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?