Some time before the start of the summer last year Justin Timberlake woke up in his Hollywood mansion. He got out of bed leaving then fiancé, now wife Jessica Biel to sleep on. He walked down his hallway, past his Grammys, Emmys and posters for Oscar-winning films he’s been in. He looked out over the Hollywood Hills and sighed. “They said I would change pop music,” he thought to himself, reminiscing about the hysteria that surrounded ‘Justified’ in 2002. “They said I was the next Michael Jackson. They said I would change pop music.”
So Mr Timberlake resolved there and then, in that fictional time and space, to get back on the musical horse and finally release a sequel to ‘Future Sex/Love Sounds’; a sequel that would change pop history. But not just any sequel, a double sequel. After the critical and commercial success of ‘The 20/20 Experience’, released in March, comes ‘The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2’; the Breaking Dawn – Part 2 of this epic.
And like Breaking Dawn Part – Part 2 you’ll be screaming for this to be over long before it actually is. This is an overlong, overcooked, behemoth of a pop album. There are frequent, brief moments of pop genius but they are too often subsumed into bloated, narcissistic flab, like the sparkly bits in a Fruitang.
TKO, for example, is a fine pop song; one sure to tear up dance-floors and radio waves concerned with the younger generation. That is until it, for some inexplicable reason, deigns to continue on beyond the five-minute mark with only some dodgy beat-boxing to change its direction.
Take Back the Night again follows the same formula. Initially placed somewhere between MJ’s Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, it is a perfect summery pop song for four minutes. It’s too bad then that the song lasts for six minutes.
Amnesia suffers the exact same fate. When it all goes quiet at the five-minute mark, we think that’s it. No wait, there’s another act remaining in this one. Ditto the Kanye West inspired Only When I Walk Away, which comes so close to being a high point on the album. We won’t even mention the nine and a half-minute True Blood.
There are some complete missteps too. Drink You Away is almost like a Nickelback song: shallow, with a country, rocking sound. It is one of only two songs on the album that adequately fills its running time though; the other being the thankfully brief Cabaret.
You Got it On is the real low though. It is the sound of the worst attempt at seduction ever. It almost sounds as though Timberlake is in his Lonely Island guise, with a voice pitched higher can is surely healthy, but there’s nothing approaching humour in it. It’s so sickly sweet that it could turn a hypoglycemia sufferer into a diabetic. It’s a song Justin Bieber would turn down, saying it’s not masculine enough. Dare I reference Twilight again?
‘The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2’ finally clocks in at 11 songs in 74 minutes. Certainly two, if not three, minutes could be cut off each song and the album would be all the better for it. It’s almost as though you are listening to an extended cut; though Timberlake seems intent on teaching Peter Jackson a thing or two here.
This is bloated and self-indulgent in the extreme. It is the spoilt youngest child of an album. It’s the sound of someone who doesn’t know when enough is enough in his music. We’d expect something produced by Timbaland to be so much more concise.
It could all have been so much better. This has changed nothing.
Next time Justin, go back to bed. Jessica’s waiting for you after all.