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Since the release of 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds – inarguably the best pop record of that decade – speculation about Justin Timberlake’s inevitable return to music hasn’t ceased. At the creative and commercial apex of his music career, he dropped the mic and smarmily sauntered off to Hollywood to hide in plain sight. Undeterred by his questionable acting career and mogul moves (he owns part of the new MySpace), we waited.
The 20/20 Experience isn’t about redemption. First single Suit & Tie’s insipid effervescence is telling: this is a smug little hot step back into the spotlight. JT is too well regarded for the album to flop, and it boasts too much talent for it to be bad. Timbaland sets his proven polyrhythmic textures and background beatbox patter to teen-pop production Timberlake channels grown and sexy R. Kelly and Robin Thicke.
Strings and synths swan around seven-minute-long suites dedicated to the inanimate (Strawberry Bubblegum, Tunnel Vision, Spaceship Coupe). It sounds like FutureSex, so you’ll desperately listen over and over hoping to replicate how that album made you feel and end up surrendering to its pleasant, sanitized soundscape. But you’ll feel nothing.
Top track: Mirrors