Well, Justin Timberlake‘s big Jay-Z-assisted comeback single arrived in a flurry of anticipation late last night (January 13), but it wasn’t a big comeback single at all, was it? Nope! Rather than breaking down the door and commanding your attention, Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie” tap-danced in like a ’70s wedding singer, all self-assured verve and bubbly confidence, with nary a dubstep break or pummeling EDM beat to be found.
So how did that go over with the critics? Our own Carl Williott dug the tune, and reviewers mostly did, too, although there were frequently expressed hesitations about whether the song was big or game-changing enough to earn its space in JT’s catalogue. Head below to find the critical consensus.
:: The Guardian thought it was well-played but didn’t push the limits in the way Timberlake could have, and perhaps should have: “And perhaps “comfortable” is the key word here – ‘Suit & Tie’ feels like the work of someone luxuriating in the fact they’re making music again and not someone desperate to redefine pop in the face of its recent club-related slump. It’s not a sound-redefining, statement-making, globe-conquering comeback single like ‘SexyBack’ had been, but more of a midway point between Justified‘s ‘Senorita’ and FutureSex/LoveSounds‘ ‘Summer Love.’”
:: While Billboard‘s Jason Lipshutz posted a thoughtful, lengthy review of the song considering its place in the Timberlake canon — which is well worth a read — he also posted a shorter review where he mostly praised the song’s sound: ”‘Suit & Tie’ is a sleek, wholly assured dance number with several start-stop components arranged in a way that’s reminiscent of the first Justified single, ‘Like I Love You.’ And like that track, Timberlake’s falsetto is buttressed by a late-game rap verse, this time from Jay-Z, who supports ‘tuxedoes for no reason,’ as we all do.”
:: The often-contentious The Prophet Blog dissented somewhat, calling the song’s production boundary-testing: “‘Suit & Tie’ twists the classic sound into something much more interesting and inventive. There’s the lethargic intro, the chopped & screwed post-rap breakdown, and all of the subtle production quirks that Timbaland has filled the song with. ‘Suit & Tie’ is, without a shadow of a doubt, a Justin Timberlake record.”
:: Red Eye Chicago criticized Timberlake for not trying something fresher: “My guess is that people are going to be disappointed by the relatively safe approach Timberlake took with his comeback single. I agree. Upon first listen, ‘Suit & Tie’ sounds like it was concepted, recorded, funded, and sponsored by a department store that hasn’t been relevant in a long time. We wanted a grand slam. We got a one-run double.”
:: Vice’s Noisey lauded the song’s jubilance, but criticized Jay-Z’s rap as phoned-in and disappointing: “It makes me feel like I’m driving a purple cadillac through the sky whilst Prince blows bubbles from a party bag. It’s like we’re on the way back from a wedding. A joyous occasion where Justin has married himself and 2013 together. It’s all great. Until Jay-Z turns up to ruin the party.”
:: Pop Culture Platinum agreed that the song was well-made, even if it felt surprisingly casual, writing: “Suit & Tie may not sound like some kind of huge comeback song but it’s sophisticated, infectious and has a sort of lived-in confidence that only a huge star could pull off. Timberlake is effectively taking a look at what’s huge and doing his own thing. Given that his previous material was produced by Timbaland who then went on to enjoy a ubiquity that would see a certain production style seem played out, it’s a smart move.”
:: The always-classy Chart Rigger noted simply, “The world waited six years and stayed up till midnight for this shit?” Ah, well. You can’t please everyone.