When Justin Timberlake, one of the biggest pop artists of all-time, released The 20/20 Experience, one of the biggest albums of 2013, it nearly went platinum in its first week. How did he follow up on the hype? By putting out part two of that album, of course.
There had been rumors floating around that Timberlake would release a sequel to the album, and he officially confirmed them on his Instagram account on May 5, when he posed in the studio holding a written note that read: “The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2) Sept. 30th.” Since then, fans have been waiting.
The 20/20 Experience was JT’s first studio album since 2006’s Grammy-nominated FutureSex/LoveSounds, and the anticipation surrounding it generated incredible sales: The album sold 968,000 copies during its first week, becoming the number one album on the Billboard 200 and Timberlake’s best-selling first week of his solo music career.
With the success of part one, expectations for part two might have been pushed even higher. Would The 20/20 Experience — 2 of 2 end up being a lesser replica of its predecessor, filled with songs that simply were not good enough to make the first album?
In a word, no.
It is evident that Timberlake wanted to make The 20/20 Experience — 2 of 2 something different from part one but still a part of the complete “experience” by featuring songs recorded during the same sessions as the previous album, as well as songs recorded afterward. The album is heavily influenced by a hip-hop sound and brings a more up-tempo style to many of its songs, unlike the prior album.
The standout single “TKO” is the best example of this and it is also one of the catchiest songs on the album. Timbaland’s production on the song’s beat is full of driving synths and strange clicks and pops, something consistent with what fans have come to expect from his work with Timberlake. JT’s voice delivers a surprisingly hard-hitting chorus of harmonization about how he is “out for the count” because of how his girl has changed.
Keeping with the hip-hop theme, the only featured artists on The 20/20 Experience — 2 of 2 are rappers: Drake and Jay Z.
Drake’s verse on the smooth track “Cabaret” is something special. He raps for nearly an entire minute during his verse, delivering one of his best guest verses to date. In addition to spitting lines such as, “It’s like I’m undercover, [the] way I’m cuffing you though / Presidential sh-t, girl, you up on the poles,” his flow is reminiscent of his older style while fitting in perfectly with Timberlake’s fast-paced melodies.
Though the up-tempo style is more prevalent on the album, it still has its fair share of blues and soul tracks.
One can always expect something unique from the pairing of Timberlake and Timbaland, and the blues track “Drink You Away” certainly fits that description. Full of on-point electric guitar and organs, JT takes on the task of singing out the pain of past relationships, asking, “Don’t they make a medicine for heartbreak?” because alcohol just does not seem to work.
And if you are looking for some old-school soul, JT takes his music back to the ’70s with his lead single, “Take Back The Night.” Horns blast throughout the chorus with various breakdowns, providing one of the best dance songs on the album.
Even though this album fails to deliver a true ballad, the final track titled “Not A Bad Thing” clocks in at 11 minutes and 31 seconds, enough time to feature an entirely separate song with only an acoustic guitar and Timberlake’s vocals for the last 6 minutes of the track. Unofficially named “Pair Of Wings,” the song closes out the album on a happy, loving note.
With The 20/20 Experience — 2 of 2, Justin Timberlake expands on the innovative sound he conceived on part one. His connection with producer Timbaland is just as special, creating new and exciting music that borrows its style from various genres of the musical spectrum. Everything from rock, blues, hip hop and dance finds its way into this musical conglomerate of an album.
The two albums have just enough nuance to differentiate themselves from one another. As the first album featured more slow-paced songs and positivity about finding love, this album delves into some of the tougher parts of falling in and out of love while maintaining that something good can certainly come from it.
For what it lacks in true love songs and happy emotions, The 20/20 Experience — 2 of 2 makes up for it in honest lyricism and vocals full of passion. It is clear that Justin Timberlake has mastered the formula for success, and with that, he has created yet another musical masterpiece.
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