In his seven years away, it’s clear that Justin Timberlake has studied his masters.

His new single, “Suit And Tie,” is a throwback to old-school R&B. Leave it to Timberlake to represent R&B in a way that few contemporary artists are today (notable exceptions include Bruno Mars and Miguel). As ZZ Top noted, every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man.

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The song opens with a slow coda before it really starts, but when it  gets going,  it’s full-on Timberlake singing  in falsetto. The backing music is a kaleidoscope of swirling synths and horns. It floats along like a track from The Whispers, but Timbaland’s production manages to pay homage without sounded dated.


Timberlake’s voice remains great. The time away certainly hasn’t diminished it and it’s fun to hear him trying something totally new. He announced via video on Thursday that new music was coming. His last album, "FutureSex/LoveSounds," came out in 2006.

No jeans and hoodies for JT. In the song, he’s dressing to the nines and he expects his lady to as well because he’s going to “show her a few things about love.”  And that requires that “I be on my suit and tie shit.”  Even if said outfit is ending up on the floor.

Jay-Z drops in for a verse about dressing up too. As he raps, “nothing succeeds like excess”... then he says something about “make-up sex” and wearing tuxes “for no reason.”  It works and there’s star value add here, but what’s nice about it is it doesn’t feel forced. It feels like Jay-Z just happened to drop by the studio.

The song then goes into a hypnotic, engaging outro before a great, cold ending. It's more of a statement that Timberlake is back than a catchy, hit song.  And that's fine. Artists don't lead with their strongest stuff.  As re-introductions go, it's a good place to start and he can build to what we hope are some catchier songs on the album.

Timberlake also released open letter to his fans. It turns out that  "Suit and Tie" is the first track from "The 20/20 Experience," which, he says, will come out later this year. And, yes, the retro feel is on purpose. The inspiration for the album "came out of the blue," he says. "What I came up with is something I couldn't be more excited about! It is full of inspiration that I grew up listening to and some newfound muses that I've discovered along the way."  Read the full letter here.

UPDATE: The song, which is exclusively available on iTunes, has shot to the No. 1 spot on iTunes' playlist.

 

How do you like "Suit and Tie?"