Making One 10/10 Album Out of Justin Timberlake's Two 20/20 Experiences

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Earlier this week, Justin Timberlake came out with The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2, a lengthy album of extended soul-pop jams mostly focused in subject matter around sex and romance. Of course, you may recall from either the album's title or that brief description that Timberlake released another, very similar album earlier this calendar year, then simply titled The 20/20 Experience.

The earlier of the two, Timberlake's first LP—first new music of any kind  in over half a decade—was fairly well received, spawning a duo of smash hit singles in "Suit & Tie" & "Mirrors" and selling nearly a million copies in its first week. The second of the two, however, has been less warmly received—it's gotten mostly middling reviews, has yet to spin off a major chart hit, and is projected to only sell about a third of the copies its predecessor did in its first week.

Is the second 20/20 Experience really that much worse than the first? Probably not, but it's all just too much Justin Timberlake at once. Between the two 20/20 Experiences—and you can buy them packaged together as The 20/20 Experience - The Complete Experience—you've got a full 144 minutes of JT, all of which were supposedly recorded with Timbaland in the bunker over the course of just a couple of weeks. Needless to say, it gets real repetitive real quick, and there are multiple occasions where you might wonder why nobody tried to edit the damn things a little bit.

That's where we come in. We've decided to make a one-disc cut full of only the best tracks from each album—and the best possible edits of each of those tracks—to make our version of The Complete But Totally Non-Redundant 20/20 Experience. In the end, we've got a version of 20/20 that runs the ten tracks of the first album, but which lasts less than an hour in duration—for once, a fully digestible Experience.

To do this, several album cuts off both—"Strawberry Bubblegum," "Spaceship Coupe," "Cabaret," "Murder," "Amnesia," a couple others—were terminated with extreme prejudice. First album single "Tunnel Vision" was cut for being mostly redundant with the slightly superior "TKO," and second album closer "Not a Bad Thing" was similarly unnecessary in the wake of the stunning first album ender "Blue Ocean Floor."

That's all what didn't make the cut, but here's what did. Let's officially call it The 10/10 Experience.

1. "PUSHER LOVE GIRL" (4:53 edit)

We'll start things off with the mostly fine opener to the first 20/20 Experience, the falsetto-laden "Pusher Love Girl"—admittedly tired in its Love Is the Drug metaphorizing, but delightful enough in its Prince-aping slow funk that the weak lyrics are forgivable. Well, at least until the song's second half, where JT spends a good three minutes declaring himself a ju-ju-ju-ju-junkie for your love over a stilted beat and repetitive hook. It's beyond unnecessary, but at least JT provided us an obvious point for editing it—possibly for radio's sake—after his final "You're my little pusher love girl," where the strings do one last swell and the music briefly cuts. Stop there, "Pusher" is a dynamite start to The 10/10 Experience.

2. "SUIT & TIE" (5:25)

We'll keep the lead single for the entire 20/20 Experience in tact, since at 5:25 it's not too unwieldy to begin, and the only part arguably worth cutting is the "tie shit, tie shit" intro, which we have no real problem with. Still a good song, and an excellent second track to really get things moving.

3. "TRUE BLOOD" (6:30 edit)

Wouldn't mind cutting off even a little more here, but the obvious stop point comes at the six-and-a-half minute pause, before the beat comes back in and the entire Tennessee Kids band stares at each other for an additional three minutes wondering when JT is gonna stop furiously conducting. It's still pretty long here, but as one of the album's funkiest, densest grooves, it's a forgivable indulgence. Would also have liked to included "Don't Hold the Wall" at some point on this album, but figure we only had room for one darkly exotic meanderer with Timbo muttering in the background.

4. "TAKE BACK THE NIGHT" (5:53)

As with "Suit & Tie," the lead single off the second 20/20 Experience gets to be included in full here, largely because, rarely for one of these tracks, the extraneous groove section with the blaring horns is actually the best part of the song, and well worth sticking around for. We could still probably cut 16 bars or so and call it a day, but included here as something close to an album centerpiece, it's manageable.

5. "TKO" (4:55 edit)

No such mercy is in store for the second 20/20 - 2 of 2 single, "TKO," which ends a pretty good song perfectly at the near-five-minute mark with the title-signifying sound of a bell being run, then holds on for another two minutes of silly human beatboxing and "GIRLUKNOCKMERIGHOTUT!"ing. We wish we were as over-confident in anything as JT is over-confident in his extended metaphors.

6. "THAT GIRL" (4:47)

One of only two tracks on either 20/20 Experience to voluntarily run under five minutes, "That Girl" remains easily one of the most delightful songs on either album, primarily because it gets in and out with its lean, slinky groove without spending an additional four minutes of JT and Timbaland shouting "Don't be mad!" "Don't be mad?" "DON'T BE MAD!" at one another. Y0u could chop the needless spoken introduction of the Tennessee Kids at the beginning if you were so inclined, but hey, it's the beginning of side two, a little intermission is permissible.

7. "DRINK YOU AWAY" (5:31)

Not many songs on 20/20 pack surprises like the bluesy guitar stomp of break-up ballad "Drink You Away," a welcome change-of-pace--though just about anything would be--from the endless stream of bubblegum soul grooves found on both albums. Of course, Justin still goes too far with the metaphor ("Do they make a medicine for heaaaartbreeeeeaaaaak???" Stay on the line while we find an answer to that one, JT), but it mostly works, and "I've tried Jack, I've tried Jim, I've tried all of their friends" is a pretty solid lyric. No obvious edit provided or needed here, just a mild gear-up for the much more intense album-ending stretch.

8. "LET THE GROOVE GET IN" (5:05 edit)

"Let the Groove Get In" is, appropriately enough, the most dynamic groove to be found on either 20/20 Experience, rife with horns and guitar and cowbell and Latin rhythms. But it's not quite seven-minutes-long dynamic, and it goes on for one extended outro too many in setting up the album's climax, so we're gonna have to fade it at the five-minute mark. Hey, the Miami Sound Machine never needed seven minutes to get their point across, and they seemed to do just fine.

9. "MIRRORS" (8:04)

Does it need the three-minute outro, with the endless "You are / you are / the love / of my life" exhortations? Arguable, but as the apex of the 10/10 Experience, we'll do JT the favor of letting what might be the most personal song of his career as is. Plus, on an edit of the album that doesn't have 25 other songs that do the exact same thing, letting the song go for three minutes longer than it has to feels at least a little bit interesting and experimental, as it did the first time we heard "Mirrors." We think so anyway. It's hard to remember back that far.

10. "BLUE OCEAN FLOOR" (7:21)

For some reason, I would never have guessed that this song originally ran over seven minutes--maybe because as an ambient, soundscape-y ballad, it's less unconventional that it would run that long, but also probably just because I find it so transfixing and beautiful that the length doesn't feel even slightly problematic to me. Between this and "Mirrors," even at an average of 7:30 per, it's really not a bad way to spend the last 15 minutes of your album.

And there you go--we clock in at a final 58:24, still with 90 seconds to spare for the full hour. You'd spend a lunch break listening to that album, wouldn't you?

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