Sam reviews “The 20/20 Experience” by Justin Timberlake

Sam reviews The 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake

It seemed like Justin Timberlake had hung up his music hat for good after “FutureSex/LoveSounds.” Seven years passed, and he was content to do little else but act, toss out a few vocal hooks here and some features there. Then he tried to buy MySpace and “revamp” it, at which point America collectively screamed “Get back in the studio right now!”

Well, it might have taken a while, but Timberlake has finally made a comeback with “The 20/20 Experience” (is that referring to buying MySpace?). After debuting parts of it through performances at this year’s Grammys and “Saturday Night Live,” we have finally gotten an album people probably never expected to see.

Interestingly enough, the album stylistically jumps away from modern electro-pop, instead being a throwback to old-school soul titans like Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye, with plenty of strings and horns accentuating Timberlake’s Astroglide-smooth vocals. In addition, producer Timbaland also brings out one of his great world music beats on “Don’t Hold the Wall,” which has all the swaying, sensual mystery of the Arabian Nights. The slinky grooves of “Pusher Love Girl” and first single “Suit and Tie” and the tender “Blue Ocean Floor” are not to be missed either.      

This was definitely worth the wait, and it is in fact a standard to what albums ought to be today. Daringly, no song is below five minutes in length and all of them change brilliantly but retain interest. I could only find two quibbles: that down-pitched creeper voice in “Strawberry Bubblegum” and the fact that though this has the qualities of an soul titan album, there is not a great progressive song like “What’s Going On” or “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Despite those, this album is not only a great comeback, it is a come-up.