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Do critics expect too much from Justin Timberlake? By and large, he is tremendously liked by most pundits and yet the reviews for “The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2,” which came out yesterday, are mixed at best, and dismissive at worst.
I gave "The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2" a B-. Several critics agree with my thought that between March’s “The 20/20 Experience” and “The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2,” there is a fine album, but to stretch the 20-plus songs over two albums was too much. But I can’t help wondering if we all judge Timberlake a bit too harshly given how talented he is and hold him to an almost impossibly high standard because it seems like he can do everything really well. As I read these reviews, most of which are pretty tough, I wanted to defend JT for his willingness to experiment and try to do something new. Yet, at the same time, I found myself nodding in agreement with much of what was said.
See what you think after reading the review round-up below.
Associated Press: "The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2" uses the same formula that's becoming his musical trademark — the trance-inducing grooves and futuristic electronic beats helmed by Timbaland and Timberlake, who co-wrote each song. Unfortunately it doesn't feel new. Like "FutureSex" and the first "20/20" album, the songs on "2 of 2" are long, but they aren't as entertaining or as cohesive as his first effort. Some tracks sound like leftovers from past recording sessions, and — dare we say it — actually drag on.
Consequence of Sound: The first half of Pt. 2 suffers because it’s the first time it appears that Justin Timberlake is actually trying. His first two records, his time with N*SYNC, his acting experiences, his Lonely Island collaborations, and even his Justin Vernon impression have always succeeded because of the air of effortlessness that surrounded him.
Los Angeles Times: Yet for all his newfound machismo, Timberlake — who heads out on tour again next month — is actually most convincing here at his softest, reaching back in a handful of songs to before the first "20/20 Experience." "Not a Bad Thing" is a dewy, blue-eyed soul number that sounds like it could've come from the final 'N Sync album...And "Pair of Wings," an unlisted acoustic track, closes the disc with a lovely (and unexpected) flash of modesty: "I know I can't save you from the troubles of the world," Timberlake sings in a near-whisper. "But if I could I'd fly you away on a big old pair of wings." Perhaps the sign of true power is knowing when not to use it.
People: This sequel – recorded during the same sessions as the first installment, with the same producers (Timbaland and Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon) – isn't just the collection of leftovers that it could have been. It stands as a stellar set in its own right. Although it can't top its more challenging, cohesive predecessor – a few songs run too long, and a couple maybe could have been dropped – this more singles-driven disc actually has more to satisfy fans of Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds.
Spin: The sequel rarely beats the original. Cinematic exceptions include the return of the Corleone family, the Empire striking back, and the encore early-'80s outing of a certain blue-tights-wearing beefcake superhero; musical exceptions don't really exist at all. Justin Timberlake's follow-up to the spring 2013 commercial juggernaut The 20/20 Experience won't change that. On The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2, you won't find an aggressive, exotic foot stomper worthy of its predecessor's "Let the Groove Get In"; nor will you find a shimmering weeper like "Mirrors," or a mid-tempo burner that makes your shoulders twitch as vibrantly as "Pusher Love Girl." The end result is disappointing, but only slightly, in the same way virtually all other second comings let you down.
Hiphopdx: Instead of letting this "experience" marinate, Justin Timberlake made "The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2" a continuation to an album that didn't need a sequel.
Even the most talented artists don’t always know when to leave well enough alone. So when they don’t, they usually make the ill-fated mistake of over-extending their art, which proves to be unnecessary and at times, a hasty blunder. And unfortunately, that summarizes Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2.
Idolator: How “Pair Of Wings” and half the other songs on this album got through any vetting process and were deemed worthy follow-ups to Part 1, we may never know (hopefully that making-of will delve into it!). It’s the first real blemish on JT’s catalog, and more than disappointment, The 20/20 Experience – 2 Of 2 elicits frustration, because it was so unnecessary. Justin Timberlake didn’t need to do this, and that’s exactly how it sounds.
Chicago Tribune: [Timberlake] and Timbaland aren’t satisfied just to create songs -- they want to make musical events. Many of the tracks are outfitted with lush orchestration and extended codas that at their best suggest a type of progressive pop or neo-soul music, but just as often come off as indulgent and tedious.
