Justin Timberlake utilizes rhythm and variety on ‘20/20 Experience’ companion | Album Review

The album artwork for Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2" (FILE)
The album artwork for Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2" (FILE)

By John Connor Coulston // Staff Writer

No, you aren’t mistaken — Justin Timberlake has released his second album this year. While we had to wait almost seven years for The 20/20 Experience, we get its follow-up after only six months.

While 2 of 2 serves as a sister album to the aforementioned release, it offers a different sonic experience.

While The 20/20 Experience focused on elaborate pop songs filled with string sections and other live instrumentation, 2 of 2 aims to show the rest of JT’s abilities.

The album is more upbeat, diverse and sexier than its predecessor. For what it lacks in “Suit and Tie” class, it makes up for in sex appeal. Tracks like the Michael Jackson inspired “Take Back the Night” and the Drake collaboration “Cabaret” don’t belong at a cotillion — they belong in nightclubs. These tracks are straightforward, danceable and the best moments on the album.

They show that JT can still make you “Rock Your Body” more than a decade after his solo career began. JT doesn’t stick solely with his usual pop and R&B on 2 of 2 either. He also flirts with country and blues bar-rockers. The tracks “Drink You Away” and “Only When I Walk Away” come as unsuspected surprises that are bound to stick in your head.

The first can definitely get country fans’ attention with its guitar lead, stomping rhythm and chorus of “I can’t drink you away/I’ve tried Jack/ I’ve tried Jim/ I’ve tried all of their friends/ But I can’t drink you away.”

The second serves as a bluesy cut that’s lyrically reminiscent of his past hits, “Cry Me a River” and “What Comes Around.” While none of the tracks are bad on 2 of 2, several aren’t particularly memorable. The R&B cuts such as “You Got It On” and “True Blood” don’t leave strong impressions. “Amnesia” feels like a leftover from The 20/20 Experience but lacks the strong hook and melody that was a prominent characteristic on the first batch of songs.

The track “Not a Bad Thing” is a straight forward, well-written pop song. The problem is, the style in which it’s delivered seems more fitting for someone like Justin Bieber. Imagine if Timberlake performed Jesse McCartney’s “Beautiful Soul” — that’s what this track sounds like. It’s an acoustic-based love song that sounds too average for Timberlake to perform, especially when you hear the closing track to the album.

“Not a Bad Thing” is followed by the hidden track “Pair of Wings.” It’s a stripped down acoustic ballad that focuses on JT wanting to fly off with his significant other, away from all “the troubles of the world.” This shows the versatility of Justin’s talents. The man can make an entire album of upbeat tracks, yet he can still create a simplistic love song.

It’s a fantastic way to close the album and is easily the most beautiful song of Timberlake’s career so far.

While The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 doesn’t leave the same impression that its predecessor, it’s still a solid release. Tracks, such as “Cabaret,” “Only When I Walk Away” and “Pair of Wings,” show that he can still turn out better pop songs than a majority of artists.

It’s a welcome addition to his catalog that will hold fans over until his next musical endeavor, which hopefully isn’t seven years away.

Follow John Connor Coulston on Twitter at @JCCoulston.

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