The 20/20 Experience

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The 20/20 Experience
Studio album by Justin Timberlake
Released March 19, 2013 (2013-03-19)
Recorded May – July 2012; Larrabee Studios (North Hollywood)
Genre Neo soul
Length 70:02
Label RCA
Producer
Justin Timberlake chronology
  • The 20/20 Experience
  • (2013)
Deluxe edition
Singles from The 20/20 Experience
  1. "Suit & Tie"
    Released: January 15, 2013 (2013-01-15)
  2. "Mirrors"
    Released: February 11, 2013 (2013-02-11)
  3. "Tunnel Vision"
    Released: June 14, 2013 (2013-06-14)

The 20/20 Experience (also known as The 20/20 Experience – 1 of 2) is the third studio album by American recording artist Justin Timberlake. It was released on March 15, 2013, by RCA Records, as the follow-up to his commercially successful second studio album FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006). It is considered the first half of a two-piece project, later being supplemented by his fourth studio album The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 (2013). The record incorporates neo soul styles with elements of older soul music; its lyrics discuss themes of romance and sex. As executive producer, Timberlake enlisted previous collaborator Timbaland to work alongside Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon and Rob Knox.

The 20/20 Experience received generally favorable reviews from music critics, who complimented its musical diversity from his previous albums, although others criticized a lack of variation within the album itself. The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 968,000 copies, becoming Timberlake's second number one album on the chart and best-selling debut week of his solo career. The album became the best selling album of 2013 in the US. The album also became Timberlake's third consecutive number one album in the United Kingdom.

Three singles have been released from The 20/20 Experience. Its lead single "Suit & Tie" was peaked within the top five in several countries worldwide, and reached 3 in the US, and its second single "Mirrors" reached number 1 in the UK and 2 in the US. Timberlake embarked on the Legends of the Summer Stadium Tour with Jay-Z to further promote the album, as well as The 20/20 Experience World Tour.

The album, as part of The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category Best Pop Vocal Album.[1]

Background[edit]

In September 2006, Timberlake released his second studio album FutureSex/LoveSounds. Critically and commercially acclaimed, the album spawned six singles, including the worldwide hits "SexyBack", "My Love" and "What Goes Around... Comes Around".[2] After wrapping up a worldwide concert tour in support of the album in 2007, Timberlake took a break from his music career to focus on acting.[3][4] In addition, Timberlake worked behind-the-scenes with his record label Tennman Records (founded in 2007) and his production team The Y's (founded in 2008). He also provided guest vocals on several singles by other artists, such as "4 Minutes" by Madonna and "Carry Out" by Timbaland.[4]

Development and title[edit]

"I'm the one that sits and is obsessive about it before you even get to hear it. As close as I get to it, I don't think I can physically torture myself that much, year in and year out, and expect it to fulfill me the way that it does and the way that it is right now. You just don't get that every day. You have to wait for it."

—Timberlake explaining his musical hiatus[5]

In 2010, Timberlake's manager, Johnny Wright, began conversations with the singer about working on new music. The two had general decisions about ways to release new music, because according to Wright, "a lot of the physical record sellers were gone, by the time we've got music again we need to think about different ways to deliver it".[6] Wright proposed a promotion based on an application or releasing a new song every month. Timberlake, however, was not interested in going back into music and instead continued to focus on his film career.[6] Around the "late part of May/first week in June" 2012, Timberlake asked Wright to dinner and revealed to him that he had spent the last couple of nights in studio with Timbaland working on new material. Wright was shocked at the revelation.[6] The two immediately began marketing plans for how the album should be promoted and when it should be released. Ultimately, they agreed to "to do this in a shorter period of time, so let's put the single out and [release the album] seven or eight weeks after that – make it a short window, and because we have such a short window, we have to make a big impact."[6]

During an interview with American radio and television host Ryan Seacrest, Timberlake explained the meaning behind the album's title saying, "It more or less came out of I was playing some of the stuff for my friends and they would come in and out of the studio and I'd say, 'What do you think of this?' And my best friend said, 'This is music that you can see,' and for some reason that stuck with me."[7]

Recording[edit]

Timbaland provided the bulk of the production on the album.

