With the release of Justin Timberlake‘s The 20/20 Experience – 2 Of 2 today (September 30), we’ve now witnessed The Complete 20/20 Experience. And ya know what, we’re glad it happened! The double comeback was an impressive achievement. Sure, it was self-indulgent and a little too ubiquitous at times, and by splitting the whole thing up into two releases it had a hint of that corporate cash-grab scent, but it was a worthy endeavor for JT and his fans.
That’s the big picture. But when you zoom in on Volume 2, that’s when some weaknesses emerge. For me, at least. In our Idolator review, I argued the album was plagued by stale Timbaland beats and some of the worst lyrics in Timberlake’s career. Despite the fact that there were a few excellent tracks to be found, I concluded that “it’s the first real blemish on JT’s catalog, and more than disappointment, The 20/20 Experience – 2 Of 2 elicits frustration, because it was so unnecessary.”
I was pretty rough on the album, but several reviewers fell in love with JT all over again with this installment. Check out the roundup of reviews below.
:: Rolling Stone handed out a 3.5/5, saying it’s compellingly indulgent and “even if this stuff is willful, it’s dazzling, too.”
:: USA Today gave it 3.5/4 stars, calling it “dense and demanding,” adding “the endeavor is as ambitious as anything attempted by the soul greats Timberlake clearly admires: Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield.”
:: The L.A. Times liked it, too, giving it a 3/4 and saying it was a successful way to fend off JT’s newest rival. “Beyond the muscle-flexing it seems to represent, Timberlake’s bluster might be his solution to the problem of Robin Thicke, whose ascent over the summer with the proudly raunchy ‘Blurred Lines’ threatened to make Timberlake look like a genteel (pocket) square.”
:: Entertainment Weekly handed out a B, calling it “a more immediate punch than its predecessor, even as 2 falls prey to the same pitfalls: The songs are overlong and there’s an alarmingly self-indulgent lack of focus.”
:: The Guardian rated the sequel a 3/5, arguing that “despite his admirable ambition, perhaps he should focus on what he does best,” which means skipping the detours and sticking with “pop and Timbaland-crafted R&B.”
:: Pretty Much Amazing graded it a B+, positing that “more often than not, the new album surpasses its predecessor, by leaps and bounds. Best of all, The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 feels like a satisfying and true follow-up to FutureSex/LoveSounds”
:: SPIN was largely unimpressed, levying a 6/10. “The end result is disappointing, but only slightly, in the same way virtually all other second comings let you down,” the reviewer said, before asking something we’ve been pondering around Idolator HQ: “What if Timberlake moved into the future — and assumed a little more risk — by collaborating with a vanguard nu-soul electronica act like Disclosure or AlunaGeorge?”
:: Pitchfork gave it a 4.5/10, calling it “an album of awful pick up lines and phony angst, all over an endless bed of reheated production.”
:: Stereogum probably had the harshest words of all, calling it “the Jaws 2 of albums,” taking particular issue with the lyrics and concluding “This new album is the first one where he’s content to just sit around and do things he’s done before, with way less energy and inspiration and craft.”