For reasons that I care not to discuss, I've been listening to JT's new album for the past two weeks. If it were not for a Spring Break trip to Iceland, I probably would've have shared these thoughts about the new release on Tuesday. But at any rate, here we go:
The album is nearly perfect. (strong language - I know! But then again, I don't really write posts about albums that don't move me. So deal with it...)
I remember when "SexyBack" was released in the Summer of 2006. I had a car at the time, so would often grow frustrated when the song was undertaking its endless assault on the airwaves. I thought that despite the song's originality, it was just stupid.
And then senior year of college started. And I trust that if there were other dissenters similar to myself, they were quickly beat into submission once realizing that all the pretty girls were dancing to the song. So there I was, hollering "Yep" and growing to love a song that I didn't actually love.
I had the same antagonistic response upon first hearing the lead-in for "Suit and Tie". In my eyes, not even a unwaveringly solid verse from Jay Z would be able to rescue the track. Yet, with the beat changeup and accompanying visuals, I knew that Mr. Timberlake had a hit on his hands.
One of the things that you can either love or hate about Justin is the fact that he dabbles in a wide array of sounds. Sure, the falsetto is always there. But, the accompanying melodies have always been unique as he'd made his way through working relationships with The Neptunes and into his seemingly life-long bond with Timbaland. As ?uestlove notes in this post, JT could have easily taken the Usher approach and asked Diplo to help him create his own version of "Climax." But instead, he hollered at his boy Tim and gave the RnB landscape a sound that it's either been missing...or one that it has never actually heard before.
Ostensibly a 10-track album, the record really mashes together 15-20 songs under 10 thematic umbrellas. Where you could easily argue alongside others that JT is creating a futuristic 60s or 70s sound with some of the tracks, I personally hear an undeniable MJ-flare that seems to fill a void left by the legend instead of simply imitating the legend's work. (listen to "Don't Hold The Wall" and "Let The Groove In" then tell me what you think) And in the spirit of daring the be bold, I think the album boasts a degree of songwriting that outshines most RnB acts on the market - save for maybe Miguel and the talent that is Frank Ocean.
Is this album a classic? I don't know. It likely has the staying power of a 90s pop album that was released with the intent of dropping new singles for up to a year after the release date. However, with ?uestlove suggesting that the next chapter of the project will be coming in November, one can see why JT is going all blitzkrieg and giving no fewer than 5 of the album's 10 songs public exposure in his promotional tour.
Nevertheless, looking at the project in its entirety, I am comfortable with calling this Justin's best work to date. His previous two albums showcased an artist in search of his zone. Today, seven years after his last album, I think it is safe that the zone has been found.
Early favorites are "Strawberry Bubblegum", "Blue Ocean Floor", "Don't Hold The Wall" and "Spaceship Coupe." No real misses in my opinion now that I've come around to appreciating "Mirrors" after watching the song's newly released visuals.
Would love to hear what others are thinking about the project in the comments section!
(follow me on Twitter --> @drayford)