(Listen to Strawberry Bubblegum, one of my favorite tracks off of this album)
So I write this because I’m unabashedly excited about Justin Timberlake’s new album The 20/20 Experience. I’ve now listened to the entire thing any chance I can get and I am anxiously awaiting my car ride to Toronto where I can listen to the entire thing from beginning to end once more. It’s THAT good.
My relationship with the music of Justin Timberlake has been quite interesting. When he was part of *NSYNC, I wanted nothing to do with any of those songs
(though I will deny singing along to “Tearing Up My Heart” and “Girlfriend”). When he released his first solo album Justified as what I thought initially was a self-indulgent side project for this boy bander, I kinda started to pay attention because the album was produced by The Neptunes and Timbaland. “Like I Love You” came on the airwaves and I liked it. It sounded fresh and different. But I didn’t buy it.
Then, “Cry Me A River” entered the picture and I froze in my tracks.
Then I saw the video and I was sold. I saw the emergence of someone trying to actually do something different, and perhaps shake the boy band mold. I caved, and I bought the CD. And I was pleased to find that the entire album was a new sounding and fun R&B album. I got it. There was more to this guy. He’s a songwriter and producer too – mad respect with that.
I love when artists take a long time between records. Because that shows that it’s not just about making a profit, but they want to create something that they can stand by. Don’t get me wrong – I get frustrated and antsy when an artist I love takes a long time too, but I respect it at the same time. It’s a lovely dichotomy.
So, 4 years later, Justin releases Futuresex/Love Sounds and everyone goes mental – but I didn’t. I liked the album, but its freaky sexual personality felt more forced to me more than anything. There’s some songs I do like on it, but as a whole I wasn’t a fan. I sort attribute that album for him as the “fuck structure and what people want – I’m releasing a freaky album that distances myself from any boy band fandom memory you may have!” Which is fine – I think every artist who is trying to break out of a mold that the public puts him or her in, ends up making an album that sorta tries to rebel against that (see Alanis Morissette’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie for reference – an album I admire but not for all, but clearly part of her evolution as well).
Mara and I (and Chantal and Carl!) ended up seeing Justin in concert the summer of 2007 for the tour he did around Futuresex. That really cinched the deal for me – this guy was the real thing. Piano playing, guitar playing, really interacting with the audience…it was a great show. (I will never forget at the end of his show, The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” came on as he was bowing, and he got the entire crowd to wave their arms in the air to the timing of the song. Sounds lame but it was a great moment.)
So, here we are 7 years later, and he releases his third album. There has been so much anticipation for this one, it’s been ridiculously thick. I immediately liked “Suit and Tie” when it was released, but I grew tired of it quickly. That being said, the vibe from the song indicated to me that perhaps he was going for a more traditional sounding R&B album, which made me happy.
My nephew sent me the tracks (Thanks, Ryan!) on Sunday and I was amazed at what I had heard. These songs represent a whole new person, as clearly he’s gone through a lot of growth in 7 years (which is completely normal). These songs were strong, sonically really interesting and different, live sounding (meaning not programmed) and not a one-dimensional thing when it came to the topic of love and sex. It’s clear that this man is in love and adores his wife. I love hearing that in each song. This album will play amazing live.
You can hear MJ in certain songs, and Prince and Stevie Wonder and even Radiohead in others. (Read an interview where Justin professed his love for Thom Yorke, and had been listening to a lot of OK Computer and Kid A during the making of this album – AMAZING! Check out Blue Ocean Floor – beautiful song) It’s evident that their music influenced the making of this one – and he is still able to put his own sound and spin on it.
So, here’s a contender for the best album of 2013 (along with The Shadowboxers’s “Red Room” album – check that one out too!). Run out and get Justin’s album. So worth it.