This is the album people have been begging for since Timberlake released his second album in 2006. And it’s safe to say that fans won’t be disappointed by the new music he’s given us this year. Even though he went for a sound and feel that puts you back in the classic Jazz age, there’s a little something for every Timberlake fan on the album: there’s a bit of dance, there’s a bit of “romance,” and there’s even a bit smooth R&B. While not every song on the record is a masterpiece, it’s still a solid release.
The album begins with the slinky, sexy groove of “Pusher Love Girl.” The song is a little weird because it starts with swelling strings that sound like they belong on a soundtrack to an old black and white movie. It’s not too long before the strings give way to the funky guitar riff. As you can expect from the title, there is a major drug motif going through the song. The lyrics find Justin singing about how this girl has got him so “high up on the ceiling” and how he can’t enough of her love. If that didn’t spell it out for you, Justin makes sure you get the message by the end when he lists off several drugs. The only issue with the song is that it presents the main problem with the album: the song is way too long. After the five minute mark when you think the song is over, it starts up again…for another three minutes. But I’ll get into the length of the songs later.
“Suit & Tie” is next and while I didn’t really like it when I first heard it, it’s now grown on me. But I seem to like the beginning of the song where everything is slowed down the best. It would be interesting to hear a version of the song at this pace and tempo. Anyway, this track keeps the old school Jazz vibe going, but there seems to be some 60’s R&B inspiration as well due to Justin’s vocals. They’re reminiscent of groups like The Isley Brothers and The Miracles. The thing that doesn’t fit well is Jay-Z’s part. It just feels so random and tossed in. The song might fare better without it. Justin finally gets things moving with the dance song “Don’t Hold the Wall.”
This is probably the best track on the album. Not only does it get you moving, it’s similar to some of his earlier dance songs. What makes the music so interesting here is that it has this odd beat that sounds like you’re surrounded by jungle life. There are also Indian background vocals that add an exotic feel to the music. By that description it seems like it would clash, but it actually sounds really cool. Also, it’s really catchy. You’ll be singing “Dance, don’t hold the wall” after one listen. But again after the four minute mark, the song keeps going with weird samples of some woman saying “Well, how you like it?” It’s not a big thing, but it doesn’t fit here very well and it makes the song longer than it needs to be.
What’s refreshing about this album is that unlike his second release, just about every song is great. “Tunnel Vision” has a bunch of different sounds going on that creates this intense beat and rhythm. It’s a catchy song that finds Timberlake playing around with his vocals, which is partly why this track stands out. “Let the Groove Get In” is another fun dance song that gets you on the floor, but clocking in at six minutes the song is just too damn repetitive. All Justin says throughout the song is “Are you comfortable right there right there, let the groove get in, feel it right there.” At that point it’s tiring. The closing track “Blue Ocean Floor” is a relaxing, sentimental number that has Justin sounding sweet and soft for once. The music and the lyrics paint this beautiful scene, like you’re walking on an empty beach after a rain storm. It’s probably one of his best slow songs yet.
The weirdest and my least favorite song here is “Spaceship Coupe.” Really, it doesn’t sound all that bad. The music is interesting and Justin sounds good as always. What makes it questionable is the topic itself. It’s basically about having sex on the moon. This idea is just beyond cheesy and not even cheesy in a good way. It’s the kind of roll your eyes and sigh cheesy. Also, there are times during the song where he sounds like he’s talking about boning an actual alien. To make matters even worse, towards the end of the song this weird high pitched moaning comes in; you can only guess what that’s supposed to be. It’s not a horrible song, but definitely not the best here.
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the songs here run for far too long. Most of them are between five to eight minutes. Some long songs can be amazing, but there’s a difference between an eight minute song that keeps your attention that you don’t even realize how much time has passed and an eight minute song that you want to be over at the three minute mark. It would be okay if the extra length added something different to the track, but it doesn’t. It gets repetitive and dull after a while; you just stop caring about it after a certain point. It’s guaranteed that you’ll move on to the next song after four minutes on a seven minute song.
Overall, the album gets 8.5/10. Though Justin made us wait for what felt like forever for some new music, it was worth it. Not only do the songs find the singer exploring new territory in sound and tone, he also revisits his older sounds that fans know and love. As always the songs are catchy and will make you want to dance and sing. Most importantly it’s a fun album, which Timberlake seems to be known for. The sequel to this record will be released later this year, but it’s hard to say whether or not if it will be just as good or even better than this one.