Is the press too harsh on Justin Timberlake?
Lady Gaga, Eminem and Arcade Fire will perform at the first YouTube Music Awards.
Director Spike Jonze will serve as the creative direction of the the new awards show, which will take place Nov. 3 at New York’s Pier 36. Nominations for the awards, which will honor the most watched and shared videos, will be announced Oct. 17. “We’re setting out to create a night that’s all about making things and creativity in the spirit of everyone that uses YouTube,” Jonze said in a statement. “As well as giving out awards, we’ll be making live music videos. The whole night should feel like a YouTube video itself.”
The awards show will also celebrate its homegrown stars such as violinist Lindsey Stirling, whose video channel has garnered more than 400 million views, and Cdza, the collective of NYC musical virtuosos, who debut a new wacky yet musically accomplished video experiment every other week such as “History of Lyrics That Aren't Lyrics” or “History of Wooing Women”
Jason Schwartzman will host the awards show, which will be live streamed around the world on YouTube. Check out his announcement video below.
A quick review of last night's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I know what people who are sexually attracted to buildings are called...
"Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has been watched by 22 million so far
That's counting DVR viewers and Thursday repeat viewership. PLUS: Will Samuel L. Jackson make a cameo tonight?
Jennifer Hudson spoofs "Scandal"
Watch her "Scandalous" video for Funny or Die.
See Alec Baldwin's 1st MSNBC promo
Baldwin jokingly promises "restore balance to an unbalanced network."
"The Simpsons" plans to kill off another character
"Simpsons" boss Al Jean says: "I'll give you a clue that the actor playing the character won an Emmy for playing that character, but I won't say who it is." PLUS: Did Homer defeat Fermat's Last Theorem?
Hallmark Channel renews "Cedar Cove"
Andie MacDowell's drama series will be back for a 2nd season.
Barbara Walters says sorry to Katy Perry
Perry didn't like Walters' comments during the taping of their interview for the "10 Most Fascinating People of 2011" special.
YouTube to air its own music awards show, directed by Spike Jonze
Lady Gaga and Eminem will participate in the Nov. 3 event, which will be streamed live from New York City.
How to game Plinko
There are three ways to conquer "The Price is Right" game.
Yahoo's "SNL" archives aren't all they're cracked up to be
"The complete 'Saturday Night Live' archive" from 1975 to 2013 is, at times difficult to search.
"Breaking Bad's big ratings prove that Netflix is saving water-cooler TV
Netflix and other On-Demand options gave viewers a chance to catch up on shows that may have missed.
"SNL's" Vanessa Bayer to visit "The Mindy Project"
She'll guest as Chris Messina's potential love interest.
Discovery's "Dukes of Haggle" will follow barterers in the South
The reality show about teams competing in bartering premiers tonight.
"Justified" adds 2, including Alicia Witt
Alicia Witt play Michael Rapaport's sister, while Edi Gathegi will play a Haitian criminal who works for the Crowes.
TCM announces an "Oscar" documentary
Airing in February, the film will tell the story of the Academy Awards.
Netflix adds the final seasons of "30 Rock" and "The Office"
Last year's seasons of "Parks and Rec" and "Parenthood" are also available.
Watch Kaley Cuoco's sister audition for "The Voice"
Briana Cuoco performed Lady Gaga's "You and I."
Kanye West deletes all of his anti-Jimmy Kimmel tweets
West only has 34 tweets up, so it might be normal for him to delete tweets.
"The Good Wife" boss explains the season premiere
Why do a 10-minute cold open?
Spike TV renews "Ink Masters" and "Tattoo Nightmares"
Dave Navarro's "Ink" reality show will return next year with 13 new episodes.
Indianapolis Colts players Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne return to "Parks and Rec"
The quarterback and wide receiver were on hand Monday during filming at Lucas Oil Stadium. Both appeared in cameos last season.
"Duck Dynasty" coming out with 3 more books
Five "Duck" books are already out.
Jimmy Fallon announces a "Clean Cut Comedy Tour"
The "Late night" host will be performing in six cities in October and December.
