Album review: Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 experience part 2 of 2

Album review: Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 experience (part 2 of 2) | Random J pop

Justin surprised the world by announcing that The 20/20 experience was in fact a 2 part album and that we would have the second half a mere 6 months after the first one! Great news for JT fans in lieu of his 6 year drought of music. Little do they know that JT dropping 2 albums in one year means that he's going to do films, write songs for other people and deny the world a new new single or album for another 10 years minimum. There's a greater chance of a new 'N Sync album dropping before JT gives us another album.

The first part of The 20/20 experience was a mixed bag, but I came away from that album really liking it. The production was amazing. Timbaland's output shocked me, as everything he had been producing prior had been fucking awful. JT's musical integrity was still intact and he managed to put out a really nice album with a timeless sound which wasn't privy to what the likes of Usher were jumping on and pillaging their own sound over just to catch a hit on the radio. I felt satisfied the first part of The 20/20 experience, but he wasn't and decided to release a second part featuring songs from the very same recording sessions, disclosing that this was always part of the plan. So why is it that most of the songs on this set sound like filler and leftovers?

The second part of 20/20 is much more accessible than the first, opening with a couple of signature Timbo bangers with back-to-back. Part 2 makes it clear from the start that it is the darker twin of Part 1. JT sings about woo'ing his woman on at least 3 of the songs on this album, but the general over-arcing theme of Part 2 is aggression. Part 1 was pretty dark, but there was a tranquillity which underlay it. Where-as Part 2 as a whole feels much more sinister, even down to Justin's vocals which skirt around in his lower registers for most of this album. If 20/20 Part 1 was the love making, then part 2 is the angry alley way sex.

A constant theme which loiters over both parts of 20/20 is the lack of catchiness. Some songs feature immediately memorable hooks and catchy melodies, but at least half of the material across both parts of 20/20 feature hook which just languish, with the production having to drag the dead-weight which are Justin and James Fauntleroy's lyrics each and every time. As solid as the production is on this set (just as it was on part 1), the songs themselves are less definable than those on part 1 due to the same tricks often being pulled more than once. What made 20/20 part 1 work for me, was that with the exception of "Pusher love girl" and "That girl", no two songs sounded alike. Where-as part 2 melds itself so much into one sound that it's difficult to ascertain where one songs ends and another begins. "Give me what I don't know (I want)", "True blood" and "Murder" are good songs but they feel as though they are cut from the exact same cloth. Part 2 also lacks the heart and soul of part 1 in place of rolled punches. Single choices are much more obvious on part 2, but it comes at the expense of the songs going for JT's most common denominator each and every time. A Jay-Z feature. A Drake feature. A song which re-treads "Cry me a river".

The 8 minute song length trend continues here which doesn't aid in making the songs feels distinguished. Where this felt novel and really coloured songs on part 1 to brilliant effect - most notably on "Pusher live girl", "Don't hold the wall", "Let the groove get in" and "Mirrors" where the songs switched gears completely mid way through and morphed into completely different songs which were amazing in their own right; here it feels too obvious. Too forced. As though it was a case of dragging the song lengths out because it was something which had been done on another song. "True blood" is an absolute beast of track, but it meanders on for far too long to a point where you almost forget how good the song was until it began to bore you. There are too many songs on this album which should have just faded out at the 4 minute mark, yet 70% of them go on longer than they should do. "TKO" is the only 10 minute clocker where the beat switch feels justified - in this case it completely overshadows the first half of the song to the point where I just skip right to the half way point.

The familiarity of Justin's muses are the same on this part as they were on the first. We get nods to Marvin Gaye and much more direct influences of Michael Jackson. "Take back the night" has JT running his fingers through Michael's Off the wall Jheri curl and "True blood" makes a pass at Michael's white Thriller glove. But outside of these tracks where Justin isn't biting anybody's style in particular, nothing really stands out - which makes you question if Justin actually has a sound of his own. Justin had become a master at reinterpreting the style of his muses and at times, completely ripping them off and doing so masterfully. But for JT to have released an album where he did this back in April and then drop another one 6 months after where he is doing the same thing, the formula feels a lot more obvious here. It makes you throw your hands up, sigh and say to yourself 'Okay Justin. Stop with the [David Bowie / Prince / Michael Jackson / Marvin Gaye] biting now!'

The 20/20 experience is an example of why artists need to be careful and see the value of one strong release as opposed to double discing an album and splitting it. Robyn has been one of the few artists in the past 3 years who managed to do this in a way which felt justifiable with Body talk. 20/20 part 2 just doesn't feel strong as a stand alone album. It features some of what the first part lacked, but is underwhelming as a whole. When I first listened to part 1 I came away thinking 'That was a really nice album' and my favourite tracks jumped out at me immediately. Where-as with part 2, it took me a while to find my favourite songs and I wasn't left with much of a lasting impression other than 'I preferred part 1'. Had Justin short-listed 14 of the best tracks from his 20/20 sessions, he would have had an amazing album. But spreading the material across both albums highlights the short comings of both sets and the second part suffers more then the first as a result.

The plague of Justin's songwriting lingers on part 2. Whilst vocally he runs circles around the music, JT's lyrics still sound elementary and have him retreading not only what we've heard on previous albums, but what he served up only 6 months ago. The lyrics on this album are awful. It's a good thing Timbaland and J-Roc's production is so tight and so busy, because it takes the edge and the focus away from some of the shit Justin is singing about.

20/20 part 2 lacks that definable quality which you can pin to which Justified, FutureSex/LoveSounds and even 20/20 part 1. It feels characterless. If this were just released as a bonus disc in a repackage of The 20/20 experience I'd be more forgiving of it. But for this to be touted as a second part to an album featuring songs which were always intended to be released, I just can't deal. Not when the majority of the songs on it feel like obvious off-cuts. The fact that JT followed up Part 1 with this and short-listed the songs he did for Part 1 to come first says a lot.

The 20/20 experience part 2 of 2 is too littered with filler. Wonderfully produced filler, but still filler. The album runs out of steam far too quickly. If Justin really did want to stagger releases over the course of a year, then he would have been better off putting out 2 EP's featuring the best of his 20/20 sessions and then bookending the year with a 1 disc complete edition. Justin is still a class act, but this album isn't anything special aside from the odd track here and there. Team part 1 all the way.


Album highlights:
■ Gimme what I don't know (I want)
■ True blood ★ J's fave
■ Not a bad thing
■ Electric lady

1 comment:

  1. ?J you took the words right out of my mouth with this one. It didn't feel like a JT album when I listened to it. It was pretty much a Timbaland & J-Roc production album with nonsense lyrics on top. I was really disappointed in both Justin & James. I really kinda wished he had kept it as either one album or fused the two together with the best from both worlds. Seriously, anything more than a three out of ten would be pushing it.


    GREAT REVIEW ?J! You never disappoint...

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