I’m trying out this new thing where I review new albums in three words. I’ll expand on those three words, but sometimes a quick review is really all you need for an album.
Long – This is both a good and bad thing. There are no easy-to-digest three minute singles on 20/20 (the average song length is seven minutes). Though the length makes the overall album stronger, it’s frustrating to sit through four minutes of “Don’t Hold The Wall” to finally enjoy it, and this happens one too many times on 20/20. Most of the songs are so long because they go through so many tempo and dynamic changes, and sometimes this works out wonderfully (“Strawberry Bubblegum”) and other times not so much (“Let The Groove Get In”). But still, you gotta give credit to JT for approaching 20/20 like an old school album and not being afraid to make his listeners really sit with the album and listen to it, which will earn him many brownie points with stingy music critics (like myself).
Consistent – FutureSex / LoveSounds was a good album, but it could have been great if it wasn’t all over the place. What I’m most pleased about 20/20 is that the whole album really functions as a complete album, and it flows so nicely. JT isn’t hiding behind just electronics (like FutureSex) but there are live guitars, horns, and plenty of REAL musicians assisting Mr. Timberlake going by the name of the Tennessee Kids, a gimmick which JT could have worked more into 20/20. But Sgt. Peppers this is not, and that’s ok.
Irrelevant – If nothing else, 20/20 is a reminder that there are very few Justin Timberlakes anymore. How many other current pop artist were groomed like JT, growing up in the spotlight and selling millions of records? He’s trying to sell a good pop album when good pop albums don’t sell millions anymore, and the music itself is only good enough for fans of N’Sync to enjoy (which is pretty much anyone born after 1988). It’s a great record that sounds like it could have been released in any of the past twenty years, but this is because it’s Justin Timberlake on the album cover and NOT because the music is anything special. If you want to hear an example of the perfect modern pop album, listen to Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and then you’ll understand what JT is trying to do with 20/20 and how he almost succeeds.
AND I’ll include an overall assessment, just for those who want more than three words.
Overall: Nothing truly stands out, but 20/20 is as good as any pop record could have been when its mastermind is from a different era of pop music. Plus, the guy is so damn likable you can’t help but to have fun with 20/20.
You’ll enjoy this album if: You’re willing to be patient and a little open minded.
You’ll hate this album if: You’re looking for something as pleasant and quick as the radio edit of “Suit & Tie”.
AND I’ll also include the best tracks off the album.
Essential Tracks: “Suit & Tie”, “Tunnel Vision”, “Mirrors”
Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber