Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” comes out today. Bolstered by non-stop television appearances (including his CW special tonight) it looks like the title will sell at least 500,000 copies in its opening frame, making it the best first week of any album in 2013.
Reviews have ranged from stellar to moderate. In my HitFix review, I wrote: “At its best, “The 20/20 Experience” feels like its own invention: an exploration into what it means to take the traditional confines of pop and then see how far those boundaries can be pushed...At its worst, “The 20/20 Experience” feel like sets of unfinished lab experiments stretched far too thin. Every one of the 10 tunes here creeps up to or surpasses the seven-minute mark, often to their own detriment.”
How are other critics seeing it? Here’s what some major outlets have to say about “The 20/20 Experience.”
AP’s Mesfin Fekadu calls “The 20/20 Experiment” “a brilliant piece of work that plays like a musical movement. The 10 tracks (which average seven minutes) weave into one another beautifully as his falsetto glides over each beat. It's an unconventional adventure that makes your bones groove. Seriously.
It's hard to think of another performer who can make a seven-minute track continuously engaging and refreshing, especially at a time when a five-minute song screams "problem" for radio stations and our attention span gets shorter with every tweet or text.
Billboard’s Jason Lipshutz says, “Six-and-a-half years after effectively conquering pop music with a highly sexual, fashionably futuristic album, Justin Timberlake has returned as a more relaxed version of himself, with a brand new palette of musical shades...The propulsive moans and aggressive come-ons of his 2006 smash single "Sexyback," for instance, have been traded for big-band brass, creeping bass and open-hearted professions of love
The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica is not a fan: “He could have made a cabaret standards album, an acoustic singer-songwriter folk record, a ghastly dance-music immersion, a pseudo-Drake sing-rap hybrid. Any of those would have been more risky and more distinctive than what ended up on “The 20/20 Experience,” an amiable, anodyne album that hopes not to alienate anyone but also doesn’t offer new reasons to commit. It’s an album of largely inconsequential beauty, showing Mr. Timberlake as an artist with no incentive to innovate, making this primarily a paean to brand maintenance.
Vibe’s Clover Hope is similarly not entranced: At its best, 20/20 is a reliable product in a Justin Timberlake assembly line. You’ll find great records—the bedroom soul-trip “Spaceship Coupe” and “Tunnel Vision,” the track you’d say, “This again?” to, if it was released as a lead single instead of “Suit & Tie”—as well as some groan moments: “I can’t wait to get you home and get you in my veins,” a metaphor on “Pusher Love Girl.”
USA Today’s Elysa Gardner appreciates the tag-team approach: “Justin Timberlake's first studio album in nearly seven years is a tribute to two of the most important people in his life: Jessica Biel and Timbaland — though not necessarily in that order....The new collection picks up where 2006's FutureSex/LoveSounds left off and, eventually, explores love and sex from the perspective of a more mature chap. Timbaland is the R&B savant with whom Timberlake has teamed on most of his best material since shedding the bubblegum stigma of 'N Sync.
The good news for those who like "The 20/20 Experience" is there's more coming later this year. After Questlove spilled the beans that the new album was only the first half, Timberlake confirmed to reporters, according to Reuters, that a second half would, indeed, come out in 2013.