Hey, want a super late, ambling and unimportant review of Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience? No? Okay!
I think most of us gave Justin Timberlake’s new album a listen when it came out, watched his sepia performance at the Grammys and accepted the B+ reviews he received from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone (because we culturally like Justin Timberlake a B+ amount, which is probably best).
And that was sort of it, you know? His first album in over five years sort of roared in and left quietly. Sure, we all liked that suit and tie song fine.
Surely promotions for the album are still in full effect, just not for my unimportant demographic, which is different from FutureSex/LoveSounds which was FOR ME. The first time I heard SexyBack I pulled my car over so that I could give it my complete undivided attention. It sounded like disco Black Keys and after it ended I flipped desperately through the stations, trying to catch it again. I raced home and pre-ordered it on iTunes (a sentence that sounds archaic to me now), which allowed me to download the single and I felt such a release listening to it again. And again. And again. Each play came with the deep and overwhelming need to fuck Justin Timberlake. Now? My only connection to JT is my agent pulling up the album art from 20/220 Experience and then pointing at his $300 haircut.
The point isn’t that Justin Timberlake isn’t marketed to me anymore because I am no longer part of a high buying age bracket (I am a staunch proponent of the Spotify model*, a company with Sean Parker on its board, who was portrayed by JT The Actor in The Social Network); Justin Timberlake knows that I like him just fine. The point isn’t that I’m older or that sometimes I feel like I’m not allowed to enjoy fluffy music, which an absurd restriction left over from college. The point is that I got stoned last week and relistened to the entire album.
I don’t know why.It’s not something that my brain was demanding to hear again. Although, to be fair, I would maybe listen to The Walkmen’s 2012 “Heaven,” and Neko Case’s live albums if I was comfortable with that. But needless to say, I listened to the whole thing. Loved it. Replayed the part of Pusher Love Girl where he says “My MDMA” at least fifteen times. Looooooooooved it. Even though every song is two minutes too long (not new) for seemingly no reason other than he’s taking your fumbling orgasim into consideration. The intro at the top of That Girl might make your eyes fall out of your head from rolling them so hard.
It certainly doesn’t speak well of any artistic venture that one has to be on drugs to enjoy it, but hey, there you go. Sometimes something comes along that you just have a visceral reaction to, caused by timing or need or whatever. Since then, it has been on repeat in my car, at the gym, walking around the city. I think in part because of this very specific nostalgia it gives me. Like it’s the album I should have been listening to as I got ready to lose my virginity: meaningful in a way that is a little empty and will ultimately unimportant, with a bunch of sex beats on top.
I care and appreciate about the fact that Justin Timberlake WANTS to be great. He WANTS to make a quality product and he absolutely succeeded. His music could easily devolve into a late night argument about the definition of good music if I still had the energy for that debate (and he hurts my case with the song Strawberry Bubblegum and the gross Target cross-promotion). He’s the kind of artist that it’s hard to dislike: he is not a good actor, I would argue that In Time may go down as a cult bad movie, although more likely than not it will just go down as a bad movie and I while I understand his SNL appeal enough is enough, dude. But fuck, what a little showman. Even when he is bad, he is going to entertain you.
While everyone should absolutely cut your teeth on Michael and Janet Jackson, Prince, Al Green, oh lord Marvin Gaye (put this on right now) and Elton John, I can’t help but think that JT is gonna get to those ranks. Eventually? Maybe? Objectivity may be shot; I will have to wonder if I’m just victim of loving him as a teen. But I love that Pusher Love Girl song, and the chorus of Mirrors is very real to me.
It’s important to love good things and I think it’s just as important to love the people who strive to make things that are good. Justin Timberlake could release a hot pile of garbage every year because he’s sexy and teenage girls don’t know anything, but he doesn’t. I appreciate that consideration for pop.
*I do think online music is the future, although the need to tangibly own something will keep me spending exorbitant amounts on vinyl I will happily pay a higher monthly fee if it ensures artists quit being dicked over and I think Sean Parker is so gross.