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CD review: Justin Timberlake’s ‘The 20/20 Experience’

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Smith Galtney

The Details

Justin Timberlake
The 20/20 Experience
Four stars

Presenting the coronation of Justin Timberlake: We loved him, so we set him free, to do sketch comedy and movies and other stuff icons-in-progress like to take on. But now he’s come back, and from the consummate sound of The 20/20 Experience, his first album in more than six years, this grown boy is ours forever.

Timberlake’s solo debut, 2002’s Justified, showed he had more pop smarts and beat savvy than any emerging superstar. And with 20/20, he’s made an album that’s even stronger than 2006’s Futuresex/Lovesounds, with no excess fat and much longer tunes. As he recently told Capital FM, “If Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin can do 10-minute songs … then why can’t we? We’ll figure out the radio edits later.”

The result is immersive listening, a throwback to when R&B album cuts came labeled with the parenthetical “(Parts 1 & 2).” Songs like “Pusher Love Girl” and “Strawberry Bubblegum” flaunt more hooks and variations than lesser artists deliver in entire careers. By the time “Mirror” wraps up its sloppy, cosmic coda, you’ve nearly forgotten that its intro veered woefully close to power-ballad schmaltz. And “Blue Ocean Floor,” the gorgeous, backward-looped meditation that closes everything, has you double-checking the credits to see that, yes, it’s still a Timbaland production.

In the wake of Michael Jackson’s passing, it’s been said the world will never agree on one entertainer the same way again. But The 20/20 Experience should prove that wrong. The King of Pop is dead. Long live Justin Timberlake.

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