To say the least, Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience comeback album was received well earlier this year. The record sold 968,000 units its first week out, setting a bar that no other artist has met or exceeded since. Drake’s Nothing Was The Same fell well short, selling 650,000 units at retail since its Sept. 24 release. It wasn’t all that surprising, actually; Timberlake and super-producer Timbaland don’t know how not to make hits, as their track record, dating back to Justified, makes abundantly clear.
As it turns out, 20/20 was actually the first half of a two-part collection featuring 10 songs apiece. The second half, dubbed 2 of 2, arrived this week, just as sleek, futuristic and groovy as the first.
While Part 2 isn’t very different from Part 1 in terms of production – Timbaland’s signature sound is embedded throughout – but the first and last song offer an interesting contrast. The sequencing features “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want),” the raw appeal to a lover’s prurient side, as the first song on the album, while the album closer “Not A Bad Thing” is less raw, with smooth guitar riffs and more warmth overall.
In the middle, 2 of 2 is filled with eight jams that have more than enough replay value. “True Blood” isn’t exactly about the popular HBO show, but it does somewhat reference vampires, continuing the raw theme from the first cut. On “Cabaret,” which features a Drake verse, JT slyly tells a dancer to keep some moves for the bedroom.
It is almost obligatory and expected by all that Jay-Z bows in for an appearance. After all, JT and Shawn Carter pulled off 10 sold-out stadium dates over the summer, and it seems only right that they carry their synergy into the fall/winter. “Murder,” their Part 2 collaboration, isn’t as upbeat or celebratory as “Suit and Tie,” yet it definitely stands on its own. The two do indeed ‘kill’ the song – in hip-hop speak.
Ultimately, there is significantly less gloss and more soul on The 20/20 Experience –2 of 2, which makes it the better half of the collection. With their synergy fine-tuned, Timberlake and Timbaland have now essentially benchmarked what a successful producer-singer partnership looks and sounds like in today’s music industry. Don’t believe me? Just watch the Billboard charts.