"Too much of a good thing” isn’t a phrase I subscribe to. If there’s something good to be had, I’ll have it. Then I’ll take more, if available. So when Justin Timberlake announced that "The 20/20 Experience” -- his massively successful (currently double platinum) comeback album -- had another half to come, my reaction was, "Yes, please.” Though not as adventurous and racy as the 2006 "FutureSex/Lovesounds" album that preceded it, "20/20" is a delight with cuts that charmingly morph from Ginuwine-esque R&B into Sergio Mendes-like Latin jazz.
I looked forward to loosening up my belt and gluttonously taking in "The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2." And then I heard it. Good grief, it’s bad.
His "20/20 Experience World Tour" kicks off in weeks. It makes sense to release and album ahead of a tour, but not if it’s a dud like this. Justin easily could have rode into the tour on the heels of his collab Legends of the Summer arena tour with Jay Z and push out more singles from the first half of "20/20." Instead, he chose to peter out with a half-assed nudie video for "Tunnel Vision" (a song that deserved a better push) and go on to his underwhelming "2 of 2" lead single "Take Back the Night" (which only peaked at No. 29 on the Hot 100 chart). Essentially, it set the tone for the mediocre (at best) 11-song set to come.
If the first half of "20/20" encouraged a few groans from fans for clocking in at 70 minutes with 10 songs, "2 of 2," at a hollow 74 mins, doubles that in "Please, stop" cries. Substituting part one's musical innovation with lazy bonus time on nearly every song, it hardly ever explores lyrical ground its first half didn’t.
"2 of 2" is bloated. From jump, there’s "Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)," a two-minutes too long, five-minute club cut about being lured to a woman’s lair to act on their animal instincts. It’s no better than "(And She Said) Take Me Now" from his 2002 solo debut album "Justified." Like an obnoxious version of Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin, producer Timbaland chimes in to guide listeners through the last unnecessary moments of the opener.
That’s not Tim’s only cringe-worthy moment on the album. The frequent collaborator that’s produced the bulk of Timberlake’s solo career work incessantly murmurs ("Amnesia") and stammers ("TKO") on the album. His presence especially hurts when he ruins the end of one of the few "2 of 2" gems, kiss-off jam "Only When I Walk Away," with baritone bragging ("We are the illest duo in the United States of America… We run shit") before it inexplicably transforms into a reggae song. That one should’ve had the last three minutes snipped off the back.
It’s also worth noting that releasing “2 of 2” on Sept. 30, the deadline for 2014 Grammy consideration, means that parts one and two will be submitted as one: "The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience." It’s a purposeful move that conversely will torpedo its chances for mega awards like Album of the Year with its overall crumminess.
First week sales projections indicate "2 of 2" will likely sell about 325,000 albums. To be fair, that's nothing to laugh at in this era--when that many records sold in one week by other formidable acts would call for a huge celebration. But that’s 600,000 less than the opening week of part one. The people aren't turning out like they did before. Some of the sales drop-off should be attributed to how Justin’s six-year musical hiatus prior to this spring created excitement that definitely cannot be revved up seven months later. (Added to say, Pt 2. was originally predicted to sell 500K first week before it was revised down)
Still, with an album as heavily promoted as "2 of 2" -- with two recent festival headlining gigs and several talk show appearances to its credit -- it surely would perform better if it had better music than "Take Back the Night" and follow-up single "TKO" (currently at No. 54 on the Hot 100) to lead it.
There are many other albums to be more excited about. Drake, Lorde, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus are all providing pop culture with intriguing music that’s searing up the Hot 100. Meanwhile, Justin’s sweeping up and selling songs that should have been left on "The 20/20 Experience’s" cutting room floor, save for the Drake-assisted "Cabaret."
I wanted to like "The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2." When Justin heads to the studio for his fifth solo album (at this pace, that’ll probably be in 2019), here’s to hoping he applies a sentiment that most can agree upon: Less is more.
Holy shit, this just came up on my twitter feed and I had to post it. They are not here for this album.