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Justin Timberlake's 'The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2' Review: Album Of The Year?

September 30th, 2013 8:46am EDT

The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2 Not many musicians would release a second album just six months after a massively successful one and a sold-out stadium tour with the reigning King of Hip Hop, Jay Z. But most musicians aren't Justin Timberlake. "The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2" unfathomably tops its predecessor with an operatic exploration of soul, county, funk, R&B swaddled in JT's legendary charisma.
If the “The 20/20 Experience” was about the simple act of falling in love, 2 of 2 encapsulates the complicated work of sustaining it. From the initial seduction in the "Thriller"-esque "True Blood" and the ode to bedroom stripteases "Cabaret" featuring Drake to darker times when love and hate are one in the same as in the pain-smudged bluesy stunner "Drink You Away" and the scathingly badass rock-soul "Only When I Walk Away” to the happy ending in the sunny “Not A Bad Thing.”
As with the Experience, most songs are at least five minutes long with extended outros, which can enhance a track's strengths or exaggerate its weakenesses. The last minutes of "Only When I Walk Away" is the audible equivalent to cubism, a raw, wild exploration of sound with robust drums and a funked up vocals. The closing riffs of "Not A Bad Thing" is an another song entirely about flitting off in a cocoon of love, featuring just Timberlake’s caramel voices and an acoustic guitar. On the flipside, the additional minutes renders the monstrous banger “True Blood” a little anemic.
Timberlake may rely a little too heavily on uber-producer Timbaland’s mad-scientist production, however, he also proves that beyond the smoke and mirrors burns an inferno of talent. 2 of 2 features Timberlake's freest and strongest vocals of career. The frills-free “Drink You Away” is unabashed Memphis soul steeped in a gritty country riff. And “You Got It On”—a showcase of Timberlake’s golden falsetto that rivals that of Maxwell and even the King of Pop himself—is a throwback to classic babymaking R&B. Along with the haunting “Amnesia,” these songs provide the ballads and slow tempos that the breezy “The 20/20 Experience” lacked.
As a whole, “The 20/20 Experience” is undoubtedly a platinum gem in Timberlake’s already treasure-trove of a career, and more than likely the best of the year. While most artists directly reference their influences, Timberlake’s varied inspirations resonate in the space between beats and the breaths between notes. While the musicality and vocals pay homage to Michael Jackson, Queen, Al Green, Marvin Gaye and others, the dynamic execution is entirely Timberlake.
Grade: A+
Check out Timberlake's video for "Take Back The Night." "The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2" is in stores now.

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Photo Credits: RCA Recrods

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