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Justin Timberlake, ‘The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2′ – Album Review

Justin Timberlake
RCA

With the second installment of ‘The 20/20 Experience’ we get an earnest view into why Justin Timberlake returned to music. In March, the New York Times declared ’1 of 2′ of the project (with a forward headline) ‘New Songs For a Side Career.’

Though something interesting happened in the following months, Justin began studio sessions that resulted in four collaborations on Jay Z’s ‘Magna Carta…Holy Grail,’ one with Nas named ‘Sinatra in the Sands,’ and another with Juicy J. Justin was making music again — effortlessly.

It’s obvious that no real “effort” was put into ‘The 20/20 Experience’ — and that’s not a bad thing. These two albums came naturally with Timbaland’s unequivocal presence. It comes across with organic Justin melodies all over ‘The 20/20 Experience.’

The singer describes the process in making the album as “If you’re lucky enough to have the ability to wait and do it when it inspires you, then you owe it to yourself to do it.”

‘The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2’ is Justin’s attempt at the B-Side of a vinyl record. While ‘1 of 2’ was a giant love letter to an “out-of-this-world” muse, ‘2 of 2’ is an ode to the darker side of that muse, with the notable absence of the prominent live instrumentation in ’1 of 2′ — she’s indecisive in ‘Only When I Walk Away,’ a seductress in the Jay Z-assisted ‘Murder,’ a manipulator in ‘TKO,’ but nonetheless breathtaking in ‘You Got It On.’

There are missteps on ‘2 of 2.’ ‘True Blood’ comes across like a reject from Timbaland’s ‘Shock Value’ sessions and ‘Drink You Away’ pours a country song element that otherwise messes with a competent sequence of tracks.

“When it’s the only thing you can think about when you wake up in the middle of the night…that sense of desperation — that’s what brings out passion,” he explains, on how the album came from a place of creative necessity.

That’s the real point of contention with Justin Timberlake. He’s not tortured by his creativity. The Nashville-born, Orlando-bred actor-musician keeps it moving by doing what moves him at the moment. If Justin’s musical moment is 16 years worth of recordings, that’s one hell of a side career.

1. ‘Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)’

Timbaland kicks it off with a dynamic beat. Justin is a hunter here — less a declaration of the sweetness that a ‘Pusher Love Girl’ has than it is a declaration of her prowess. “Take me to your jungle, I’m not afraid,” sings Justin. He can handle it.

2. ‘True Blood’

The fast-tempo track is a dead ringer for Timbaland’s ‘Release’ — even if it is a better version, it conjures memories to the prior JT-Timbo collaboration. ‘True Blood’ plays into the bad influence this mystery woman is with JT declaring, “Those girls wanna burn with me, but they don’t hold a candle.”

3. ‘Cabaret’ Feat. Drake

A strong ad-lib presence by Timbaland is accentuated by Drake’s guest spot on the track, which takes the naughtiness of a cabaret to the bedroom. With an Eddie Murphy reference by Drizzy, “On my Eddie Murphy Boomerang for ya / Got a bunch of old girls that I threw away for ya,” we have a smooth banger.

4. ‘TKO’

By far one Justin’s most epic breakup anthems since ‘Cry Me a River.’ The production here is a lot more sampled than the live instrumentation that was prominent in ’1 of 2.’ With TKO standing for ‘Technical Knock Out,’ JT sings, “Tell me how could you be so low? / Been swinging after the bell and after all of the whistle blows / Tried to go below the belt, through my chest, perfect hit to the dome.”

5. ‘Take Back the Night’

If Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ and ‘Rock With You’ cross-pollinated, ‘Take Bake the Night’ would result. Mr. Timberlake hasn’t channeled the late legend in such a way since his first solo single, ‘Like I Love You.’ The disco and funk groove make this one of the most subtle dance tracks of the year.

6. ‘Murder’ Feat. Jay Z

‘Murder’ marks the sixth time that JT and Jay Z team up this year. The collaboration pales in comparison to ‘Holy Grail’ and ‘Suit & Tie’ but the ladies will appreciate the fact that their lady parts are powerful as the J’s declare here. Check this Jay Z bar: “Know that s— gotta be lethal / If that s— broke up The Beatles / Chocha ruined pop culture.”

7. ‘Drink You Away’

We finally move into prominent live instrumentation that involves a guitar. With a metaphor that’s been done before that correlates woman troubles to alcohol, the song plays with a country influence. “Bottom of the bottle to fill this empty heart up / A thousand proof don’t change the truth,” he sings.

8. ‘You Got It On’

Justin is in full-form on this sweet ballad ,singing, “You don’t gotta worry what you wear tonight / Baby you got it on.” The Grammy winner asks his date not to worry about what she’s going to wear because she “already has it on.”

9. ‘Amnesia’

There’s vulnerability in ‘Amnesia’ that parallels ‘Still On My Brain.’ The track jumps from rapid mid-tempo bass and drops to slow vocal arrangements. “My whole memory of me in love is gone so far from me, It’s not fair/ But it just hurts too much, I let it go away,” the pop star sings.

10. ‘Only When I Walk Away’

“She loves you now / Only when I walk away,” we find JT, nearly yelling through the mic at the crazy girl that strikes again. ‘Only When I Walk Away’ is bathed in electric guitar and dark — almost angry.

11. ‘Not A Bad Thing’

“I won’t fill your mind with broken promises and wasted time / And if you fall, you’ll always land right in these arms,” coos Justin. Sweet Justin comes back for the closer to ‘The 20/20 Experience.’ ‘Not a Bad Thing’ is a simple, old-fashioned declaration of love with soft 808s and fluttering guitars.

Watch Justin Timberlake’s ‘Take Back the Night’ Video

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