Album Analysis: Timberlake’s return invokes so-so rating

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Justin Timberlake created grandeur pop on his third solo album, and seeing the experience in 20/20 vision isn’t difficult due to predictability. 

“FutureSex/LoveSounds” churned out hits for the better part of two years as hip-hop producer Timbaland created the backdrop for a vocal seduction. Seven years later, contemporaries Fergie, Nelly Furtado and Akon no longer rule the charts, which gives Timberlake a chance to seal his fate as an all-around icon.  

“The 20/20 Experience” builds on themes incorporated in its first single, “Suit & Tie.” Orchestral funk gives sophistication under Timberlake’s belting.

After listening to this record, I realized my review of the song, featured in “2013 has potential; no albums stand out yet,” was off.    

Yes, the Album Analyzer makes mistakes sometimes, and “Suit & Tie” exhibits Timberlake’s greatest strength on the album: He takes control of each song. Flashing back to “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” Timbaland’s clanky grumbles lambasted throughout “SexyBack,” and T.I. made “My Love” his in less than 30 seconds. Timberlake outshines Jay-Z, though, with a show-stopping performance.

For those wondering if “The 20/20 Experiences” contrasts or resembles his last effort, track four, “Strawberry Bubblegum,” shows the answer sits somewhere in the middle.

In each song, Timberlake tries new things but doesn’t change completely—allowing quality to override ambition that fails at leaving an impression. Timbaland shared production duties once again; however, he tones down his presence. In addition, most songs feature the catchy introductions and outros, like “FutureSex/LoveSounds.”

“I’m trying to find the alien in you/if it’s cool,” sings Timberlake on “Spaceship Coupe,” preparing you and your lover for some moonboot loving. “That Girl” follows, and soulful guitar shows the singer paying homage to his Tennessee roots.

Listeners must wait until the second-to-last song for one of the more memorable singles of the last few years.

Mirrors” features sick beat-boxing and powerful keys. Timberlake has a classic love song here. Only Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You” features as much top-40 appeal, and this song alone marks his comeback as a successful one.

“The 20/20 Experience” doesn’t end successfully, though.

The lackadaisical, stretched-out finale that is “Blue Ocean Floor” lasts seven minutes when two would’ve been sufficient. Drawn-out instrumentals make sense in rock music, but seeing as Timberlake’s repertoire lacks 20-minute, Neil Young-style guitar solos, conciseness makes more sense.

If Timbaland and his crooning friend structure each song epically, they must have the impact “Purple Rain” or “Sweet Child O’ Mine” does. If not, overdrawn efforts are boring and expendable.

The album clocks in at over 70 minutes; it should last 40.

Energy bounds in each song, and the choruses are strong, but the subpar songs are too generic and their lengths make listening more unpleasant.

On the plus side, after a seven-year hiatus, Timberlake’s desire for releasing an epic album should be applauded. He could create anything at this point and garner success and fame.

However, as a true entertainer, Timberlake refuses to settle for mediocrity. “The 20/20 Experience” is far from mediocre—or excellent.

Final rating: Three and-a-half out of five suns.