I cry for the state of pop music today. Really. It’s sad.
Pop stars today are more like reality TV stars than they are musicians and artists. You’ve got people running around like Taylor Swift, who can’t seem to stay out of petty fights and silly middle-school style drama within her own industry. If you don’t know what I mean, look up her performance at the Grammy’s and weep for the horrific immaturity of it all. The saddest thing? She’s probably the biggest star in pop music today. If she’s the face of your genre, then someone needs to do some serious overhaul.
And lo, the clouds parted and from the skies above descended a well-dressed figure with a falsetto like the chorus of one million angels.
Behold your savior, pop music.
Justin Timberlake is back.
After 6 ½ years of silence on the music front, Timberlake’s new album “The 20/20 Experience” is expected to be available in mid-March. And it is something to behold. Unlike “FutureSex/LoveSounds”, there aren’t five or six songs that are radio-ready. But while it may lack in chart-toppers, it offers more than enough class, maturity and development to satisfy the most hardened pop cynic. Of course, “Suit & Tie” showed everyone that JT is still capable of dominating the charts and airwaves. That’s not enough anymore, though. Timberlake has been there, done that. Instead, “20/20” plays out like the methodically planned project of a man who is ready to have fun doing what he loves again. He refuses to be pigeonholed into any specific sub-genre, playing with R&B and Soul influences in multiple tracks, most notably in the opener “Pusher Love Girl” and “That Girl”. Latino dance beats dominate the dance-ready “Let the Groove Get In” while “Spaceship Coupe” and “Strawberry Bubblegum” allow JT to flaunt his electronic side. All of this is capped by the fact that Timbaland, Timberlake’s friend and producer, knows just how to blend everything with that subtle hip-hop vibe that makes Justin so appealing in the first place. Or is that his voice? Timberlake exudes confidence and relaxation. And he should. As a man who has nearly conquered the entertainment industry, any hesitance got lost in the cut tracks long ago.
The closer (“Blue Ocean Floor”) could even be considered the pièce de résistance, the unexpected experimental track finding itself on the backside of the record. But it still works perfectly, contrasting the whole of the album so startlingly that it seems to last the length of another LP. It’s beautiful in an existential sense, almost like Timberlake threw it on, again, just because he could. And that is what puts “The 20/20 Experience” so far above everything that pop music has seen recently. Justin Timberlake has fully realized himself as an artist, not just a celebrity. The subtext of “The 20/20 Experience” isn’t “I had to”: it’s “I wanted to”.
On behalf of fans of pop music everywhere, thank you Justin.
So when’s the next album due?
Final Score: 9.4/10