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Album review: Justin Timberlake strikes smooth chords with ‘The 20/20 Experience’

Anticipated music releases can either prove severely disappointing, or well worth the wait. Justin Timberlake’s third album, released Tuesday, falls into the latter category. 

“The 20/20 Experience” might have come after a lengthy pause in production from the singer-songwriter – it’s his first album in more than six years – but the final product is undoubtedly a reward for the wait. 

Furthermore, “The 20/20 Experience” isn’t just a pop record, it’s an evolved listening journey packed with funky, Marvin Gaye-like tracks that submerge the listener.

Seven of the 10 songs are more than seven minutes long and only two are less than six minutes, but each play so smoothly, as if going through a groovy adventure, that you forget to pay attention to the duration of the track.

And apparently this isn’t all of it, Timberlake said, confirming the rumors of a second half to “The 20/20 Experience” during the release party at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles Monday night. 

Ballad “Pusher Love Girl” kicks off the first installment with an array of strings and horns paired with Timberlake’s cool, effortless falsetto to set the soulful mood that remains intact and is carried throughout the entire album.   

The swing-esque tone of the first single “Suit & Tie” hones an elegant sway that places you in a ’50s jazz club, and this same essence also comes through in the Latin-infused “Let The Groove Get In.”

Lyrically, Timberlake is speaking to the hopeless romantics in his fans. “I don’t wanna lose you now / I’m lookin’ right at the other half of me / The vacancy that sat in my heart / Is a space that now you hold,” he sings on the second single “Mirrors.”

“Spaceship Coupe,” although a sensual pleasure on the ears, teeters the edge of an R&B spoof, akin to his digital shorts with Andy Samberg on “Saturday Night Live.” The lyrics “Hop into my spaceship coupe / There’s only room for two (me and you) / And with the top off, you’re all wrapped up / In my space lover cocoon,” all but elicit chuckling. 

A personal favorite of mine from this album is “That Girl,” an ode to his Michael Jackson influence with Al Green-based vocals, which is similar to airy ballad “Strawberry Bubblegum.”

One of my only concerns is the album’s resemblance to the 2006 Grammy-winning “FutureSex/LoveSounds.” Traces from songs such as “Until The End of Time” are easy to find, but who can blame him for wanting to recreate such excellence? Both albums are near perfect, and I wasn’t sure any R&B record would give Frank Oceans’ “Channel Orange” a run for its money until now. 

It’s difficult to dislike anything Timberlake becomes involved with these days. Not only has he proved to be an impressive and comical actor, but his old-school elegance is admirable. However, most importantly, his vocals hone such soul and sensuality that I find it easy to call him a modern-day Frank Sinatra. 

And if this is any indication of what his confirmed follow-up will hold, then JT fans can rest easy while waiting again because, so far, “The 20/20 Experience” is a beautifully crafted masterpiece. 

 

Grade: A

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