By Gregory Hicks, Daily Arts Writer
Published March 18, 2013
What do you do when you’re one of the largest male R&B-pop sensations the world has ever seen, and you’re planning to break out from your seven-year hiatus? The answer is: anything you want.
The 20/20 Experience will earn high certifications from pre-orders alone, but that doesn’t stop JT from delivering anything short of an irresistibly seductive record. Given trending characteristics of today’s industry (e.g. dubstep, basic meter), it’s refreshing to witness an artist of Timberlake’s caliber standing his ground in stylistic terms.
With the initial release of his platinum-selling lead single “Suit & Tie,” listeners picked up on Timberlake’s new record, which steers toward an old-school groove. True, the track has a likeable jazziness, but don’t confuse Timbaland’s classic synth production with a brass instrument. In fact, don’t confuse most of Timbaland’s musical complexion with an attempt to recreate a long-gone decade.
A vintage taste surfaces strictly on the introduction to most tracks on the record. “Pusher Love Girl” adopts the swift, orchestral chromatics of Ciara and Timberlake’s “Love Sex Magic” collaboration, preceding a performance brimming with our pop star’s anticipated falsetto. The time-honored needle-on-record sound effect introduces “Strawberry Bubblegum,” channeling a trademark of Christina Aguilera’s Back to Basics.
Lest we forget about JT’s secret weapon, The 20/20 Experience is a musical reestablishment for Timbaland, the king of seductive syncopation, as well. Undoubtedly, the R&B producer was loaded with inspiration, given that his last major production (relatively speaking) was two years ago on Demi Lovato’s Unbroken album.
The (nearly) seven minute-long tracks might badger some listeners — these track lengths will never survive radio edits — but each song is elegantly washed out with a few minutes of tempo stretching as JT wraps up the end of each (arguably lanky) track. To endure the extensive width of the album, each song brims with developments and swift tempo changes, rather than add three extra minutes of the same hook (e.g. Fergie’s The Dutchess).
With so much excitement churning from The 20/20 Experience — an anticipation years in the making — now is the time to walk off the beaten path. Part of remaining a distinguished artist is having a devoted following who will essentially find a way to enjoy your music regardless of how incomparable it is to current trendsetters.
Aside from “Suit & Tie” and the album’s second promotional single, “Mirrors,” the record’s other ingredients lack an instantly gratifying pop-music quality — certainly justified, given that the album aims to be a coherent R&B album, rather than a quick-fix pop collection of singles. Most notable characteristics sampled from the musical bandwagon are Jay-Z’s appearance on “Suit & Tie” and the somewhat oversimplified melody and beats of “Mirrors” as a whole.
“Let the Groove Get In” and listen to JT as he brings sexy back to the music industry in a new decade of R&B.