When you're putting out an album for the first time in seven years, there are a few ways you can go about re-introducing yourself. You can be humble, jumping right in with the music as if nothing ever changed. Or you can go big, blowing up your entrance for everything its worth. To kick off The 20/20 Experience, Justin Timberlake went with the latter path; album opener "Pusher Love Girl" kicks off with a swirling of luscious strings cut straight from a Hollywood classic. Some may call this arrogance—and they might be right—but the effect works: Pop's golden boy is back, and its a pleasure to be in his capable hands.
We've already heard the song itself at the Grammys, but as a track the album version of "Pusher Love Girl" improves on that performance. The instrumental thump, slightly plodding in the live versions, tightens up until it's propelling the song forward with an elephantine self-assurance, clearing enough space for JT's Prince impersonation to work out its sweet shimmy. It might be slightly uncouth to compare your lover to a drug pusher, but when you're doing it with harmonies like these, we don't think she'll mind. As we'll see later in the album, JT's sweetness can overcome even the most misguided of lyrical gambits.
In its closing minutes "Pusher Love Girl" prefigures the rest of The 20/20 Experience in a different way: Namely, it does not freaking end, morphing five minutes in to a spoken-word outro for Justin to rap Childish Gambino style about the various narcotics his girl's love reminds him of. You can take the Timbaland out of 2006, but you cannot take the 2006 out of Timbaland.
POPDUST SAYS: 4.0/5
NEXT: "Suit & Tie"