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Justin Timberlake 20/20I realize I’m in the company of few when I acknowledge that I’m an avid lover of music who never really got into Justin Timberlake. Sure I rocked to “Cry Me a River” and “Sexyback” like everyone else who had a radio, but a part of me could never separate the talented artist from the the over-popularized ‘N Sync – a 90s boy band that achieved undeniable success as pop musical sensations. Much to my chagrin and the disdain of my peers, I’ve never given any of Justin’s albums a complete listen. That in mind, I present my personal review of The 20/20 Experience: a candid analysis on how Justin Timberlake could be taking his music to another level.

I assumed Timbaland’s notable return to music would occur at Missy Elliott’s long-awaited rejoinder. Interestingly enough, it’s more of Justin Timberlake’s collaborating with the mega producer that has fans once again appreciating the rhythmical mixes he’s known for. Every one of the 10 tracks that were released boasts some association with Timbaland. Hate it or love it, from Jodeci to Madonna, Timbaland has covered music. He’s covered this album and it has not-so-subtle reminders all over it.

Musical arrangement is key. Besides a beat and some bass, The 20/20 Experience has a groove. I dropped out of my high school band when I realized band camp was an actual requirement yet I’m never deaf to what’s happening beyond the lyrics. While listening to Justin’s new album, I hear the likes of Count Bassie’s piano in “I Can’t Stop Loving You” or the Atlanta Orchestra as they performed Monica’s “Street Symphony”. We hate the phrase “grown and sexy” because it was far overused by many who were immature & dreadful, but there aren’t two words more suitable to define this compilation. The tracks are romantic and long-winded – Timberlake matured from the moonwalk to a two-step. He stepped into the studio in 2002 as the White Usher Raymond and stepped out in 2013 reeking of Robin Thicke. I’ve been bitching about the lack of vocal talent within the male contemporaries category since Gerald Levert kicked the bucket and finally, our males entertainers can to some degree be once again considered vocalists! No one’s swooning like Jesse Powell but Miguel, JT and (sometimes) Frank Ocean are enough to appease my tastes. Luther’s gone; I’ve faced it.

Timberlake is reminding us why R&B is a mainstay in musical genres and solidifying his position as one of the most creative to ever do it. The man’s got soul. My prayer for this album is that its early release date (relative to 2013) won’t render it forgettable for Grammy nominations. Adele’s given every artist of the digital age hope: an album can still sweep the Grammy’s and sell 10 million + copies worldwide. No, your name doesn’t have to be Michael Jackson. Though his fans have seemingly and prematurely put Future Sex/Love Sound above The 20/20 Experience, it’s already heralded an impressive release by the 32-year-old singer/song-writer/actor. I’m inclined to believe Justin has reached the level of stardom that makes him numb to critics; this is an album he wanted to do and his target audience is anyone who can appreciate the talented effort.

-Brian Riddick

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