In a word: kinetic. Justin Timberlakes The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2 is kinetic energy! Swirling danceable beats, 808s, synthesizers, trumpets, organs, drums, guitars, banjos even are all in motion on this, Justins second album in a less than seven month time frame. With The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2, Justin Timberlake has accomplished an incredible feat.
After an over six year hiatus from making music, audiences bubbled over, knowing the powerful potential energy Justin held steady. The release of The 20/20 Experience set into motion the force that is Justin Timberlake, an accomplishment enough in and of itself. But, holding to the laws of physics, an objection in motion
When JT announced that he would follow the success of 20/20 up with 2 of 2 in the latter part of the year, it did not seem too out of place. After all, this is an age in which artists re-release their albums as extended or deluxe editions to capitalize monetarily on their fans excitement. However, this album is no mere market ploy. This is NOT a deluxe edition. This is NOT a B-sides record. This is NOT a collection of the remixes. This is an album in its own right. 2 of 2 features twelve new tracks that are as soulful as any music JT has ever released.
Comparing 2 of 2 to the first 20/20 Experience, the newer album is more pop oriented. But that is not meant disparagingly in any way! This is not soft, overwrought, bubblegum pop. This is toothy, gritty, funky pop at the caliber of legends like James Brown, Elton John, and- one of Justins greatest influences- Michael Jackson. In fact, those influences are present throughout much of the album.
The lead single Take Back the Night is a perfect example! The song, with its Michael Jackson influences, is a dance number that perfectly encapsulates JTs talents, while setting a strong precedent for the other songs from the album. The follow-up single TKO is equally strong, if not completely different in tone and style. It features a trap-house heavy bass, reminiscent of his earlier work Chop Me Up. He has also managed to have a strong hold on almost forging a neo hip-hop soul genre with his genius collaborations with Jay-Z and Drake on Murder and Cabaret, respectively. Both songs have brilliant appeals to hip-hop audiences and feature the rappers at their grown and sexy best.
Going in a totally different direction, a standout on the album is Drink You Away. The country music guitars strumming in the start feels like a nod to Timberlakes native Tennessee. Starting with a dusty voice lamenting his broken heart, this song turns in to a full-bodied belt about his displeasure in the fact that neither Mr. Jack Daniels or Mr. Jim Bean can help him forget his sorrows. And somehow, as he grunts out Do they make a medicine for heartbreak? you cant decide if you are hearing Prince or Johnny Cash.
For any other artist, such versatility might feel frenetic or gimmicky. But with Justins work, it feels natural. And thats why Justin continues to impress. 2 of 2, like its immediate predecessor, shows a Timberlake unafraid to take risk, incorporate more traditional R&B and rock tactics that makes the music feel timeless.
If Justin was reintroducing himself in The 20/20 Experience, then Part 2 is him getting right to business. This massively sexy, beautifully produced sound was handled by long time production partner Timbaland. As expected of a Timbaland and Timberlake production, the songs are full and lush, packed with reprises and twists on songs that allow them to groove on, well after you thought the song would be over.
The first song of the album finds JT singing gimme what I dont know I want. In many ways, that sentiment is the perfect phrase for this album. Justin Timberlake has managed to produce two stellar albums in the same year, satiating music listeners the world over in ways we could not have anticipated. Indeed, 2013 has found Timberlake setting in to motion the magic of his music, keeping his audience engaged at his whim. The 20/20 Experience was a necessary reintroduction; but 2 of 2 feels like the party he wants us to keep having.
Tracks We Like: Take Back the Night, TKO, Drink You Away
The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2 Track 5: Take Back the Night
The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2 Track 4: TKO
The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2 Track 7: Drink You Away