Nat Geo orders "The Numbers Game"
The series hosted by scientist Jake Porway first debuted as a three-part special during Nat Geo's "Brain Games."
Watch a preview of HBO's "Getting On"
The medical comedy is a remake of a UK series.
Not even Tony Shalhoub can't save "We Are Men"
The CBS sitcom has four likable stars, including Jerry O'Connell and Kal Penn. Yet it's still horrible. PLUS: O'Connell admits: "My shows get canceled very quickly."
Mark-Paul Gosselaar welcomes his 3rd child
The "Saved by the Bell" alum welcomed a son, his first child with wife Catriona McGinn.
Where does "Breaking Bad" rank among the all-time best TV series?
Now that it's over, "Breaking Bad" should be considered the No. 2 show of all time, behind "The Wire," says Tim Goodman. (No. 3 is "Mad Men" and No. 4 is "The Sopranos.") Goodman compares "Breaking Bad's" sprint to greatness to Usain Bolt. "It's not minimizing the greatness of the first five seasons of other series," he says. "It's merely putting an exclamation point on how startling and magnificent this five-season run of Breaking Bad truly was, and what purity of vision and relentless daring fueled Vince Gilligan along the way."
—Skyler committing suicide!? Vince Gilligan proposed it, but his writers voted him down
—Stephen Colbert enslaves Gilligan in his basement (Watch last night's interview Part 1 and Part 2)
—Can Bryan Cranston escape "Breaking Bad's" success?
—Obamacare wouldn't have helped Walter White
—Bryan Cranston says goodbye to "Mr White"
—Aaron Paul to Jesse: "I love you and you will always be a part of me"
—Was Walter White dreaming? Because that's the only way the improbable finale works
—Stevia-based sweeteners take advantage of hoopla, but the company has no comment
—Badfinger's "Baby Blue" soars 3,000% on iTunes // Badfinger also suffered a doomed fate
—"Breaking Bad" had 3 endings: "Ozymandias," "Granite State" and "Felina"
—Clorox, Miller Lite, JC Penney try to capitalize on the "Breaking Bad" finale
—Quit nitpicking!: The finale was perfect, resolving the conflict, as all good finales should do
—"Felina" was a "cynicalpalooza," letting Walter die thinking of himself as a heroic great man
—Walter White's redemptive end might tarnish "Breaking Bad's legacy
—Laura Fraser jokes: "Clearly she's a monster! It's disgusting. Disgusting behavior"
—Top 10 unanswered questions // How Albuquerque TV covered the finale
—Century 21 puts Walter White's house on Craigslist -- but the owner is not selling
—New York Times OK with Walter impersonating a reporter, but it didn't know in advance
—"Uncle Jack" Michael Bowen had trouble killing Hank
—Finale set a piracy record with more than 500,000 illegal downloads
—In Memoriam: To everybody who died on "Breaking Bad"
—18 Easter Eggs from the series finale // I (heart) Jesse Pinkman yarn bomb spotted in Brooklyn
—Watch: "Heatin' Meat with Skinny Pete"
When "Blue Jasmine" opened in the summer, its awards talk initially revolved around Cate Blanchett's certain Best Actress nod -- but as the glowing reviews and remarkable box office continued, the conversation has expanded. Speaking about their 2013 Oscar strategy to Scott Feinberg, Sony Classics bosses Michael Barker and Tom Bernard say they're confident the film will receive Best Picture nominations, along with nods for Sally Hawkins, Woody Allen's screenplay (of course) and even the costumes. They also explain their decision to play any festivals with the film, while the conversation extends to "Before Midnight," "The Invisible Woman," and their foreign and documentary hopefuls. [The Race]
Tom Hanks walked the red carpet with the man he plays in "Captain Phillips," Richard Phillips, Friday at the opening night of the 51st New York Film Festival. Unfortunately, Phillips couldn't make it to Los Angeles for the West Coast premiere of the film tonight, but that wasn't going to stop director Paul Greengrass from giving Phillips his due. Even after his ordeal of being taken hostage by Somali pirates in 2009, Phillips has returned to the sea as a ship captain. And as Phillips is actually setting sail this week (according to Greengrass at least), he said hello to everyone at the film's Los Angeles premiere via Skype. It was a fleeting moment, but one that will be remembered by the Academy, guild and industry attendees who will spread their enthusiasm for the Best Picture contender (i.e., it was a nice PR win).
