Music may not be selling like it did ten or twenty years ago, but Justin Timberlake’s latest effort, “The 20/20 Experience,” is defying the odds. Not only did the album top the Billboard 200 chart, but it has sold enough to be certified Double Platinum in just under a month!
Timberlake is a lot more than just a triple-threat singer/actor/dance/ (comedian, host, writer, producer, rapper, designer). He’s also got the capability to do all of this in abundance without ever appearing irritatingly pervasive.
This brings us to Justin’s new album, and it reveals another side of Timberlake we have not been aware of: artist.
Topping billboard charts and getting radio play is a boy’s game, and Timberlake seems to know it. The 20/20 Experience is less an attempt for popularity than it is for respect.
Justin has taken pop music and transformed it into a man’s game.
Timberlake has returned to the studio with his long-time collaborator Timbaland to produce a project that sounds like it will easily win multiple Grammys. The album opens with “Pusher Lover Girl”, giving Timberlake the opportunity to rap halfway through the song (and showing that he is definitely adept in that department). Justin has managed to make every song sound like a journey from start to finish, with every drum, synth and instrument hitting where it needs to be.
Perhaps one of the most noteworthy tracks on the Experience is “Mirrors,” the album’s penultimate, radio-friendliest and most dissonant track. It’s a solemn love epic for his new wife Jessica Biel that pulls absolutely no punches, leaving the listener reclining in Justin’s confession of undying love for his wife.
Timberlake’s vocals fall nothing short of superlative in the majority of his tracks. He tends to make each and every track his own with the skip-worthy exception of “Suit & Tie.” In “That Girl,” Timberlake delivers a very soulful ballad over slow bass, horns and guitar. It is easily one of the most solid pieces on the album.
The unconventional dance hit “Let the Groove Get In” is an example of Timberlake using to his benefit his potential for personal growth in the music industry. In this song particularly, he flourishes as a well-established vocalist who is able to deviate between highly lyrical and fun, light-hearted musical experiences.
For an album with only ten songs, it sure does tend to drag on. The shortest song on the album is “That Girl” (4:48), which means every song takes extra time to remind you of the hook and chorus before switching into a different style midway. Not a terrible thing, but after the fourth song in a row that lasts more than five minutes (or even six in some cases) it becomes a little arduous to listen to the entire song.
Lyrics do not enhance the album’s quality either. Timberlake combines music made with care and senseless lyrics, such as “If you’d be my strawberry bubblegum, then I’d be your blueberry lollipop.” The ubiquitous theme of Timberlake’s relationships in these lyrics not only carries overtly sexual overtones that the listener would do well to retreat from, but the comparison of his love life to candy products is, by any measure, just corny and immature.
Sexual promiscuity and impurity pervades The 20/20 Experience. The album has explicit references to sex and the instrumental background accompanies the content well. This can be a temptation to lust for married people and singles, so be careful or stay away from it altogether. Be honest in your self-examination if you listen to it (though I would suggest not to). Justin honestly (and accurately) communicates the difficulty (he portrays it as impossibility) to stop moving towards sexual intimacy once drawn in (which is why those who are not married need to guard their hearts to not get drawn in intentionally, especially in tempting situations).
The 20/20 Experience is getting flack for not having enough liveliness or urgency, which is sort of like criticizing an opera for not having a clown. What Timberlake is trying to do here is much more interesting than what anyone anticipated from him: a brave, unclassifiable experience of neo-soul, funk, tribal beats, world music and R&B. It’s an album that proves his fame is no lucky break; though he could make a comfortable living recycling “My Love” for the rest of his musical days, Justin is choosing to expand himself and his music to fresher, outstanding heights. It leaves you wanting more, but more of what?
As previously mentioned, Justin’s album is chock-full of content and messages taking sex out of the context of marriage as God designed it. Sex is good and is to be enjoyed by those who enter into the covenant of marriage. Justin may be married, but he does not connect sex to marriage, but rather expresses the cultural norm of sex separated from (or at least not necessarily connected to) marriage. Christians who listen to this album should honestly seek to apply Philippians 4:8 – which says to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. It is fine to admire the true things and excellent things from this album (mainly, the music itself), but there is a temptation to think impure thoughts, especially impure sexual thoughts on many of the songs.
Christians who are married should fix their thoughts and affections on God and their spouses. Christian singles should think of sex within the biblical framework with its beauty and purity. If they think lustful thoughts or feed lustful desires, and one needs to be honest, then the Christian should not listen to the songs that have that affect, because God says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).
photo credit: Idolator