by Matt Doyle
One could be forgiven for not considering Justin Timberlake’s return to music as a ‘comeback’. After a movie career spawning some things good, and some things bad, as well as a constant media and entertainment presence, it can be astonishing that the man has only released 2 solo albums in the last ten years. 10 years! Coming from the so called ‘prince of pop’? Our generation’s Michael Jackson? At this point, one has to pose that JT has some catching up to do.
Future Sex Love Sounds was the album that fastened Timberlake’s position in the indie macrocosm thanks to its deft electronic nuances, experimental pop concepts and slick production, garnering appreciation from all. Even with this initial buzz and acclaim, FSLS is an album that definitely grew in stature the longer that silence emanated from camp Justin (that 20/20 hindsight if you will). Year after year would pass to no avail, while the masses looked back with ever-growing fondness on an album that brought a lot of integrity to the pop scene. All this happening, while Timberlake vivaciously swanned about on our screens, buying Myspace, rapping with Jimmy Fallon or screwing Mila Kunis. He even hinted that he may never return to music, after his initial success in Hollywood.
And now all of a sudden, we receive a veritable windfall of announcements about the 20/20 Experience, as Justin smiles, strokes our hair and tells us it’s all going to be different from now. A release date (March 19), Timbaland producing once again, Jay-Z appearing, a single, a Grammy appearance, another single (‘Mirrors’) and now a stadium tour with Hova imminent; how spoiled we are!
At this point, anyone with any interest in this subject has heard Suit and Tie, and already made their minds up as to their feelings about it. If JT’s appearance at the Grammy’s is anything to go by, he has digressed from the beatboxing and the drumtracks to the big band. Trumpets and classic keys permeate the usual fare, creating a much fuller sound. Jay-Z’s verse may feel marginally shoe-horned in, but Timberlake’s exuberance can sell it and lock it down.
New leaked single ‘Mirrors’ strengthens this foray into ‘real’ instruments, with swooping orchestral elements and an almost classic rock lead-in. Timberlake’s new musical direction seems to be reflecting the artist’s well known enthusiasm and energy that may have been a bit more rhythm driven before. The ‘fuller’ sense has even leaked into Timberlake’s vocals. Looking back, FSLS was full of a cocktail of breathy sultry tones, accelerated rhyming, and peaky falsettos, aspects that contributed to the story telling mode of tracks such as ‘What Goes Around…’. On ‘Mirrors’, it finally feels like JT just sings.
The subject matter of the tracks released show that Timberlake has grown during his self-imposed hiatus. The language has changed to a lot more of a mature tone, of a man settled in his life, love and confidence. If all signs so far are to be considered, Timberlake has made this album because he only now had a clear complete vision of it in his head. A vision of where he is now in life. Perhaps he is being presumptuous that he’s just going to be accepted back into a fandom that he neglected for so long. This reviewer however, is sure that Justin Timberlake is ready to convince the world he’s more than just a fond memory.
Head on over to our dedicated 20/20 Experience album page to get the latest leak updates, album news and downloads.