In August 2012, producer Jim Beanz reported that Timberlake started work on his new music project.[4] Timberlake's publicist denied this, stating Timberlake was working with Timbaland on songs for his upcoming project Shock Value III.[4] After the release of The 20/20 Experience, Wright confirmed that the album was finished in the middle of July and described it as a "fast record". Timberlake had four weeks to record the whole material, because he had to shoot his scenes for the film Runner, Runner.[6] Wright later revealed it was tough keeping the album a secret, making them use codenames for the project.[6] Originally planned for release in October 2012, the album's date was postponed for his wedding to actress Jessica Biel.[6]

The 20/20 Experience was produced in a span of 20 days.[8] Recording sessions for The 20/20 Experience began in the "late part of May, first week in June" and concluded in July 2012.[9] The album was recorded at EastWest Studios in Los Angeles, Jungle City Studios in New York City and Larrabee Studios in North Hollywood.[10] Of Timbaland's participation, Wright said: "(Their) relationship is like a brotherhood; they're just so comfortable with each other – not only as musical friends but as personal friends... that you can get things done in a short period of time. Had [the Affleck movie] not happened, we might have actually set up and put the album out sooner."[9] After recording was finished, Timberlake and Wright, with M2M Construction, begin "formulating plans for how to release the music".[9]

Music and lyrics[edit]

A 30-second sample of the chorus to "Pusher Love Girl", which features Timberlake's trademark falsetto.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

According to Timberlake, the album "goes a lot of different directions. I think there’s probably a little bit of what was reminiscent on the first album and then a little bit of what’s reminiscent of the second album, and then some new stuff."[11] While working on the album, Timberlake thought: "If Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin can do 10-minute songs and Queen can do 10-minute songs then why can't we? We'll figure out the radio edits later."[12]

The 20/20 Experience is a neo soul album partly inspired by the expansive song structures of 1960s and 1970s rock.[13] The songs have average lengths of seven minutes and are characterized by vamps, abrupt key changes, and unexpected rhythms and harmonies.[14] Music journalist Jody Rosen observed an emphasis on "rhythm and flow" rather than catchiness, and said that it is "not quite a pop album", as its "sense of musical space-time is more elastic and sprawling than anything on the radio".[14] The album's music incorporates samples of piano, distorted voices, and buzzing electronic sounds with elements of older soul music, including resonant voiceovers, lush string and horn arrangements, high-pitched guitar solos, and squelching analog synthesizers.[15] Steven Hyden said that the album has "traditionalist tendencies",[16] and Simon Price wrote that producers Timbaland and Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon merged 1970s influences with futuristic sounds: "the Chi-Lites in orbit, the Isley Brothers gone intergalactic, and so on." Price also compared their production on the album to Quincy Jones's production on Michael Jackson's 1979 album Off the Wall.[17]

The album's lyrics mostly deal with the theme of romance. The songs feature different metaphors for sex, including drugs on "Pusher Love Girl", candy on "Strawberry Bubblegum", and outer space on "Spaceship Coupe".[18] Music critic Ken Tucker wrote that each song portrays Timberlake as a "starry-eyed romantic, bedazzled by a woman upon whom he cannot heap enough compliments, come-ons and seductive playfulness."[13]

Singles[edit]

A 29 second sample of Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors".

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Suit & Tie", featuring rapper Jay-Z, was released as the album's lead single on January 14, 2013.[19] It is a mid-tempo R&B song that "floats along" like a song from the American band The Whispers.[20][21] The single received generally positive reviews from music critics with some of them comparing to Timberlake's previous works including "Rock Your Body" and "SexyBack".[22] The music video for "Suit & Tie" was shot on January 25, 2013. It was directed by David Fincher, who previously directed The Social Network (2010), a film in which Timberlake starred.[23] Commercially, it was a success and managed to reach the top ten positions in fifteen countries. It reached number three on the UK Singles Chart and number three on the US Billboard Hot 100.

"Mirrors" was released as the second single from the album on February 11, 2013, following his performance at the 2013 Grammy Awards.[24] The song was generally well received by music critics, who noted the song's similarity to his pop-oriented works from FutureSex/LoveSounds.[25] The single has so far topped in UK and reached the top 5 in Denmark, Ireland, Germany and South Korea and has peaked at number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Internationally, the song has reached the top-ten in 23 countries making it more successful, in terms of chart placings, than the previous single "Suit & Tie".

"Tunnel Vision" was released as the third and final single from the album on June 14, 2013. The song was met with generally positive reviews upon release of the album, with critics applauding Timbaland's production work and many critics labeling the song as a favorite and stand-out track on the album. The music video was released on July 3, 2013.

Promotion[edit]

Timberlake and Wright met with RCA Records heads Peter Edge and Tom Corson in September 2012 to "plot release strategies for the album". Wright and RCA Records began discussions with Target and others corporations for marketing plans for the album in November.[9]

Timberlake, part-owner of the social media site Myspace, put "Suit & Tie" on the splash page with a chance to stream or download the song simply for joining or signing in during the site's reboot in January, 2013.[5][26][27] Timberlake and Jay-Z then performed "Suit & Tie" at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards on February 10, 2013.[28] They performed the song again during Timberlake's hosting of Saturday Night Live on March 9, 2013.[29]

Timberlake debuted the live performance of the second single "Mirrors" at the Brit Awards 2013 ceremony at the O2 Arena in London on February 20, 2013. He sang two songs from the album, "Pusher Love Girl" and "That Girl", during the Super Bowl XLVII weekend.

