JT: 20/20 Experience, Part 2

This has been the year of JT. I’ve been telling people all year, and it just keeps going. He’s been everywhere. Jimmy Fallon, Conan, Jay Leno, Times Square, Nashville, and all around the world. Part 1 of The 20/20 Experience is easily one of the best pop albums of the year, and we’re fortunate enough to get a second volume from the best pop artist since Michael Jackson. In all, in case you weren’t counting, both volumes together add up to 25 songs (counting the bonus tracks on the Target editions). It’s a massive double album that just keeps giving. But each volume is very different from each other, and it’s evident in certain places that, indeed, too much of a good thing can turn bad. Sometimes.

Part 2 of 20/20 is described by JT as the slutty second half. If Part 1 is the virgin, Part 2 is the stark opposite. And the description is very accurate. The second part starts off with the five minute “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)”, jumping all the way back to Justified territory. Loud, in your face, solid bass mixed with heavy claps and Timbaland’s signature production are evident all the way through. It’s a simple dance jam that gets the album off to a great start. The vampire-infused “True Blood” follows, describing the game of cat and mouse on the dance floor. Think “My Love” with more of a dark, vampiric gene. JT’s smooth quick lyricism flood the track, and the beat is perfect for his live show. While the extra length on many of the track in Part 1 felt like they worked, extending “True Blood” to nearly 10 minutes just doesn’t stick. The song feels like it could be over by about four minutes, and the rest of the cut just keeps the beat going with Timbaland’s oohs and ahhs mixed with some flashy guitar. It might work live, but there’s a full 2–3 minutes that could have been shaved off. Fortunately the hook comes back, but it’s not enough to save from the maniacal laughs from both JT and Timbaland, which just don’t work.

“Cabaret” is another winner, complete with the singer’s fast delivery and smooth melodies. The feature of Drake works excellently, and the length of the track is just right. Oh and Drake is actually rapping, like he is on most of Nothing Was The Same. “TKO” is one of the major singles from the second volume, and while the track as a whole is great and works as a typical JT track, the insistence of keeping Timbaland talking and shouting through most of the downtime just comes off as boring and annoying. The length is long again, but it works in similar ways from Part 1, where the track is different over halfway through, almost acting as a remix. “Take Back The Night” is the standout track from the whole album. It’s got this retro sound to it, and it’s iconic in every way. Timberlake channeled his inner MJ on this track, and it works in every way possible. Surprisingly, “Murder” is just as good. The elemental beat mixed with the R&B style makes for something just as good as “Suit and Tie”, and both tracks feature Jay-Z, so it fits.

“Drink You Away” and “Only When I Walk Away” are the surprises this time around, the first with its focused acoustic guitar and stretching of JT’s vocals, while the latter features more of what JT’s become so good at: telling the ladies what they’ve done to him. Both tracks incorporate much more instrumentation rather than electronic beat and drum tracks, unlike “Amnesia” which is sandwiched in between the two. The track is similar to “Tunnel Vision”, but starts off like a sequel to “Pusher Lover Girl”, with its sensual violin intro. It turns more into the sequel of “Cry Me A River”, with JT singing solemnly “She’s a stranger that I used to know”. Overall, Part 2 is very good, aside from the overuse of Timbaland. While I know they’re great friends and JT likely won’t ever work with anyone else, he needs to step aside and let JT do his thing. He does mostly, but he’s overused and that takes this second volume down slightly. It’s interesting to think about, but it’s almost like Part 1 is a sequel to Justified, while Part 2 is a direct sequel to Future Sex/Love Sounds. Justified was much more of a pop-focused album, as was Part 1, while Future Sex was very R&B/hip-hop oriented, as was Part 2.

Look guys, we figured out what JT’s been doing this whole time. And it’s fantastic music all the way around.

Justin Mabee