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Justin Timberlake Continues to Dominate with “The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2”

October 7, 2013

By John Corrado

The 20:20 Experience 2 of 2 CD CoverAfter delivering a stunning musical comeback with The 20/20 Experience in March, Justin Timberlake has followed up that bestselling album with 2 of 2, a striking collection of songs that build upon the first set while bringing darker themes to the forefront.

The reviews this time have been mixed, but I heard the album before this critical consensus came out, and found myself completely in awe of the experience.  This negative press in no way takes away from my appreciation of the music at hand, and the record immediately went to the top of the charts after being released last Monday.

Where the first part of this massive sonic achievement offered something more romantic as a whole, The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 presents a much darker vision, with some of the edgiest lyrics that we have ever gotten from Justin Timberlake.  This time around the ideas of love are met with metaphors of murder and the supernatural, as talk of sexually animalistic impulses are woven throughout.  These themes ensure that both albums feel like two different experiences, providing a veritable double hit of records that can be enjoyed on their own, but grow even more impressive when played in unison.

As his voice weaves in and out of the looping beat of the sexy first track “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want),” the album takes off like a shot, kicking off a provocative and unforgettable journey through an entire night’s worth of music.  By the time the second track “True Blood” rolls around, I was already hooked.  A darkness infused showstopper that channels sexual metaphors through the supernatural and deserves plenty of October airplay alongside Michael Jackson’s iconic Halloween classic “Thriller,” the nearly ten minute track immediately feels like an instant classic.

A perfect justification for the September 30th release date, “True Blood” deserves a dark and edgy music video to match these autumn themes.  But many listeners who aren’t turned on by this point in the album surely will be by the third track “Cabaret,” an addictive and appropriately explicit collaboration with Drake that brings these instinctively sexual themes to the forefront.  “I can see in your eyes that there’s something inside that made you evil,” Justin Timberlake smoothly sings of a cheating girlfriend who knocked him down on the fourth track and second single “TKO,” cleverly using boxing metaphors to describe a rocky relationship built around sexual desire.

The fifth track and first single “Take Back the Night” has already enjoyed much success as an upbeat club tune throughout the summer, a slice of classic R&B that has the sound of vintage Michael Jackson.  But the instantly catchy beat and nighttime themes of this breakout track become even more provocative when heard with the rest of the album.  This temptation that the nighttime is safe once again leads right into the sixth track “Murder,” a collaboration with Jay-Z that is one of the darkest and most potentially controversial songs on the album.  The insistent beats and the perfectly calculated vocals seduce us into the feverish world of the song, an edgy track about the dangerous side of seduction.

The seventh track “Drink You Away” has him drowning his sorrows of failed romance in alcohol, as his voice is matched by a catchy guitar hook that gives this the classic sound of the blues.  The eighth track “You Got It On” starts off on a futuristic note, revealing itself to be a romantic R&B ballad, thematically playing almost like a counterpart to his hit single “Suit & Tie.”  By this point, the album has clearly established itself with themes of relationships failed and romance found, which continue through the ninth track “Amnesia.”  The song opens with sweeping classical instrumentals, becoming a moving rumination on the fading nature of a relationship and the moments when things started to change, before closing on a note that recalls his crowning 2003 achievement “Cry Me a River.”

There are rock influences on the tenth track “Only When I Walk Away,” building with the sound of an electric guitar as he sings with bitterness towards a failed romance that once burned brightly, exemplified by the sampling of dialogue that closes the piece.  But what makes this album work so well as a whole, is how these darker themes lead into the light.  The eleventh track “Not a Bad Thing” is a beautifully performed piece of romantic songwriting that sees him ready to fall in love all over again, finishing the album on a surprisingly perfect note.  After a long pause of silence, the lengthy track surprises us with a hidden final song, a lovely and stripped down ballad that closes the set with a quietly romantic sound.

For me, every track on The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 feels like a standout for their own reasons, and they only grow more impressive with each subsequent play.  The placement of the songs is equally perfect, leading up to a concept album of sorts that takes us through darkness and light, themes of primitive sexual desires mixed with the bitterness of failed relationships, and finally the hope of finding love all over again.  Along with the first instalment, The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 is not only another milestone achievement for Justin Timberlake, but also one of the most impressive things I have heard all year.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenn permalink
    December 2, 2013 10:20 pm

    I am with you on this!! I absolutely love this album and don’t understand some of the negative reviews it’s received. My husband and I listen to it constantly and find that it is so original and more enjoyable every time we play it. It’s one of the rare albums I can listen to from beginning to end and get lost in.

    Like

    • December 3, 2013 12:15 am

      Yes! It’s great to hear from someone else who loves this album as much as I do! 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

      -John C.

      Like

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