‘The 20/20 Experience’: The Reviews Are In

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Justin Timberlake is back with a brand-new sound.

After an almost seven-year hiatus, the singer has soared back in the world of music with his long-awaited album, The 20/20 Experience, now streaming in entirety on iTunes ahead of its March 19 release. But fans may be surprised to find that Timberlake’s follow-up to his classic FutureSex/LoveSounds departs from his “SexyBack” sound.

Almost abandoning the instantly gratifying pop of his past, The 20/20 Experience emphasizes sprawling sets — most of the 10 tracks run over 7 minutes — instead of free-standing singles. The album explores genre-bending beats with R&B and soul tinges, and employs a modern twist on old-school sounds.

Read on to see what reviewers think The 20/20 Experience:

The Daily Beast: “Although The 20/20 Experience showcases Timberlake’s impressive vocal stylings and the songs are expansive, employing creative and experimental musical progressions, the album is lacking in Timberlake’s signature pop vibe, and the tracks seem to drag. Then again, perhaps all pop music is heading the way of JT–back to its R&B roots, as singers like Frank Ocean have exhibited (albeit with more thriling results).”

Billboard: “Justin Timberlake has returned as a more relaxed version of himself, with a brand new palette of musical shades. Despite the reunion of Timberlake and FutureSex/Lovesounds producer Timbaland, The 20/20 Experience is not a sequel of that groundbreaking album as much as a document of growth, crystallized within the medium of classic R&B…. One of the year’s most anticipated pop releases is also one of the genre’s weirdest — and most fully realized — efforts in ages.”

Entertainment Weekly: “The songs are a little too slow, too long, too lacking in the flashy tap-dance energy that made him a giant solo success when he was 23. Maybe he wants to be the young Frank Sinatra. But for now, he’ll have to settle for being a slightly older JT.”

Rolling Stone: “The 20/20 Experience is the biggest pop event of 2013 so far, but it’s not quite a pop album. Its sense of musical space-time is more elastic and sprawling than anything on the radio: The 10 tracks average seven minutes; songs unfurl into vamps, abruptly change keys, pile on unexpected beats and harmonies. The music is catchy, but the emphasis is on rhythm and flow.”

People: “If you are looking for this to be another Justified or FutureSex/LoveSounds, it’s not. While those albums were more about instant-gratification pop, The 20/20 Experience…is the more challenging vision of an artist creating a cohesive work rather than a collection of singles.With lush, layered arrangements – producer Timbaland is again behind the boards – topped off by Timberlake’s falsetto-kissed vocals, this is maybe the best-sounding album you’ll hear all year.”