Even the most talented artists don’t always know when to leave well enough alone. So when they don’t, they usually make the ill-fated mistake of over-extending their art, which proves to be unnecessary and at times, a hasty blunder. And unfortunately, that summarizes Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2.
After a seven-year hiatus focusing on his acting career and business ventures with a few musical guest appearances, JT made a dynamic return to his roots by releasing the illustrious first half to The 20/20 Experience: The Complete Experience; an elegantly decorated album that is a seamless blend of his previous projects: Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds with just enough newness showing his growth and creative triumph. We saw the “prince of pop” experiment even more expanding his already growing sound by merging a generous amount of genres creating a multi-dimensional work that was a kick in the door comeback alerting the Justin Biebers of the world who the crown rightfully belonged to. But instead of letting this “experience” marinate, he over-extended the invitation.
The 20/20 Experience (part deux) is a collection of 11 leftovers and outtakes from Timberlake’s recording session with a few newbies blended in. The production crew remains the same; Timberlake himself, J-Roc and Justin’s most prominent conductor Timbaland. “TJT” produced each track collectively with the exception of two with additional production credits from Daniel Jones. Since it was the same crew, you can hear the uniformity that allows the album to flow quite well, structurally creating a cohesive blend of thunderous songs. And with only two guest appearances: Drake and Jay Z, it’s more Justin in all of his grandiose bravado though he might have given us too much JT.
“Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” with it’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” like introduction leads the album and sets the tone for the loud, atmospheric tracks to come. The lead single, “Take Back The Night” (which need been titled different considering it shares a moniker with an anti-rape organization) has Timberlake hitting the town to party with an attractive woman reminiscent of the “Rock With You” Michael Jackson era. It’s unnecessarily long but has a decent amount of soul with a hint of disco and flamboyant horns, which will do exactly what it was intended to; get people moving. “Cabaret” sounds like 2013’s answer to “My Love,” and “Murder” featuring Jay Z has Justin up against an intensely gorgeous woman whose sex is lethal. It would’ve worked better as Jay’s track featuring Justin in terms of rhythmic structure, as Mr. Carter spits a semi-decent verse about the power of Yoko Ono; a clever comparison but forcefully eccentric. Other tracks sound misplaced in comparison to the rest but are the best the album has to offer.
Vocally, Justin sounds just as good as he did seven years ago: maybe even better. His striking falsetto is still crisp, his runs curve around the melodic chords like a California bend and the soulfulness that placed him ahead of his group mates is present on each track. He sticks with a lot of the same subjects: love, relationships, clubbing and having a good time. Nothing too heavy, but he doesn’t revitalize his lyrical offerings by taking a different approach or flipping the script and giving us something unexpected. On the boards, the songs are extremely coated—filled with throbbing bass, pulsating rhythms and dramatic flair—with a few incredible guitar riffs and acoustics alongside the ambiguous reverberation that only Timbaland can bring. They do blend well but are at times predictable and more parallel to a run on sentence than they should be.
The key to making a compilation album in two parts is for all the tracks to play a key role in the overall theme and to remove any filler, especially if it is a lengthy project such as this one clocking in at 21 tracks in total. And even if the songs are leftovers, they shouldn’t sound like it. Had these 11 tracks been presented like they were B-sides or rarities, it may not have been as detrimental but they were offered up as a continuation to an album that didn’t need a part two in the first place. Justin should’ve also mixed up the production by adding in some Neptunes, Nate “Danja” Hills or Scott Storch; producers he’s worked well with in the past to give it a refreshing reset because these tracks sound formulaic in a bad way, run way too long and don’t offer anything distinctive to the “experience.” These are also situational songs that don’t have a lot of universal replay value, but they will fill JT’s fans up with enough material to forgive him for the gap he left in the music world for the last seven years. And in the end, it’s obvious Justin had quite a bit to say but sometimes, some things are just better left unsaid.