly, this isn't the case.
Crisis averted.

Remi: Suicide
pact aborted. Whew. And I totally agree on mediocre-to-decent songs being
propped up by utter s--t tracks.

Bassey: Most of
the song lyrics are just stupid. Justin is an amazing live performer so some of
these songs are going to grow on me after I see the choreography (it's just how
I'm built). But as a whole 20/20 as
an album is myopic.

Remi: It's not an
offensive album at all. Just not worth the much-ballyhooed comeback. As with Jay's
Kingdom Come, it's like: "Unless you
forgot your keys, you coming back wasn't worth the cab fare." 

Bassey: Brilliantly
put, Remi. I hate it because I'm a JT fan. And I badgered him on
Twitter one day begging him to come back, now I wish he'd just go make Friends With Benefits II: This time We Hate
Each Other

D-Money: Honestly,
I never got the clamoring for a new JT album. It was obvious when he went "Hollywood" -- and even more
obvious now -- that he really doesn't have an interest in making music anymore.

ChrisAlexander: The
album is proof that working exclusively with one producer doesn't always
produce magic. If one listens superficially and just gets onto the grooves, it's
a stellar album. There are some questionable lyrics and forced metaphors. (Okay,
there are many.) But after this discussion, I still enjoy it a lot.

Butta: Overall, this album just works for me. It remind's me of Bey's 4 with the bounce around of styles and sounds. And compared to what his
contemporaries (Usher, Ne-Yo, Robin
Thicke?) are releasing, Justin is winning.

D-Money: Him
"winning" with this, though, is like being the smart kid in a
remedial class. He only looks good because everyone else is failing.

AudioDiva: It's a hollow win, but a win. Though I like what Miguel and Bruno Mars are doing at current, I just can't like what Usher has become, wonder who is still cutting checks for Trey Songz, could give a rat's ass about Chris Brown and I'm too old to contract Bieber fever. 20/20 is more my speed. I admit, this isn't the comeback I wanted, it's uneven with some problematic and dated areas and tracks that need serious trimming. Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds are much better in execution and originality, IMO, but I'm glad that JT read his MJ/Prince/old school whatever Cliff Notes for this than attempted to follow the BS of the mainstream, which on the daily makes my 26 year old self feel 86, so I understand why people are flocking to it, and why I put some songs on repeat. Something about this album works for me, it's not perfect, it's not original, and JT is still an arrogant frat boy, but it's a solid pop-soul album for me.

Remi: And I'd
argue he isn't even winning among failures. I remain the outsider on this, but
I still think Usher's Looking 4 Myself
was a solid album. I agree Rob Thicke hasn't put out a consistently brilliant
album since The Evolution of Robin Thicke, but I'd argue
his uneven albums, though less flashy, are still better than this mess. But yeah, Ne-Yo's a lost cause.

D-Money: Robin
Thicke's last album was fairly decent. He just needed to trim the tracklist a
bit.

AudioDIva: If only Thicke had the powerhouse PR like JT, because I'd really like to see Thicke come back this year and give 'em heat. He just needs another big smash song/album to get him to bigger levels, because to most people he's still the "Lost Without You" dude. Evolution is pure art, but I can't sit here and say that Thicke's Sex Therapy was better than 20/20. What JT needs is competition, and without it he'll continue "winning."

Butta: Yes, Justin is winning because everyone else is so busy failing. If I hear one more
R&B artist making a punk ass EDM record I'll scream. I truly appreciate
that JT didn't go there with this, which was to be expected in this climate. 

D-Money: True, I
appreciate him not going there (as much as I can appreciate JT doing anything
outside of dropping off the face of the earth). Still, for nearly seven years of
being away, this isn't the "OMG, this is amazing" album that
everyone's deluding themselves into thinking it is.

Butta: Sure, it's
not his best work, but I would compare it to microwaved soul food -- the greens
may not be as fresh, the fried chicken may be soggy AND dry at the same damn
time, and you wonder what happened to all your mac and cheese -- but you know
what? Somehow, it still tastes good. 

Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience [Amazon][iTunes]


TAGS:  , , , , , , ,
  • SororSalsa

    Thank you for reviewing this album...I listened to it and read your comments. I agree for the most part. A few tracks are cool, but overall this feels like a fail when put next to FSLS.

    But I must ask...if Cee Lo wrote some decent lyrics for "That Girl", would it have been better received? And although the lyrics for Strawberry Bubblegum and Spaceship Coupe are simple and ridiculous, my inner ratchet teenager digs them somewhat.

    • soulbounce

      It's hard to say that if CeeLo had written "That Girl" if it would have been well-received. It's very possible, though.

  • Jboogie

    You guys are hilarious! That was the best read I've had in forever. Now I need to check it out to see whose review matches mine... Thanks!

