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For someone who stayed awfully quiet at the mic, Justin Timberlake had a lot to say this year. Following the tremendous success of 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, a few years turned into seven, and no one quite knew when JT would return to the studio. Then, without warning, a mysterious teaser-trailer hinted at a new musical venture. We all let out a collective sigh of relief.
When The 20/20 Experience dropped in March, the disc exceeded the almost impossible-to-meet expectations. But Timberlake had grown more mature, more confident and more daring. It was a breath of fresh air. News soon hit that the project would consist of two parts. Few people can get away with releasing two albums in a six-month span. But if anyone could pull it off, JT had a pretty good shot. Now that part 2 of 2 has landed (releasing this past Monday), Timberlake seems to be overstaying his “welcome back party.” Since the reigning “Prince of Poop” seemed to do no wrong, it was a tough pill to swallow.
JT once again teams up with his resident maestro, Timbaland, for 2 of 2. While they both stuck to the same formula of mesmerizing dance beats over sensual vocals, the fire that drove Part 1 appeared to have burned out. Recorded during the same marathon session, many of the songs sounded like leftovers as opposed to a stellar album in it’s own right. Like Part 1, the songs run long, with an average length of six minutes. But unlike the first record, 2 of 2 offers run on sentences, as opposed to the long, compelling narratives of the first.
Two heart-thumping dance beats kick things off on a somewhat disappointing note. “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” may sound reminiscent of 2006’s “LoveStoned” and “True Blood” echoes “Thriller,” (equipped with the Vincent Price-like sneering), yet neither live up to JT’s knack for knocking us on our asses. Like the girl turned-prizefighting love tune “TKO” or the dreary “Amnesia,” the album simply sounds boring at times. “Not A Bad Thing” sees JT stepping on Chris Brown’s toes, which is not the company you want to be in. These pop songs might work for other artists, but they fail to live up to the standards of Timberlake’s charismatic deliveries.
That’s not to say the album doesn’t have its moments. The Drake-assisted “Cabaret” sounds more focused and seductive, finally unleashing the Justin we looked for through the album’s first 15 minutes. The lead single “Take Back The Night” – a disco-driven groove that could have come straight from Off The Wall – picks things up a bit. “Drink You Away” is a terrific guitar-backed gospel/rock song that pairs Levon Helm’s The Band with Al Green. “You Got It On” finally gives us that captivating slow jam, with R&B that will make most girls weak in the knees. Surprisingly, one of the disc’s most tender moments comes from the hidden final track, “Pair of Wings,” an acoustic song that ends things in a sweet, enjoyable fashion. Both Timbaland and JT somewhat kept 2 of 2 afloat with a darker sound and more aggressive lyrics, but the album fails to match the shear creativeness of Part 1.
Timberlake has reached a point in his career where experimentation can lead to amazing things. But on 2 of 2, he lost his footing by pushing it a little too far. 2.5/5 Stars. The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 is now available for purchase on iTunes.