After taking a long break to focus on acting, Justin Timberlake is back in the music game with “The 20/20 Experience” album, which was released on Tuesday. While he was sonically looking ahead with 2006's “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” Timberlake is dabbing in retro sounds this time around. The new 10-track album finds him teaming up with long-time collaborator Timbaland for a collection of lengthy yet beautifully contemporary R&B jams.
The best song on the set is “Mirrors,” a synth-layered ballad with a very overjoyed Timberlake. It's the most pop sounding among the different tracks with Timberlake delivering an emotional performance. As a married man, he showers his loved one with affectionate verses. “Baby, you're the inspiration for this precious song / And I just wanna see your face light up since you put me on,” he croons in falsetto that only gets better with time.
Beyond “Mirrors” and the electronically experimental “Blue Ocean Floor,” another halcyon standout, Timberlake makes the album a classy affair with more modern R&B tracks. This is best exemplified on first single, “Suit & Tie,” which features rapper Jay-Z. Over breezy horns, Timberlake croons like an absolute gentleman about showing his lady a good time in the best duds. He puts on the smooth operator persona and wears it well here and on other slow jams, like the drug-alluding “Pusher Love Girl” and soulful “That Girl.”
Most of the songs on the album are over seven minutes in length, which gave Timbaland a chance to twist these throwback tracks in all different directions with his electronic edge, but some could be cut shorter. The banging “Don't Hold the Wall” seems to drag after awhile along with “Strawberry Bubblegum,” a sexual song masked in candy-coded metaphors.
Timberlake could have gone the electro-pop route like everything else on radio right now, but he chose to take the high road and release music that reflected his growth as an artist. “The 20/20 Experience” is a mature record that embraces music's past while still looking toward the future. With this being only half the album, there will be more great tunes from Timberlake down the line. Good to have you back, Justin!
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