Because one Justin Timberlake album per year is never enough.
As if to make up for the years we spent without even a single drop of new Justin Timberlake tunes to carry us through (otherwise known as The Great Timberfamine), the President of Pop (not sure how it started, just go with it) is back with The 20/20 Experience — 2 of 2, his second 2013 album and second installment to his ridiculously successful, record-breaking original 20/20 Experience. (Need a refresher? Try our GIF-by-GIF review of part one!)
Teaming up once again with his trusty collaborators Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon and Timbaland — hey, might as well keep it cohesive — the follow-up record keeps Justin grooving into the night (and subsequently taking it back) above Timba’s beatboxing and mad scientist urban-pop beats. Had a problem with the length of the tracks on the first record? #SorryBoutIt: The album’s even longer this time around, with songs clocking in at around 5 to 11 minutes. (Gulp!)
While the album is largely a continuation of the spacey, funkified flow from the first go-around, there are a few new sights and sounds for our listening pleasure, like the spooky touch of “True Blood” and the soulful, country twang of “Drink You Away.” Unlike the delicateness of tracks like “Mirrors” and “Blue Ocean Floor,” the lyrics on 2 of 2 get pretty gritty and dark. Oh, and there’s way more sexy talk. JT was already in a frisky state of mind on the first installment, but this time? He’s a downright dirty freak.
Since words are useless (especially sentences), we’re trekking through the album track-by-track with the help of nature’s greatest visual indicator of emotion: GIFs! And who better to critique JT’s album than… well, JT himself? Let’s do this.
1.) “GIMME WHAT I DON’T KNOW (I WANT)”
Justin kicks off the collection with a tantalizing slice of funky seduction. “Come here, gimme what I don’t know… I want,” he commands above Timba’s chugging beat, twinkling bells and dirty bass licks. There’s a lot of talk about jungles and cages and teeth, which makes this all quite animalistic and carnal and seductive and — oh, would you look at that? All of my clothes just fell off.
2.) “TRUE BLOOD”
Justin’s evidently quite excited for Halloween, because his glitchy, murder-minded “True Blood” is all sorts of horror-themed fun. The song’s all about a girl (OR A GHOUL, AMIRITE?) on the prowl, and the descriptors are pretty spooky: Demons? Spirits? Vampires? It’s basically a theme song for “American Horror Story” just waiting to happen.
Then again, there are also some sick dance breaks. (There’s plenty of time for that… the song’s 9 minutes long, after all!) It’s like Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller” crossed with Britney Spears‘ “Scary” — except 9 minutes long. Watch out for your neck, JT!
Check out the rest of our track-by-track review in GIFs after the jump.
3.) “CABARET” FEATURING DRAKE
Oh hai, Drake! “Started From The Bottom,” now we here… on a Justin Timberlake album, that is. “Cabaret” is sort of by-the-numbers Timbaland, gliding across a lurching beat that sort of sounds like his Aaliyah masterpiece “Are You That Somebody?” — except this one’s much more dirty-minded.
“I got you saying ‘Jesus’ so much, it’s like we laying in the manger,” Justin croons at one point. Drake comes in around the 2-minute mark to throw in some extra raunchy, fast-talking sweet nothings: “I’mma f*** you like we’re having an affair.” OMG. Romance isn’t dead after all, you guyz!!!1!!
The brassy-spacey sound of “Suit & Tie” is back — what goes around comes back around, as one might say. “Nobody wins if somebody’s heart is swole,” JT sagely notes across the total knockout of a track, which just happens to knock pretty hard. We’ve moved from the Halloween metaphors into the boxing ring, as Justin sorts out his relationship struggles with a little hand-to-hand combat. “Tried to go below the belt, through my chest, perfect hit to the dome,” he aches. He’s bruised and broken… still beautiful, tho.
