To become a Justin Timberlake fan is never easy. Just when one expects him to move on in terms of music and wardrobe, he does a U-turn, which works. One of the best releases of the year so far, The 20/20 Experience (RCA) is sonically bold and musically unlike his previous albums (Justified, 2002; FutureSex/ LoveSounds, 2006). But the effort is not just about the sound… it’s about, well, Justin and his world.
The picture on the cover makes one reminisce about his early days, when he and Britney Spears were a sizzling pair wearing matching outfits. Or to the time when he sported a cool haircut to sync with the boy band image of ’N Sync. Some may even recall his baby-face picture with Ryan Gosling when they starred on The Mickey Mouse Club (1993).
His first release in seven years allows him to re-establish himself on the music scene from scratch, for the album is filled with sounds he hasn’t tried before –– the Bee Gees-sounding Strawberry Bubblegum, the David Bowie-sque Spaceship Coupe and the smooth Suit & Tie, a reminder of Bill Withers and Al Green numbers.
The 20/20 Experience has come at a time when Justin is busy with all kinds of activities –– film career (Friends With Benefits, Bad Teacher, Trouble With The Curve), TV reality series The Phone (on which he is the executive producer), fashion label (William Rast, a label he founded in 2006 with Trace Ayala) and, of course, marriage (to Jessica Biel).
Most importantly, he is now a happy man, who has put the Britney episode (and the nipple-slip incident with Janet Jackson!) behind to deliver numbers like the salsa-driven Let The Groove Get In and the mojo-reviving Tunnel Vision. He even throws in a dedication to his wife in Mirrors: “I’m looking right at the other half of me… It’s like you’re my mirror, staring back at me.”
It’s the stuff that wins Grammys!