Music Review: Justin Timberlake’s 2nd Album This Year Doesn’t Match His Previous Efforts

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12:  (L-R) Terry Lewi...

(Image credit: Getty Images for BET via @daylife) My six years of public insistence that Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis are the greatest music producers of all-timemay bestyled as a hobbyhorse born of either great delusion or divine inspiration. I lean to the latter of course, and have never been moved by suggestions that Beatles producer Sir George Henry Martin or the songwriter-producer partnership of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for Elvis Presley are superior. And what of Phil Spector or Joe Meek – are they on the level of Jam & Lewis? As Jadakiss says on Oil Money Gang, child please. LAS VEGAS, NV – SEPTEMBER 14: Floyd Mayweather Jr. (R) hits Canelo Alvarez in the fifth round of their WBC/WBA 154-pound title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 14, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mayweather won by majority decision. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife) But I do understand the initial resistance to my G.O.A.T. nomination- which Iinevitably wear down with Mayweather-like precision. Those who argue against FlyteTyme sseat on the throne usually do so without a full knowledge of their catalog and a hint of dismissal for their musicianship. So when the case is made, the statsare displayed(100 Billboard top 10 songs 16 #1 Hot 100 hits and 26 R&B #1s) and the evidence mounts, the resistant party leaves debate not insulted or irritated but in awe and Canelo Alvarez-like confusion not only at the sheer output of the tandem but even more so becausethey did not know about it. It all just adds to themystique of the song-writing team par excellence whovebeen everywhere and yet no where, at the same time. But the head-shaking is not reserved to Jam & Lewis non-believers. Even supposed die-hards like myself can be caught slipping. My latest episodecomes courtesy of the streaming music service Rhapsody which in an August Producers Spotlight curateda Jam & Lewis track list (a primer I highly recommend). Unbeknownst to me, an under the radar favorite of mine from 1983- When Youre Far Away by Gladys Knight & The Pips appeared. Damn, they did that too, I said to myself, in stunned admiration.

Folk Music Rules at ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ Concert

Now, we may be getting too much of Timberlake. “The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2” uses the same formula that’s becoming his musical trademark – the trance-inducing grooves and futuristic electronic beats helmed by Timbaland and Timberlake, who co-wrote each song. Unfortunately it doesn’t feel new. Like “FutureSex” and the first “20/20” album, the songs on “2 of 2” are long, but they aren’t as entertaining or as cohesive as his first effort. Some tracks sound like leftovers from past recording sessions, and – dare we say it – actually drag on. The album starts on the wrong note with “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” and the nine-minute “True Blood,” both up-tempo songs that lack that Timberlake-esque spark and swag. The lead single, the disco number “Take Back the Night,” might be good for mere mortal pop stars, but compared to Timberlake’s own lofty standards, disappoints. A better choice would have been the Drake-assisted “Cabaret,” which is smooth and has an addictive hook. Not all of “2 of 2” should be dismissed: “You Got It On” is soft slow jam – listen and you’ll feel like you’re on a cloud. And the midtempo “Drink You Away” is the disc’s most adventurous offering. It doesn’t sound like anything else on the album: It’s guitar driven with a strong backbeat, with a raw quality that makes it a bit indescribable – and exhilarating. The multitalented Timberlake, one of a few who could get away with releasing two albums in a year (we’re still mad at One Direction for trying that that), is releasing dense music when most Top 40 listeners have short attention spans. The album runs 74 minutes, and the average song is six minutes. That’s not to say Timberlake shouldn’t challenge listeners with his music – he did it magically with the electro-pop flavor of “FutureSex” before dance music made its comeback, and “20/20” did not conform to radio standards either.

When asked how he felt the concert was going, he simply replied: “Good.” Scott Rudin, the film’s producer, was a bit more outgoing. Holding court before the show in the lobby, he appeared like a proud father at a wedding reception. During intermission, Rudin had a huge smile while standing at the center aisle. He spoke briefly to The Associated Press about the show. “Loving it, it’s a blast,” Rudin beamed. He’s well aware of the success of “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” which won a Grammy in 2002 for album of the year. But Rudin doesn’t want to jump to conclusions. “Oh, I don’t know, it’s all this movie,” Rudin said of the evening’s festivities. He added: “It’s going great. I’m very proud of it. Very excited. T Bone did an incredible job, don’t you think? And the second half is insane.” Rudin was right on the mark as Jack White opened with a three-song set that was followed by one of the more inspiring performances of the night by Rhiannon Giddens that brought some members of the crowd to their feet. Standout performances included Decemberist’s frontman Colin Meloy covering a song he thought was a ghost story, bringing out Joan Baez to perform “Joe Hill” with him.