The expectation was high since news came in that Justin Timberlake (J.T) will be releasing a third studio album after a seven year hiatus. The news was greeted even louder following the official release of the lead single ‘Suit & Tie’ featuring Jay Z.
The album, 20/20 Experience, according to Nielsen Soundscan is anticipated to sell a record One million copies in its first week of release. It will become the 19th album in the Pop category to cross that milestone since 1991 should it hit the mark.
Unlike his two previous albums, Justified and FutureSex/ LoveSounds, The 20/20 Experience leans greatly towards jazz and soul and less on contemporary RnB. Though not a phenomenal body of work (relative to his two albums) it is however solid. It’s different and an experience.
In his unmistakable falsetto voice, the Memphis, Tennessee born crooner exhibits his singing over a mix of jazzy, soulful, hiphop and RnB beats provided by long time associate, producer Timbaland.
Listeners to this album will be a bit disappointed since it lacks that ‘wow’ experience relative to huge radio formatted songs which occupied his two former works. It still an experience as J.T shifted from his usual pop-filled, RnB cloned, sexually innuendoed tunes like Sexy Back, Rock Your Body, My Love, Senorita to one that shows profound maturity and a relative discount-style wise.
The album, made with the matured listener in mind is dotted with 80s-styled –soul- ballads, jazz orientation, horns and contemporary RnB sounds and a touch of rap. The horns and jazz aura gives the album an ‘old school’ charm.
One of the unique features of the album is the length of the songs. Some span between over 4 minutes to 8 minutes as in as in the case of Pusher Lover Girl (8:02), Strawberry Bubblegum (8:00) and Mirrors (8:06). Dress On (4:39) is the shortest track on the album. The 20/20 Experience boasts 12 songs with a total of 79 minutes of music.
There is also the switch in tempo and delivery during the course of some track such as Pusher Lover Girl, Strawberry Bubblegum and Hold The Wall. Despite it being creative, hardly will you come across an album with such break-and –switch characteristics in contemporary pop/RnB world. One artiste who did such was Frank Ocean on Pyramids off his Grammy winning album Channel Orange. However, the songs drag, creating a sense of boredom. But the switch works better for me.
Aside Suite & Tie, the up-tempo, RnB/hiphop lead single and the introspectively lovely Mirrors and maybe Dress On, Hold The Wall and Tunnel Vision which will feature regularly on radio playlists, equally good songs like Strawberry Bubblegum (which samples Barry White’s voice), That Girl, Blue Ocean Floor and Body Count will miss out. Sadly.
The 20/20 Experience is worth its name. It is an experience worth experiencing. As they say, age has a way of transforming a man. Undoubtedly, it did to J.T. on his third studio album.
And should the album cross the One million copies threshold, I see the album becoming a blue-print for other artistes. The 20/20 Experience has the potential of defining the RnB landscape which currently leans towards hip hop than the soul and jazz influences of the past.