This deluxe second helping of the 20/20 Experience gives us the opportunity to celebrate what makes Justin Timberlake such a remarkable performer.
The first time I slid disc #1 (deluxe edition purchased, of course) into my car stereo, pumped as always for a new JT soundtrack, I was not so thrilled by tracks one and two (“Gimme What I Don’t Know” and “True Blood”), so that obviously didn’t help. The songs to follow were easy on the ears, and brought me back to a simpler time of Timberlake, let’s call it, Before “Sexy Back” (B.S.E.).
Within a week, with the CD still on constant rotation, I was hooked. I loved the familiarity of the soon-to-be hits, unlike the good folks at thechroicleherald.ca, who lambasted the album by stating: "2 of 2 doesn’t challenge enough, and we want and expect more from one of music’s best all-around entertainers, especially when the original 20/20 Experience still has so much more to offer."
So there it is Justin. You did such an amazing job on 20/20 - 1 of 1 that you’ve wasted all of Canada’s…I mean record buyers time and money! At least I don’t feel the same! Unfortunately, the critics continued to take their shots, this time over at hotnewhiphop.com, who offered a backhanded compliment by claiming '2 of 2' consists of “lyrical downfalls and mediocre moments saved by solid production and flawless vocals on a sexy, edgy sequel to the clean-cut 20/20 Experience.”
But my favorite negative piece I read was from the consciousofsound.net who captioned the album, as “this isn’t truffle season.” That’s funny. Even witty. But wrong! And let me tell you why.
By now Justin Timberlake has earned the right to pretty much create whatever type of music he so desires. He’s an artist and it’s his gosh-dang right to do so! Just because an album shares a similar title to another wildly successful, yet seven years in the making piece ('1 of 1') doesn’t make it the same friggin piece of music!
What would be the point of that anyway? Instead, '2 of 2' should be looked as an experiment of sorts. What I feel JT and his team did, was take a little bit of everything they've written and recorded over the past 10 years, mashed it up, and even sprinkled in a little old school nostalgic *NSYNC for good measure to create what he, the artist, wanted to release.
Sure the byproduct has hints of what we’ve heard (don’t forget loved) from his past work, but more importantly, it gives us the opportunity to celebrate and appreciate what makes this entertainer so remarkable; his ability to stretch his musical talents so wide, that we as fans are sure to accept it as a new style of “Timberlake,” when it’s really the same guy we’ve watched since the late 90’s, this time, only more aware of himself as a performer.
Track by Track:
Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)
The opening tune definitely was a grower. This is the first track that Timbaland puts his stank (a good thing) all over. A wild jungle backdrop set to overlaying harmonies and a hard bass line makes for a fun beginning to an eclectic mix.
This is the only song I’ve yet to warm up to. At 9:31, it’s quite the investment in time. And with the continuous arrangement changes, werewolf howls, and Halloween feel, I’ve yet to be hooked. Maybe it’s JT’s homage to MJ’s “Thriller”. At least that would make some sort of sense.
Man, this song is smooth! True cinematic production once again from Timbo ushers in a fiery verse from the new face of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, Drizzy-Drake. Someone tell Drake to feature Timberlake on a hook or two for his next album. That latest effort of his, 'Nothing Was The Same' had me thinking I had accidentally picked up a Keith Sweat CD at Target by accident.
Hottest track on the album for sure! It’s as good a second release as “Mirrors” ever was. The beat, the verses, the lyrics, they're all heavy hitters. If you can’t get down to this anthem, then just stop. As for the video, I’m not really sure what the hell I’m watching, well, besides from Riley Keough!
Hello! Scary how much she looks like her mother and subsequent grandfather. Google it if you don’t know whom those two people are I speak of. As for the video, there is very little interaction between JT and Riley, who is only dressed in a white men’s business shirt.
Besides from intense glares, reminiscent of the movie “Drive”, what we witness is Justin having his way with Riley; her in turn, whacking him upside the head with a frying pan, tying his legs to the back of a truck, driving towards a cliff, she jumps out leaving Justin to look back as he and the truck descend down the cliff to his inevitable death.
What did this storyline have to do with the song lyrics?! I thought the song was a simple case of female betrayal. Yet the video sets the case for forced intercourse and murder. Or am I over thinking it?
Take Back The Night
Every time I hear the intro, I immediately think back to a warm summer night riding through NYC in a drop top convertible. If you have no idea about the feeling I describe, I implore you to reenact this scenario one time in your life while jamming out to “Take Back The Night.” Shoot for June before the humidity is around 99%. The video did a fantastic job of putting all this on display. After all, songs should take us on a journey.
Back is ‘HOV’ in a big way. His line about Yoko Ono and the Beatles is insanely clever! I won't ruin it for you, but look out for its crass nature. Even the beat has a bit of two-step, Knight Rider-ish flava to accompany a fly melody and tight harmonies.
Drink You Away
Another great descriptive imagery drive tale of heartbreak, and how one man deals with his loneliness. Just picture JT sitting in a dark and smoky Memphis bar, perhaps a bit inebriated, head spinning, throwing back shots, one after another while spilling his guts to whomever will listen.
Wait a minute, that’s the idea for the video! Get his people on the phone. I’ll direct it! Throw in the Tennessee Kids playing outside the bar, maybe on a desolate dirt road and we’ve got fire, people!
You Got It On
It begins like a T-Pain track, which scared the crap out of me. But soon enough it rolls into a super chill vibe, reminiscent of my all time favorite vocalist, Craig David and his ultra cool vibe, where JT’s vocals and song writing ability take you on a stroll of peace and tranquility. Bravo.
I’m sorry, but damn I love this song!! It hits hard, but not over the top. It’s catchy almost to a fault and has a hook that will haunt you dreams, all while truly taking you back… back to the days of those 5 dudes who called themselves *NSYNC.
If JT didn’t write and record this song with his ex-bandmates in mind, then I’d be shocked. Just listen to those melodies in the hook and chorus. Tell me a little piece of you didn’t hope JC Chasez would come in for the second verse.
Only When I Walk Away
Blue, blues, blues and…well you get the point. I hear Lenny Kravitz all over this one. Maybe it’s the slight vocal distortion. Maybe it’s the overall badassness of the song. Either way, JT really flips the switch on his style with this banger.
Not A Bad Thing
Yet again, Timberlake completes a CD with a soulful, thought provoking melodic explosion of emotions. This song is catchy as hell. It’s simple, but that’s the beauty of it. Here JT proves just how diverse his repertoire really is. Sometimes going back to basics is all you really need. And make sure you wait for 5:31 into the song. It could have been an interlude, regardless it’s dope how one man could make 4 different lines sound so friggin’ intriguing.
As for the bonus track, I’m not going to get into them, because my biggest complaint of '2 of 2' is the fact that two songs were placed on a completely separate CD. When and why am I going to put in a separate disc for just two songs! Sure I’m nitpicking, but so did you before you read this article.
At the end of the day, I for one am glad Justin Timberlake continues to push his musical boundaries. He released a two-part mini-series when he didn’t have to, and quite honestly, no one expected it. So don’t be critical, just find something for you that stands out within the 74 minutes of '2 of 2'. Because the truth is, who knows the next time we’ll get new music from JT.