Timberlake pushes production dial up to 20
Album of the Week: Justin Timberlake
Published 15/03/2013 | 18:00
Timbaland once bragged about earning half a million dollars for every track he produced. It's difficult to imagine he can command that sort of money today, but rest assured, he doesn't come cheap.
The man has expensive tastes, after all: he's currently suing his insurance company for failing to come up with the moolah for a missing watch valued at $1.8m.
If a record company is helping to pay for such an extravagant luxury as a super-producer, they will want to get their money's worth.
Is it any wonder then, that Justin Timberlake's comeback album weighs in at a bloated 70 minutes with three of the tracks more than eight minutes long?
And not just that – every single song groans under the weight of studio trickery. Let's just say that Timbaland has put every knob and switch and fader to use here.
It's almost as if he's boasting 'I can get more out of this lavish studio than anyone else'.
Even half-way through The 20/20 Experience, it's hard not to think of the old less-is-more truism – and what a better album it would have been if the self-indulgence had been put to one side and up to three minutes loped off of at least half the tracks.
Kanye West wasn't too wide of the mark when he dissed lead single Suit & Tie, although there is the bones of a dancefloor classic here.
Jay-Z spits out a rap in the final third and there's a shout out to designer Alexander Wang, which is unlikely to please Tom Ford as it's his formalwear that Timberlake wears in the promo material for the album, including a David Fincher-directed video.
Artist and producer are on much surer ground on Mirrors and, although it's one of those eight-minute juggernauts, is likely to keep even the most jaded listener engaged until the bitter end.
It's a reminder that mass-market music has been a poorer place in the seven years that Timberlake has been away, playing at being a movie star.
Throughout songs that celebrate love and lust (he's married to Jessica Biel, don't you know) there's ample evidence of Timberlake's unabashed pop instincts and that soulful croon, not least the Michael Jackson-inspired number Let the Groove Get In.
Wade through the overwrought production and you'll find a young man who's still ahead of the pack. Take note Messrs Mars and Bieber.
KEY TRACKS Mirrors; Let the Groove Get In