Touring[edit]

Timberlake performed a preview concert at the Roseland Ballroom on May 5, 2013.[30] He held a one-off concert in Dublin, Ireland at Phoenix Park on July 10, 2013.[31] On February 22, 2013, it was announced that Timberlake and Jay-Z would embark on the Legends of the Summer Stadium Tour, a co-headlining series of concerts.[32] He headlined the 2013 Yahoo Wireless Festival at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for two of the three nights of the festival. The first was July 12, where he headlined alone. The second was July 14, where he headlined with Jay Z. It served as a preview for the Legends Of The Summer tour, which kicked off July 17 in Toronto, Canada.

To promote the album further, Timberlake announced on May 5, 2013 that he would embark on The 20/20 Experience World Tour, his second concert tour on a global scale. Promoted primarily by AEG Live, the tour will debut on October 31, 2013 in Montreal, just two months after the Legends of the Summer tour concludes. Twenty-two additional dates were also announced across Canada and the United States, ending on February 10, 2014 in Omaha, Nebraska. Several dates are available for pre-sale for members of The Tennessee Kids, Timberlake's official fan club. Timberlake's official website has noted that, while still unannounced, additional dates in Europe, South America and Australia will follow.[33]

Timberlake headlined the iTunes Festival in September 2013.[34]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[35]
The A.V. Club B[36]
The Daily Telegraph 4/5 stars[37]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[15]
The Independent 4/5 stars[38]
The Observer 4/5 stars[39]
Pitchfork Media 8.4/10[40]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[14]
Slant Magazine 2.5/5 stars[41]
Spin 8/10[42]

The 20/20 Experience received generally positive reviews from music critics, many of whom hailed it as a significant pop release.[43] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 75, based on 39 reviews.[44] Sputnikmusic's Sobhi Youssef called it "expertly" written and produced, and cited it as a "profound manifestation" of recent innovations in R&B.[45] Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times found its elaborate structures ambitious in the vein of Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Michael Jackson.[18] Andy Gill of The Independent called it "diversely enjoyable" and viewed Timbaland's production as solid, albeit not innovative.[38] Jody Rosen, writing for Rolling Stone, said that, although it lacks songs as immediate as Timberlake's previous hits, the album's multidimensional music eventually "sinks its teeth in, even on the wooziest songs."[14] Jordan Sargent of Spin called it a "sonic wonder" and said that the songs are ingenious enough to justify their lengths.[42]

Pitchfork Media's Ryan Dombal commended Timberlake for "shamelessly extol[ing] the joys of music and marriage", and viewed the album as more ambitious than his 2002 debut album Justified and more consistent than FutureSex/LoveSounds.[40] Kitty Empire, writing for The Observer, found it mostly "terrific – lush and quirky too", with silly, respectable homages to Prince.[39] Helen Brown of The Daily Telegraph said that the music feels both grandiose and intimate, and that Timberlake makes up for his thin voice with "yearning charisma and sly timing to sell every swoon."[37] Genevieve Koski of The A.V. Club called the album "an exercise in sophisticated sexiness" and complimented Timberlake's "preternatural assuredness", viewing that his "skilled" performance rectifies the calculated production.[36]

However, some reviewers criticized the album's lyrics.[46] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian felt that the album's adventurous music is marred by Timberlake's lyrics, which he called "porny" and "awful".[15] George Morahan of State called them banal and dismissed most of the music as "a protracted exploration of rhythm" that Timberlake and Timbaland are too familiar with.[47] Slant Magazine's Eric Henderson wrote that they overembellished "rehashed" musical ideas, "turning each B+ potential single into a C- epic."[41] Allmusic's Andy Kellman said that "few songs are dynamic enough to justify their length" on a refined, but bloated album.[35] Jon Caramanica of The New York Times panned it as an "amiable, anodyne album" with little variation and seven-minute songs that masquerade as "artistry".[48] Siân Rowe of NME viewed that Frank Ocean and Miguel are "doing better R&B jams in under four minutes."[49]

Commercial performance[edit]

On March 11, Billboard reported that The 20/20 Experience would likely sell at least 500,000 copies in its first week in the United States. Its sales projection quickly escalated, peaking at an expected 900,000 to 950,000 copies by March 24.[50] The 20/20 Experience officially debuted atop the Billboard 200 albums chart with 968,000 copies sold in its first week,[51] becoming Timberlake's second number-one album as a solo artist. Sales figures for the first week are the highest of Timberlake's career, surpassing his previous studio efforts Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds, which sold 439,000 and 684,000 copies in their debut weeks respectively. In its second chart week the album sold 318,000 copies in the US, remaining in the top position and becoming the first album of the year to sell one million units.[52] The album remained at number one for a third week selling 139,000 units.[53] In its fourth week, with sales of 98,000 units, the album was pushed to number two by Paramore's self-titled album, which sold 106,000 copies.[54] The album was certified double platinum in April 2013, having shipped more than two million copies in just under a month after its release.[55] It became the best selling album of 2013 in the US with 2,427,000 copies sold for the year.[56] As of January 8, 2014, The album currently sold 2,436,000 copies.[57]