5.) “TAKE BACK THE NIGHT”
A-ha. A-HA! Yes! This one’s familiar: It’s the lead single from The 20/20 Experience — 2 of 2! And it’s even better in the context of the album, providing a breezy, carefree break to the heartbreak knockout of “TKO” and the gruesome “True Blood.” Those happy horns! That joyful revelry! That funky bass! It’s a major disco roller rink moment, full of feel-good vibrations that keep the party moving into the second half of the record. Rock your body!
6.) “MURDER” FEATURING JAY Z
Well, we’re back in Halloweentown or something, because J. Timberlake’s thirsting to rack up the body count. “Maybe you need to watch out something might go down/ Girl, your body is gonna end up under the ground, under the ground/ I would be down to go to that level.” Erm. Wait, what? Hot beat, J-Timz, but like…what?
“You know you killin’ me softly but we can go as hard as you want to/ Until the bed’s way under the ground,” he explains further. Ah, I see: “Murder” in the Amanda Bynes sense. (Hi, Drake!) Jay Z joins in at some point later on for some uncomfortable Beatles references. We’re having fun!!
7.) “DRINK YOU AWAY”
Break out the gee-tars, because Justin’s found himself a sudden country twang, complemented by some church organ (#PRAISE be unto him), a plethora of alcohol references, and a whole lot of bluesy sorrow: “I’ve tried Jack, I’ve tried gin, I’ve tried all of them things/ But I can’t drink you away,” he laments. This is one of the album’s biggest surprises — and also one of the more impressive tracks of the 20/20 collection. He’s really got that soul. Sang those blues away, boy!
8.) “YOU GOT IT ON”
Did you like that country vibe? #SorryBoutIt, because we’re back in electronic territory! This futuristic-sounding track is all sorts of FutureSex/LoveSounds space-age fun, and it’s purely a baby-makin’ anthem. (Very different than the lyrical content of the rest of the album, obviously.) It’s one of the album’s slinkiest grooves made for fallin’ in love… and doing a whole lot more. JT’s clearly got one thing on his mind, and it’s not just the relaunch of Myspace.
This is the home stretch! First up, the 7-minute log “Amnesia.” (Nope, it’s neither a Cheryl Cole cover, nor a Britney Spears cover.) It’s also a pretty meandering moment on the album, and ironically, mostly forgettable immediately after the song stops. That is, until the last few moments. “I try to figure about every time I see ya,” he pensively coos above soaring strings and a slower beat. It’s a more sincere moment (FORESHADOWING) that keeps the song from getting lost in the fold.
10.) “ONLY WHEN I WALK AWAY”
“What’s a man like me to say with a bullet laying in my heart?” Justin growls on overdrive across one of the album’s angriest moments. He’s back with a bitter edge and fiery licks of swaggering guitar, stuck in the middle of a rocky relationship. “She loves me now/ She loves me not,” he croons back and forth. Has Justin ever sounded so mad before? Forget “Cry Me A River” — this is a full-on firestorm.
11.) “NOT A BAD THING”
Alas, we’ve reached the end of The 20/20 Experience. Hindsight is 20/20, so how did JT do? Not a bad thing at all! Some of the songs were almost comically long, and we sure could have used some alternatives to Timbaland’s occasionally stale-sounding beats, but 2 of 2 ties together what was a very cohesive (and massively successful!) comeback.
“Not A Bad Thing” is a pretty breezy throwback finish, and it almost sounds like a guitar-led, mid-tempo number from his boy band days. “It’s not a bad thing to fall in love with me,” he says. I mean, if you say so, Justin. Thanks for the memories!
…BUT WAIT, WHAT’S THIS?! A hidden song at the end of “Not A Bad Thing”?? Why, yes: It’s a lovely, soft-spoken song about regretting a breakup and — wait. Um. He’s singing about flying away on a pair of wings? Saving you from the troubles of the world? I know the conspiracy theories are rabid, but this is clearly a response to Britney’s iconic breakup track “Everytime.” The lyrics are too obvious! And now I’m crying.
Photo credit: RCA