In retrospect, Justin Timberlake’s long-awaited The 20/20 Experience, released in March, could have consisted of little more than 60 minutes of phoned-in a cappella beatboxing and it still would have been the best-selling album of the year. That’s the power of JT: It isn’t just that he’s a remarkable entertainer — like Frank or Fonzie before him, he’s an avatar of pure cool.
If there’s a gap in his blindingly successful 2013, it’s the songs themselves. The 20/20 Experience found Timberlake and longtime collaborator Timbaland turning the latter’s signature syncopated funk into a strangely insular experience. Apparently the producer saved his haymakers for round 2, because he’s in full classic-Timba mode here: The Drake-assisted ”Cabaret” builds a symphony of mouth noises that recalls Aaliyah’s ”Are You That Somebody?,” and ”True Blood” is so 1997 that it’s shocking there’s not a guest verse by Mase (that’s a compliment). Those throwback blasts give 2 of 2 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, especially on the ill-advised snarl-rock stomper ”Only When I Walk Away.”
Still, the music is almost beside the point when you’ve got Timberlake’s charisma, and you can bet that he’ll be able to convince people not only that they love these songs, but that they have always loved them. After all, nobody remembers what tunes used to play when the Fonz elbowed the jukebox — it was all about the coolest cat in the room making it the place to be. B
”Cabaret” – A slick drum orgy with a ferocious Drake cameo
”You Got It On” – A velvety slow jam