Album review: Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience (RCA)
Album of the Week: Timberlake's back in the groove with some top tunes
In recent years, Justin Timberlake has been more involved with secondary activities – establishing a film presence, running the fashion label William Rast, exec-producing MTV reality series The Phone, developing an eco-friendly golf course, helping revamp MySpace, and getting married – than he has with his core business as a pop star. So it's perhaps no surprise that The 20/20 Experience should be less a game-changing experience than a diversely enjoyable array of contemporary dance-pop strategies.
There's nothing too innovative about Timbaland's production, but it's probably as reliable a set of grooves as R&B will spawn this year, custom-tailored to carry the singer's gentle falsetto.
The results offer an elegant updating of various Seventies modes. There's the floaty, Curtis Mayfield feel of the single “Suit & Tie”, a key download armament in this January's relaunch of MySpace; there's the Bee Gee-esque tone of the bubble-bath-soul croon “Strawberry Bubblegum”, which shifts gear five minutes in to an electric piano groove reminiscent of Gil Scott-Heron; and there's the stratospheric Chi-Lites stylings of the hokey “Spaceship Coupe”, with his falsetto wrapped in strings and ecstatic, cooing female backing vocals.
The Memphis soul of “That Girl” is less successful – the flicky guitar riff is too light, and the horns sound thin and squashed, though the subtle acappella bass vocal is a neat touch – while “Let the Groove Get In” offers the album's most infectious rhythm, the beat pushed along by a “Soul Makossa”-style percussive roll.
Another frisky success is “Don't Hold the Wall”, an invitation to the dance built around a marimba groove with chirping crickets, darbuka beat and deep synth bass, with Timberlake's interleaved vocal lines adding to the subtly designed rhythm bed.
Indeed, there's no notable weakness about the album, though I could have done without the pomp-rock intro to “Mirrors”, a comeback song presumably paying tribute to his actress wife Jessica Biel. “I'm looking right at the other half of me,” he sings, “It's like you're my mirror, staring back at me”. Sweet!
Download: Let the Groove Get In; Don't Hold the Wall; Strawberry Bubblegum; Suit & Tie
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Game of Thrones season 5: Emilia Clarke praises characters who 'accept their femininity'
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Glastonbury 2015 tickets: How to make sure you’re successful in Sunday's re-sale
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate