Verdict: 2.5 / 5
The second installment of Justin Timberlake’s best-selling blockbuster album The 20/20 Experience, which broke the singer’s seven year hiatus from music, was released a mere seven months later, delivering starved fans an additional eleven tracks to enjoy. While the 74-minute collection is meant to be a companion piece to the first album, Part 2 beats to a slightly different drum, imploring the help of Timbaland’s production to keep the album upbeat. Aimed at winning back fans of his earlier work, Timberlake focuses on making his audience dance. While the emperor certain hasn’t lost his groove, the album is certainly a less focused work.
Recorded during the same sessions, Part 2 is less clean-cut and more edgy than its predecessor. Unfortunately, what it makes up for in pace and solid production, it loses lyrically. While it tries to capture the magic of Part 1, JT plays second fiddle to the real star here… Tim Mosley (Timbaland). The kicking beats are at the center of the attention, with some tracks lingering on into instrumentals long after the singer/songwriter has left the stage. Those who are still basking in the suit-wearing big-band songs of the original might feel uneasy with the path taken here. While the focus on Part 1 was on Justin’s recent marriage, 2 of 2 evokes sex and sweat, its two main themes.
Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want) is a funky, sultry number reminiscent of SexyBack. It sets up and anchors the album’s tempo and feel perfectly. True Blood is more of the same, a 9 minute African rhythm dance track aimed to work in clubs. There are no brownie points for guessing which TV show influenced the idea.
Cabaret possibly has 2 of 2’s most catchy beat, but lyrics like, “You got me saying Jesus so much, it’s like I’m laying in a manger” and a forgetful chorus ruin what could have been another radio hit. Furthermore, Drake appears mid-way and offers two unmemorable verses that heads in a completely different direction. TKO, the second single off the album, continues down the same path and uses boxing as a metaphor for love. It’s probably not as clever as they originally thought.
Take Back The Night, a 70s brass disco anthem (or an ode to Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall), feels like a track missing from Part 1. It doesn’t really fit here, but not surprisingly is the strongest record on the album. You have to love the horns section and bubbling bassline.
Murder brings the album back to the ideas and themes of 2 of 2. It’s an average effort. Drink You Away is Justin Timberlake doing his best Prince impersonation. Surprisingly, it works and probably offers the most interesting lyrics of the album. “I can’t drink you away. I’ve tried Jack, I’ve tried Jim… ”
You Got It On, Amnesia and Only When I Walk Away are meant as nothing more than fillers. And just when you think that you’ve heard everything that The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 has to offer, the hand-clapper Not A Bad Thing brings life back to the album. Timberlake does some of his best crooning work here and the melodies will surely remind you of his ‘N Sync days. Sadly, after a few moments of silence A Pair of Wings enters and bores.
While the songs generally hang well together, you can’t help but feel a bit cheated. 2 of 2 isn’t as memorable as the first release and sadly feels like a mediocre record. If you love big thumping beats, however, there is nothing quite as good out there. The production is light-years ahead of anything currently on radio. For that alone, JT and Timbaland deserve some recognition. Somewhere out there is a perfect 20/20 Experience, featuring the best tracks off both albums. Unfortunately, Justin has decided to split them up and we are offered outtakes in 2 of 2.