Review: Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2
Published on October 1st, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
As a modern R&B/pop odyssey, The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 is much more effective than its predecessor. It frequently sounds fantastic in a way that’s hard to reconcile with what we know of Justin Timberlake.
Make no bones about it, though; Timberlake is very, very lucky to have Timbaland and J-Roc producing for him. Indeed, his most important contribution to the overall success of The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 is the toning down of his vocal style from ‘whiny and annoying’ to ‘controlled and palatable’.
We weren’t under any illusions as to what to expect from Timberlake as a lyricist, but it nevertheless remains hard to ignore his near-total inability to deal in anything other than weak innuendo. To wit:
“Now take me to your jungle, I’m not afraid / And if you’re looking for your animal, hop in my cage”
“If sex is a contest, then you’re coming first”
Even this, from a track titled “Murder”…
“I really wanna take this under the ground, under the ground / And I’mma be down to go to that level”
Is there any subject that Timberlake can’t turn his member to? Probably not. Good thing, then, that it’s largely encased in some of the best beats you’ll hear all year; all crinkly, complex and rendered in futuristic technicolour.
Probably ought to mention some of the guest spots: Drake, that other great boner-wielder of modern R&B, crops up on “Cabaret”, while on “Murder” Jay-Z chips in with “Yoko Ono, she got that Yoko Ono / You know that shit that made John Lennon go solo / Know that shit gotta be lethal / If that pussy broke up The Beatles”. Quite.
Elsewhere, we have the obligatory Michael Jackson impression in “Take Back the Night”, the incongruously organic blues/soul production of “Drink You Away”, the gorgeous application of flute to “You Got it On”, and “Only When I Walk Away”, which ends with Timberlake singing “Fuck you bitch, I don’t care what you say” then laughing.
The eleven-minute “Not a Bad Thing” starts out sounding uncomfortably close to boybandsville, then turns halfway through into a pretty fingerpicked ballad called “Pair of Wings” that seemingly draws inspiration from The Beatles and Stevie Wonder, but is let down by some wretchedly corny lyrics.
“If I had a pair of wings / I’d pick you and fly you far away from here / And we’d fly so high up in the sky / Where the stars are so clear”. We did warn you.
Overall, The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 displays laudable ambition and for the most part lives up to it. You do suspect, though, that Messrs Timbaland and J-Roc are the true stars of the show.
The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 is out now on RCA Records.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!