Albeit being a continuation or an immediate follow-up to the first part, one could see the stark difference between the albums.
Oftentimes, I have the tendency of labelling albums according the artiste’s physical traits, such as labelling Madonna albums according to her chameleonic hair colour – blonde for fun, dance tracks-imbued records and brunette for records that are packed with dark, angst-filled ballads (think “American Life”).
Hence, in Justin’s case, I would put it this way: Part 1 as the “clean shaven” album and Part 2 as the “scruffy” album. Reason being Justin tends to switch between these two styles, depending on his mood.
In Part 1 or the “clean shaven” album, neo-soul music dominates the album with soulful tracks such as “Pusher Love Girl”, which is the opening track and up to the sexually-charged “Spaceship Coupe”. Furthermore, the track arrangement is neat and well-balanced.
However, Part 2 or the “scruffy” album is totally au contraire. The arrangement of tracks seemed unbalanced and there are more dance and pop tracks rather than Soul/R&B. And to truly understand the message behind each and every song, one has to put it on frequent rotation – and I did.
The first track called “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” is a dance anthem revolving around jungle sex. By the time the song reaches into its chorus, one could easily draw a faint parallel to the title track of his sophomore album (“Futuresex Lovesounds”).
Similar vocal style was applied to the second track (“True Blood”), which perhaps is an ode to the HBO series of the same name; ditto the background elements of “Sexy Back” as the song reaches the end. “Cabaret”, the third track in the album featuring Drake, on the other hand, equals sex to a burlesque performance or a contest of sorts. Moreover, a lot of music critics too find its lyrics sleazy.
While most tracks may sound mediocre, I have to commend Justin’s ability in meddling both flat and high notes into ear-pleasing harmonies, clearly noted in songs such as “TKO”, “Take Back the Night”, and the opening of “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I want)”.
Vocal harmonising aside, “TKO” has a rather awkward start – the “coochie coo” rap verse provided by Timbaland which I deem unnecessary, while “Take Back The Night” is an obvious allusion to Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You”.
“Murder” is another typical hip-hop offering that has a Beyoncé-esque start with Jay Z providing the rap verses that starts with Yoko Ono as the reason behind the breaking up of The Beatles.
As I resume to the slow tempo track called “Drink You Away”, I could not help it but to compare the song with Lady Gaga’s “You and I”, which is also a slow tempo song with touches of electric guitar and piano – a very southern song indeed, I must say. “You Got it On” is a mellow, laidback song while “Amnesia” invokes lifelike drama experience with strings, provided by The Benjamin Wright Orchestra. In “Only When I Walk Away”, anger conquers Justin mood and that “angriness” is further amped with hard rock guitar strums and echoes of his voice.
“Not A Bad Thing” will take you back to his ‘N Sync days while the hidden track “Pair of Wings” have drawn many speculations among reviewers and music reporters alike, since the song has been reportedly alluding his past relationship with former lover and Mickey Mouse Club co-star Britney Spears.
But lyrically, “Pair of Wings” has the most profound impact in terms of hidden meaning compared to the other songs. For Malaysian edition, two more tracks – Blindness and Electric Lady – are included in the second disc of the Deluxe Edition.
Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2” and The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience (RCA/Sony Music) is available in stores now.
*Photos by various sources/Sony Music