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Does JT's New Album Live Up to His Potential?

A review of “The 20/20 Experience” by Erin Z. Bass. 

After seeing Memphis native Justin Timberlake perform Suit and Tie on the Grammys with his band The Tennessee Kids, I realized just how much potential he had for making music that sounds like no one else and will hopefully stand the test of time. Dressed as dapper as Cary Grant or Clark Gable in his own suit and tie, with the sounds of a big band behind him, JT brought his Southern roots to that performance, while at the same time testing the boundaries of music and welcoming special guest Jay-Z.

That said, I had high hopes for the rest of his new album, “The 20/20 Experience.” Unfortunately, after listening to a live stream on iTunes last week, I was disappointed. The Motown vibe of Suit and Tie is isolated to only a few songs. I don’t blame JT for trying out some Latin sounds on Let the Groove Get In, which he’s described as “The Jackson 5 meets South America,” but it didn’t work for me. And that Strawberry Bubblegum song is more suited for Justin Bieber. At eight minutes long a little less than halfway into the album, it feels close to torture. And I never thought I’d say that about the adorable JT.

There are a few other standouts on the album, like Pusher Love Girl, That Girl and Mirrors, but they get lost in its disjointedness and a seven-minute song about a spaceship. The fact that this is just the first half of his album isn’t all that comforting either. The second part of “20/20” is set to be released in November and contains another 10 songs. I’m thinking he should have just consolidated them into one and chosen the best 10 (hint: leave out the bubblegum and spaceships).

This just isn’t the followup I expected to “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” which had six hit singles and, no doubt, brought sexy back. For an album that started out with no clear direction, Timberlake’s second sounds well thought out and experiments with different genres without straying too far from his signature sound. I don’t think he found that common thread to weave through “20/20.” For now, I’ll keep listening to Suit and Tie and hope for more R&B in part two.

The 20/20 Experience became available to the public yesterday. Get it on iTunes, at Target or on Amazon.

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