Justin Timberlake’s Critics See Clear To Mostly Lavish ’20/20′ With Positive Reviews
Justin Timberlake's 20/20 Experience doesn't officially come out till March 19, but since fans can already hear the whole thing streaming on iTunes, most critics aren't holding their reviews for the release date. The consensus: He's turned himself into much more of an old-school smoothie on this effort... and the reviewers consider themselves happily smoothed. The praise-to-negativity ratio for 20/20 seems to be running about 90/10.
"The 20/20 Experience"
"The 20/20 Experience"
A number of reviewers have commented on how relaxed and, well, long most of the songs are. "The 20/20 Experience is the biggest pop event of 2013 so far, but it's not quite a pop album," notes Jody Rosen in Rolling Stone. "Its sense of musical space-time is more elastic and sprawling than anything on the radio: The 10 tracks average seven minutes; songs unfurl into vamps, abruptly change keys, pile on unexpected beats and harmonies. The music is catchy, but the emphasis is on rhythm and flow... You might call The 20/20 Experience Timberlake's neo-soul record. (It has more in common with D'Angelo and Maxwell than Usher or Bieber.)"
Rosen is also one of several critics warning JT fans not to expect too exact a repeat of his previous blockbuster album, which came out seven long years ago—and insisting that's a good thing. "The 20/20 Experience may test the patience of fans expecting immediate gratification," continues the RS critic. "There are no songs as instantly infectious as 'Like I Love You' or 'SexyBack,' nothing that cuts as deep as 'Cry Me a River' or 'My Love.' But eventually the music sinks its teeth in, even on the wooziest songs."
People magazine's Chuck Arnold sounds the same alarm: "If you are looking for this to be another Justified or FutureSex/LoveSounds, it's not. While those albums were more about instant-gratification pop, The 20/20 Experience... is the more challenging vision of an artist creating a cohesive work rather than a collection of singles. Most songs stretch out for more than seven minutes, taking interesting twists and dissolving into cool codas that wouldn't make the radio edits." Arnold goes on to call it "maybe the best sounding album you'll hear all year" and adds that, with more classic R&B flourishes, "This time he's bringing romance back."
Contrasting past and present efforts, Billboard's Jason Lipshutz says Timberlake has "returned as a more relaxed version of himself... The propulsive moans and aggressive come-ons of his 2006 smash single 'Sexyback,' for instance, have been traded for big-band brass, creeping bass and open-hearted professions of love." Billboard also praises Timberlake for presenting an album that has no obtrusive guest stars, once you get past the obligatory Jay-Z cameo everyone has already heard on "Suit and Tie."