#7 – Justin Timberlake- ‘The 20/20 Experience’
Jay Z wasn’t the only person this year who just casually decided to spring an album on us in 2013, oh no sir! Justin Timberlake made his long awaited return to music after a 7 year hiatus with the album that makes number 7 on my list of the year’s best albums. I am of course talking about ‘The 20/20 Experience’.
When word spread about Justin Timberlake’s return to music it spread like wild fire. Twitter was a blaze with ‘OMGGGG JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE IS MAKING MUSIC AGAIN!!!’ tweets and many began rejoicing that the only Justin making music wasn’t only going to be Bieber. It was as if the world was in a musical drought and the prospect of a new Justin Timberlake album seemed like the well of clean water that we all so desperately needed. And I am not kidding when I say that. For real, it was insane.
The lead single ‘Suit & Tie’ impacted immediately and featured Jay Z, both of which seemed to have formed some secret friendship in 2013 that I don’t think any of us saw coming. Produced by Timbaland, as expected, the song brought back that RnB fused pop back to the charts which Justin Timberlake was known for. It was also the most brilliant use of a cow bell I have ever heard of but I’m going off on a tangent here.
The album. Titled ‘The 20/20 Experience’ is was a 10 track long affair which I kind of felt flat on the whole idea of the album being called an ‘experience’ but I chose not to be picky as I’d waited SEVEN YEARS since the last album.
Knowing that the music industry has changed a lot in 7 years and you can’t just release an album and hope it does well, Timberlake took to iTunes to stream the album in its entirety. And that little stunt seems to have caught on as this year more than any, artists have decided to stream their album before it’s general release. Well that is everyone except Lady GaGa who described the idea as ‘a cumshot last month on The Graham Norton Show.
So with an album
all most of us have been seven years in the waiting for available to listen the question on everyone’s lips was; ‘Was it worth the wait?’
See the reason this album makes my list at number 7 wasn’t a creative decision I made to reference that of how many years I have been waiting for the album it is because at first I adored this album but over time my opinions changed. It was everything that was missing from music because it had brilliant production that wasn’t God damn EDM, it had clever song structure and transitions (the second half of ‘Mirrors’ is one of the best moments of music in 2013 I DON’T CARE WHAT ANYONE SAYS!!!) and it was Justin’s own neo RnB/Pop style that wins every time.
I even went as far as saying that ‘The 20/20 Experience’ was the best album of the year when I reviewed it upon it’s release.. even if it was only March at the time. And I now realise that I was a tad bit presumptuous in my claims.
Because, though it felt like a breathe of fresh air to music after years and years of pollution at the hands of producers who shall not be named, the sad realisation was that this album got boring pretty fast. After the initial hype of a new Justin Timberlake album died down I realised that in his seven year absence, he hadn’t grown or developed as an artist. It was the same sound that we heard on Future Sex/Love Sounds which, dare I say it, seemed a lot more forward thinking than this album.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say there weren’t any songs on the album that I still love because despite the sound of the album being just a rehash of his earlier work, there are still some pop gems on the album. ‘That Girl’ ft the Tennessee Kings is a pleasant ode to his wife Jessie Biel and tracks like ‘Spaceship Coupe’ and ‘Strawberry Bubblegum’ are so melodically hypnotising I found it difficult not to love them. And a round of applause for the energetic, latin banger that is ‘Let The Groove In’.
I mentioned earlier than JT was very much aware that music had changed in the past seven years and his iTunes album stream showed this but he failed to see that how we as consumers consume music has changed dramatically. Our lives are now based on a lifestyle of instant gratification. We want things quick, we want things fast. We want to be able to download our favourite song within seconds of hearing it and even 10 second snap chats seem like an eternity.
So when listening to ‘The 20/20 Experience’ I saw that almost all the songs were 6-8 minutes long I could’t help but think this was a bit self indulgent on Timberlake’s part. Yeah we haven’t heard anything new from the guy in almost a decade but seriously songs that are almost 10 minutes long seemed like a chore to most listeners.
Then to top it off he decided to released a part 2 to the album at the end of the summer and by this point I felt like I was a Justin Timberlake overload. Releasing two albums, being on numerous features, performing at all the awards shows and touring with Jay Z. How does a man who hasn’t made any music for seven years over expose himself so much in a short space of time?!
But like I said with Jay Z’s album, this album makes the list primarily on its production credentials alone and to be honest it was just nice to have this guy back being the driving force for more urban music to prevail in the charts.
After a seven year wait, I instantly fell in love with this album but over time it showed that Justin didn’t have anything new to offer that we hadn’t heard before. The lyrical content suggested that without Britney Spears to draw from inspiration, Justin has little to sing about. But its hard not to love it when JT and Timbaland cook something up in the studio and that is why its on my list, even if they gave us a three course meal with this album when all we wanted was quick, easy starter.