By Chad Hoyle (@chadillacgrilz)
As an unabashed fan of Justin Timberlake, the news of a new album last spring piqued my excitement. It was to be his first full length album since 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, and in hindsight, it should have been obvious that the announcement was merely the steam whistle of his hype train pulling into station. The 20/20 Experience dropped last spring to immediate commercial and critical success, although as the summer of 2013 progressed, JT’s ubiquity in the public spotlight reached the point of over saturation.
Part of what made The 20/20 Experience was the demand- people wanted to hear new music from Timberlake, especially after the success of his previous album that produced a litany of hit singles, and the extended hiatus between releases. The album was good but not excellent, and relied heavily on a few select songs, such as “Suit and Tie” and “Mirrors,” that were tailor-made for the top of the charts. The radio popularity, the grandiose concert tour that shared billing with Jay-Z, and constant media attention wore on nearly everyone. Then, in an effort to keep the hype train on the tracks, Timberlake announced that he would release an additional 10 songs on a second sibling album in the fall, aptly titled The 20/20 Experience (Part 2). Many wish he hadn't.
The announcement of Part 2 was initially perceived as a spiritual continuation of the first album, almost as if JT had been aware that the first could have been better and wanted to atone. However, as a literal sequel to Part 1, it emerges as a half-hearted rehash and is at times even weaker than the first. In comparison, it felt like the musical equivalent of The Hangover movie series- The first film was immensely successful, yet the sequel was a near carbon copy of the first, right down to the same recycled jokes and beats throughout. The Hangover 2 was a success, enough to churn out a part three, but to many, the idea that seemed like a sure thing on paper was seen as laziness upon execution. Simply put- it wore out it’s welcome
The 20/20 Experience (Part 2) will also be considered a success- It took the top Billboard spot the day it was released and hasn't faltered since- but is looked at similar to the movie franchise. Some of the songs are catchy, especially the hit single and highlight of the album, “Take Back the Night.” Timbaland, JT’s long-time producer, nails it again with his trademark beat production that has now become a key part of Timberlake’s signature sound and makes the album bearable through repeat listening. The problem is, rather than showing it’s sensitive side, as Part 1 did successfully, Part 2 were mired in darkness and edge. In JT’s case, “Mirrors,” the hit love song from Part 1, is a polar opposite of “Murder,” a song that makes Timberlake’s sexual prowess seem dirtier than a bachelor party in Bangkok and makes for a less-enjoyable experience.
Timberlake’s talent as a musician is also undeniable, and on many of his best songs, he sounds like he’s channeling the spirit of his obvious pop predecessor, Michael Jackson. Timberlake is fully aware of the comparison, as evidenced by the song “True Blood,” his unsuccessful attempt at recreating the magic of “Thriller,” replete with a bloated track length and haunting Vincent Price cackle. Rather than harnessing the magic that made “Thriller” a phenomenon, JT produced a track that at best can be described as a poor imitation.
Timberlake could have released Part 1 and called it a summer, having produced one of the most successful and well received albums of the year. Though not perfect, the album had enough to offer to satiate even the most fervent fans, and leave them wanting more. Part 2 was an unnecessary attempt to extend the momentum of a hit album, and will be remembered as a failed conceptual experiment that diluted the product of a talented musician.