Overseas, the album saw similar success. In the UK, The 20/20 Experience debuted at number one selling 106,000 copies in its first week and was the fastest selling album of 2013, at the time of its release.[58] In its second chart week the album sold another 56,000 copies in the UK.[59] Its third week sales in the UK were 26,000.[60] In Australia, The 20/20 Experience debuted at number one on the ARIA Charts and was accredited gold certification by the Australian Recording Industry Association for shipments of 35,000 copies.[61] The 20/20 Experience additionally was certified gold in Germany for certified sales of 100,000 copies.[62] At the time of its release, The 20/20 Experience was the fastest-selling album in iTunes history for a record's opening week, selling over 580,000 digital copies on iTunes worldwide.[63]

Track listings[edit]

The 20/20 Experience — Standard edition
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Pusher Love Girl"  
8:02
2. "Suit & Tie" (featuring Jay Z)
  • Timbaland
  • Timberlake
  • Harmon
5:26
3. "Don't Hold the Wall"  
  • Timberlake
  • Mosley
  • Harmon
  • Fauntleroy
  • Timbaland
  • Timberlake
  • Harmon
7:10
4. "Strawberry Bubblegum"  
  • Timberlake
  • Mosley
  • Harmon
  • Fauntleroy
  • Timbaland
  • Timberlake
  • Harmon
7:59
5. "Tunnel Vision"  
  • Timberlake
  • Mosley
  • Harmon
  • Fauntleroy
  • Timbaland
  • Timberlake
  • Harmon
6:46
6. "Spaceship Coupe"  
  • Timberlake
  • Mosley
  • Harmon
  • Fauntleroy
  • Timbaland
  • Timberlake
  • Harmon
7:17
7. "That Girl"  
  • Timbaland
  • Timberlake
  • Harmon
  • The Tennessee Kids[a]
4:47
8. "Let the Groove Get In"  
  • Timberlake
  • Mosley
  • Harmon
  • Fauntleroy
  • Timbaland
  • Timberlake
  • Harmon
7:11
9. "Mirrors"  
  • Timberlake
  • Mosley
  • Harmon
  • Fauntleroy
  • Timbaland
  • Timberlake
  • Harmon
8:05
10. "Blue Ocean Floor"  
  • Timberlake
  • Mosley
  • Harmon
  • Fauntleroy
  • Timbaland
  • Timberlake
  • Harmon
7:19
Total length:
70:02
Notes[64]
  • ^a signifies a vocal producer
  • "Suit & Tie" contains a portion of the composition "Sho' Nuff" written by Terrence Stubbs, Johnny Wilson and Charles Still.
  • "That Girl" contains a sample from "Self Destruct" written by Noel Williams, as performed by King Sporty.
  • "Let the Groove Get In" contains a sample from the recording "Alhamdulillahi" from the album Explorer Series: Africa-Burkina Faso – Rhythms of the Grasslands.

Personnel[edit]

Credits are adapted from Allmusic.[65]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[118] Gold 35,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[119] 2× Platinum 160,000^
Germany (BVMI)[120] Gold 100,000^
Ireland (IRMA)[121] Gold 7,500x
Norway (IFPI Norway)[122] Gold 15,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[123] 2× Platinum 40,000*
Sweden (GLF)[124] Gold 20,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[125] Gold 15,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[126] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[127] 3× Platinum 3,500,000[56]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Accolades[edit]

Ceremony Year Award Result
American Music Awards 2013 Favorite Pop/Rock Album Nominated
Favorite Soul/R&B Album Won
Soul Train Music Awards Album of the Year Nominated
World Music Awards World's Best Album Nominated
People's Choice Awards 2014 Favorite Album Won
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Album Nominated
Billboard Music Awards Top Billboard 200 Album Won
Top R&B Album Won

Release history[edit]

Country Date Edition(s) Label
Germany[128] March 15, 2013
  • Standard (CD, LP)
  • deluxe (CD)
Sony
France[129] March 18, 2013 Deluxe (CD)
United Kingdom[130]
  • Standard (CD, LP)
  • deluxe (CD)
RCA
Canada[131] March 19, 2013 Deluxe (CD) Sony
United States[132]
  • Standard
  • deluxe (CD, LP)
RCA
Japan[133] March 20, 2013 Standard (CD) Sony Japan
Canada[134] April 16, 2013 Standard (LP) Sony

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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