  • Miss Upwardly

    Loved this review. Sheer hilarity and honesty. I always appreciate being able to hear from folks who aren't stans! Although, I do heart Usher. (sorry)

  • Kastek421

    I am guessing this round table just refers to pop/r&b when it talks about Justin "winning" because Bilal lyrically and vocally is miles ahead of JT, he is the true Prince comparison. Also recent albums by Alice Smith and Laura Mvula are brilliant, so...why the JT roundtable again? How about some love for the aforementioned folks.

    • soulbounce

      Why the JT roundtable? Why not? As far as him "winning," yes he is when compared to his peers in mainstream pop/R&B because he's made a soul album that has left Usher, Ne-Yo, et al in the dust.

      To address the rest of your comment, at SoulBounce we cover mainstream, independent, underground, domestic and international artists with equal frequency. You cannot visit this site on the average day and fix your face to say that we don't show love to artists who get little to no radio, TV or mainstream media attention. Did you happen to miss the Alice Smith album review that was posted earlier on Tuesday, our frequent Bilal coverage or that we've been singing Laura Mvula's praises all year? If so, YOU may want to catch up with US.

      • cjayconrod

        Lol, people are gonna learn about making assumptions about SoulBounce based on one posting.

      • SororSalsa

        I have found some of my favorite underground artists through SoulBounce. But I also appreciate when you guys cover "pop" music artists as well. I enjoy hearing everyone's take. Nothing is ever going to beat the roundtable for Brian McKnight's IfURReadytoLearn". That was classic! It almost made up for the 1:30 of that trash that I subjected my ears to....

  • sickwitit

    Yall' need to do these soundtable discussions more often, K? Makes this site so much more enjoyable! I agree with the overall sentiment, this album is just a derivative of his past albums. "Suit and tie" is actually the only standout o_o. Of course this can apply to most mainstream acts of today, but whatever.I did however totally forget how great of a live performer Justin is, I'll give him that. Shoutout to Remi for getting ChrisA together about that "Aaliyah" album. I was just listening to it the other day, the production on that record is so fucking crisp!!!

    • Remi

      Maaaan, listen...

  • cjayconrod

    I love when roundtable discussion occurs on this site, but y'all are REALLY critical on this one. I'm like Butta. I came to this album with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I refuse to bash his lyrics and mixed metaphors, especially when I consider the banality currently played on the radio. Sonically, this album is gorgeous. The melding of new and old works for me.

  • nybruh

    Musically/sonically, this CD is totally entertaining. Ive always felt Justin was a great performer, but mediocre vocalist. His vocals are paper thin and passable at best. I think he gets a pass for being a whiteboy who's somewhat soulful (I feel the same about Robin Thicke, but I digress). Justin (like Janet) when paired with the right producer puts out strong material. BUT imagine how great this CD would be if it was given to someone who can REALLY sing. This CD is not Bilal's lane, but his rich vocals would take this CD to that next level. Usher. Maxwell. R Kelly. Anyone else. The production is the real star of this CD. Justin was just lucky enough to tag along for the ride.

  • Derrick

    I LOVE when yall do these! Once again, flat-out brilliant and hilarious.

    I agree with many of your sentiments. Overall, I'm really enjoying the album (minus "Spaceship Coupe," "That Girl," and "Mirrors"). And every time "Strawberry Bubblegum" comes on ( while I'm bopping because that beat is a.ma.zing), I just wish the lyrics were different.

    "Blue Ocean Floor"-- this song is absolutely stunning and the best song on the album in my opinion. I'd say give that one another listen to see if it creeps up in favor.

    Can't wait until the next roundtable!

  • http://www.facebook.com/JossiHP Joshimar Hernandez

    Oh Jt... if only it was half of FSLS.. nothing can top how that album changed my life in general. The raw sex appeal of the songs was practically disturbing, immersive, It was absolutely destructive. It shouldn't exist and I shouldn't loved it so much

  • Kanyade

    Thank you for an entertaining as well as informative read. You should do more roundtables!

  • Angela

    Wow. Looks like you guys were right. The song "That Girl" is about a black girl. He explains the inspiration for the song was "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?" on his website.

  • Terrence Mosley

    I throw into the mix...that "Don't hold the wall" is giving me that MJ "In the Closet" feel. NOT saying it sounds the same. But the secret love exotic love thing is what gets me and I agree I can see body rolls aplenty.

  • Clinton Davis

    It was really interesting to read this table review of the album but I didnt see the need with the track by track review cause from what I could tell no one except Butta liked the album just from the general overviews alone. When i saw the track by track I was like oh hell now they just going to rip the album apart. I personally enjoy the album..from what i have listened to so far. Out of everything I do agree with you guys on the song lengths...i understand the whole suite thing but FutureSex only did it on 4 songs..this go round they went straight 80s/90s with the song lengths. However much love you guys you always introducing me to some good music in the weekly newsletters...

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Keith-Quick/100003661429633 Keith Quick

    Sorry Im old school. I like real R&B

  • Curtis

    The sample in "Spaceship Coupe" is "Baby Let's Rap Now" recorded by the "Moments" and not "Betcha By Golly Wow" by the "Stylistics" as posted by "Butta".



Encore