Should we judge "Sleepy Hollow" by the monster of the week or the mythology of the week? It's still an open question in these early stages, as the show finds its way and figures out how to strike the right balance.
It's Hollywood night! That means lots of silly costumes, which is always fun, and some concepts that probably seemed like good ideas in the drawing board stage but shouldn't have been attempted, and usually some not-great music. Anyway, this season stands out in that, even at this early stage, I think it's safe to assume the dancing will be pretty good. Crazy, right?
If the first major creative choice in your latest entry in a franchise irritates and alienates every fan of that property, maybe you might want to rethink things.
Consider this a warning: if you read any further, there's a good chance you're going to have the new book about Bridget Jones totally ruined for yourself, as well as elements of "Dumb and Dumber To," last night's "Breaking Bad," and other things as well. It may be too late, since most of the headlines I've seen today have almost gleefully given it away, but I'd rather give you the choice about whether or not you want to know right now. It seems like more and more often now, the assumption is that you have no right whatsoever to expect that you will remain unspoiled after the split-second something airs, and it seems like even before that now, we're just going to have accept that we have no control over how we digest a narrative.
Few artists have made such an initially strong impression as Lorde, the 16-year old New Zealand singer/songwriter. Her breakthrough, the finger-snapping, cynical “Royals” became the first song by a solo female to top Billboard’s Alternative chart in 17 years... longer than she’s been alive.
Her debut album, “Pure Heroine,” arrives today (30) and it’s a welcome reminder that most 16 year olds have a lot more on their minds than Disney would like us to believe. It’s not always sunny and not everyone is dreaming of which One Direction member they’d like to date.
While “Pure Heroine” sometimes drowns under the weight of its own pretension, most of the time Lorde sounds exactly like how a world-aware, savvy teenager should.
Most tracks are built around loops and beats that she created, and while few reach the insanely catchiness of “Royals,” there’s a lot here to sustain interest. On album opener, the snappy “Tennis Court,” she talks about smiling through the fear as she and her friends hide behind their fake images. It’s the high school in “Heathers” set to a beat.
On “Ribs,” which sounds like it could have been a Lana Del Rey cut, Lorde sings in a low smoky swirl of a voice, but it’s a little hard to take her seriously when she sings, “It’s feels so scary getting old.”
It may not be fair, but it’s almost impossible not to compare Lorde to last year’s “It” girl, Lana Del Rey. Both rely heavily on beats, an often breathy delivery, a certain insouciant mystery (Lorde told Billboard if it were up to her she’d never do interviews) and a made-up persona (Lorde’s real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor). Even though she’s younger, Lorde seems to already have her identity more clearly defined and she’s more self-assured than Del Rey. Plus, the hype preceded Del Rey’s radio success, whereas with Lorde, it was the reverse.
Some of the lyrics verge on the overly precious, as if she’s trying too hard: on the hypnotic “Buzzcut Season” she sings, “I remember when your head caught flame/I kissed your scalp and caressed your brain.” Yikes.
Too much of “Pure Heroine” sounds alike, so when a track like “White Teeth Teens” comes around with its militant, rat-a-tat drums and the kaleidoscope background singing, it’s a nice and needed change of pace. “I’ll let you in on something big/I’m not a White Teeth Teen,” she sings, happy to be seen as the ultimate outsider.
Similarly, with “Team,” her voice rises over the beats, as she she sings in that way that only a teenage girl can: “I’m over being told to raise my hands up in the air/So there...” “A World Alone” starts with a lonely guitar note, as she rides off in the car with an older boy. “Let them talk as we’re dancing in this world alone,” she sings.
If Lorde’s handlers can tamp down the hype and let her story continue to build, it will be fascinating to see where she goes as she develops to find her own voice. She’s off to an auspicious start, but we can hold off on the “voice of a generation” heaviosity for now.