20/20 Experience shows the evolution of Justin Timberlake; The multitalented recording artist returns to music six years after FutureSex/LoveSounds

by Brian Burns
In one of the opening tracks of his new album, Justin Timberlake sings “let me show you a few things,” and he certainly lives up to his promise. Timberlake, who took a six-year break from singing to star in movies like The Social Network and Friends with Benefits, returns with The 20/20 Experience, his most refined and self-assured album yet. He is now an adult, as signaled by the formal garb he dons on the cover.
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Timberlake begins modestly with the slow and smooth simmer, “Pusher Love Girl”  and builds up to the catchy first single, “Suit and Tie,” in which he is joined by Jay-Z for a brief rapping interlude.
Timberlake’s sound has matured in the long six years since FutureSex/LoveSounds. While songs like “Sexyback” were straightforward, fist-pumping club anthems, his new style is more suave and free flowing.
“It’s different from anything else out there,” said junior Kelsey Coupe. “It’s more jazzy and upbeat.  It’s very classic and it has a cool vibe.”
Timberlake transitions styles as  effortlessly as he pops his collar, creating an eclectic mix of genres. “That Girl,” for example, hints of Timberlake’s Motown inspiration: the song is typical of the era of soul music in both style and content, but is interspersed with modern techno beeps.
“I’m loving the comeback of the R&B genre,” said senior Sam Mehorter, who notes the similarity of Timberlake’s new songs to those of Frank Ocean.
The Timberlake heard in The 20/20 Experience is fearless, dipping his toes in whatever style of music he fancies.
For example, Latin drums overtake “Let the Groove Get In,” a song that would be right in place on a Shakira album.
“It’s simple but the beats and lyrics get stuck in your head—it’s just fun to listen to,” said freshman Paulie Cherubini.
There is evidence that Timberlake hasn’t performed a total 180.  The 32-year-old summons his boy-band roots with “Tunnel Vision,” a kinetic and unabashed pop song typical of his earlier albums.  “Mirrors,” about his relationship with his wife, Jessica Biel, is a love song typical of bands like One Direction, complete with a soaring synth opening and hand-clapping. In it, the newlywed sings, “so now I say goodbye to the old me, it’s already gone.”
Even Timberlake is not without his occasional fumbles.  His tracks tend to be lengthy, sometimes making listening more of a task than a pleasure. Also, his lyrics can offer more style than substance. “Spaceship Coupe” provides little more to its central premise of love on a spaceship than the sound of robots in the background.
Timberlake is one of the most fascinating artists of the 21st century.  He can be a leading man or a frequent guest host on Saturday Night Live just as easily as he slides into the role of pop crooner.  The 20/20 Experience is a sign that Timberlake will not rest on his laurels—he will continue to innovate his sound.