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Timberlake’s follow-up falls flat

Jimmy Kemper | Tuesday, October 1, 2013

As I write this review, my room is flooded, thanks to quality North Quad plumbing, but I would honestly rather deal with that mess than listen to Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2” again. There are definitely a few gems on the album, but all together it is exhaustingly long and loses its appeal rather quickly, failing to leave any lasting impact on listeners. 

Before “The 20/20 Experience -1 of 2” dropped in March, it had been six years since Justin Timberlake had last produced an album, “Future Sex/Love Sounds,” which topped the charts with the hit singles “Sexy Back,” “My Love” and “What Goes Around Comes Around.” The former Mouseketeer then focused on expanding his acting career, playing mature roles in “The Social Network” and “Friends With Benefits.” When “1 of 2” was finally released, it quickly became an international hit and one of the fastest selling albums of the year. Now, “2 of 2” is most likely going to sell well, too, simply because of the massive fan base Timberlake has developed. 

The effort Justin put into this album is definitely notable. Instead of continuing the style he had in “1 of 2,” Justin and producers Timbaland and Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon shake things up, mixing disco funk, electric organs and cosmic synthesizers to produce a generally more mature and more progressive sound. 

The album opens up with “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want),” one of the better tracks on the album, at least for the first three-and-a-half minutes. As with the majority of the other songs on this album, Timberlake stretches “Gimme” amazingly thin, with the minute-and-a-half outro awkwardly featuring monkey sounds and slamming the song’s main metaphor into the ground. It does have some positive aspects, however, smoothly mixing funk, pop and R&B influences in a way that only Timberlake could. 

“2 of 2” quickly falls off the tracks from here, though, with songs like “True Blood” and “TKO” that try too hard to create a unique sound but result in an over-indulgent cacophony that drags on endlessly. Some positives on this first half of the record include “Cabaret,” featuring lyrics from rap superstar Drake and “Murder,” a collaboration with other rap superstar Jay-Z. 

The first half of the album is notably darker than the second half, which features songs that will resonate more with Justin’s longtime fans. For example, “You Got It On,” is a smooth, classic Timberlake track that feels rather effortless. This effortlessness is where Justin shines, rather than in songs from the first half of the album where he attempts to string together a bunch of different genres and creates a rather lackluster discord. 

The record’s final song, “Not a Bad Thing,” is basically a throwback to Timberlake’s *NSYNC days, which is not necessarily bad until the track loses its luster somewhere around the 11-minute mark. 

Overall, it is a much tighter production than its predecessor, but it still comes off as mediocre, definitely not hitting the “20/20” mark.

3/5 Shamrocks. 

Contact Jimmy Kemper at jkemper2@nd.edu