The anticipation that surrounded Justin Timberlake’s return to music was intense. It took seven years for him to follow up the Grammy-winning masterpiece that was “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” and when he did in March with “The 20/20 Experience,” the pop prince helped fill a void in our musical lives, thanks to his slick R&B sound jelled with dance beats.
Now, we may be getting too much of Timberlake.
“The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2” uses the same formula that’s becoming his musical trademark: the trance-inducing grooves and futuristic electronic beats helmed by Timbaland and Timberlake, who co-wrote each song.
Unfortunately it doesn’t feel new. Like “FutureSex” and the first “20/20” album, the songs on “2 of 2” are long, but they aren’t as entertaining or as cohesive as his first effort. Some tracks sound like leftovers from past recording sessions, and, dare we say it, actually drag on.
The album starts on the wrong note with “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” and the nine-minute “True Blood,” both up-tempo songs that lack that Timberlake-esque spark and swag. The lead single, the disco number “Take Back the Night,” might be good for mere mortal pop stars, but compared to Timberlake’s own lofty standards, disappoints. A better choice would have been the Drake-assisted “Cabaret,” which is smooth and has an addictive hook.
Not all of “2 of 2” should be dismissed: “You Got It On” is soft slow jam; listen and you’ll feel like you’re on a cloud. And the midtempo “Drink You Away” is the disc’s most adventurous offering. It doesn’t sound like anything else on the album: It’s guitar driven with a strong backbeat, with a raw quality that makes it a bit indescribable — and exhilarating.
The multitalented Timberlake, one of a few who could get away with releasing two albums in a year (we’re still mad at One Direction for trying that), is releasing dense music when most Top 40 listeners have short attention spans. The album runs 74 minutes, and the average song is six minutes.
That’s not to say Timberlake shouldn’t challenge listeners with his music. He did it magically with the electro-pop flavor of “FutureSex” before dance music made its comeback, and “20/20” did not conform to radio standards either.
But even for those people who can deal with more than 140 characters and three-minute songs — that includes me — “2 of 2” doesn’t challenge enough, and we want and expect more from one of music’s best all-around entertainers, especially when the original “20/20 Experience” still has so much more to offer.
By Mesfin Fekadu, Associated Press
Nelly’s seventh studio album isn’t a total waste of time if you have the patience to get through the first half.
“M.O.” starts with the most boring, ear-numbing collaborations, including the first two singles: the somewhat catchy “Hey Porsche” and the smooth, yet derivative “Get Like Me,” Pharrell’s only puzzling contribution.
The better tracks flourish when Nelly doesn’t require serious vocal backup from other artists such as Trey Songz, 2 Chainz, Nelly Furtado and Nicki Minaj.
“IDGAF,” featuring T.I. and Pharrell, takes off to the dance floor perfectly and the seemingly self-effacing “Rick James” is an ebullient hymn to the party life in bass steps. “Shake Whatever” is a time-bending track blending arcade game sounds with tribal drums, while “Mo’s Focused” grinds slowly and smolders the airwaves.
“Maryland, Massachusetts” is the one track that echoes Nelly’s earlier work and showcases his distinctive vocals, otherwise he sadly tends to hide behind his guests’ voices and styles.
Nelly, who had a massive hit this year with “Cruise” alongside Florida Georgia Line, collaborates with the country duo again on “Walk Away.” It bounces and rounds off the genre mix of the album with an upbeat country hook.
“M.O.” is not a Sunday float parade to leave the house for, but it does keep you leaning out your window from time to time.
By Cristina Jaleru, Associated Press
Siblings Este, Danielle and Alana Haim have been steadily gaining momentum with tour support slots for Mumford & Sons, Rihanna and Florence + the Machine. Their audience is mostly comprised of young girls who just want to rock out without giving up on their pop just yet.
“Days Are Gone,” the trio’s debut album, is slick and radio-friendly, thanks to producers Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, Usher) and James Ford (Florence + the Machine, Arctic Monkeys).
The tracks are delivered with energy and confidence and catchy hooks are easy to come by. This album is instantly likable.
“Forever,” “Falling” and “Don’t Save Me” are upbeat jams laced with 1980s synth guitars, while “My Song 5” is gritty with its Muse-esque dark guitar licks and R&B vibe. “Let Me Go” is full of attitude, with the group showing off its perfect harmonies.
The album’s closing track, “Running If You Call My Name,” brings Haim’s anthemic pop-rock effort to a close with vulnerable lyrics and punchy vocals. These L.A.-based sisters are newcomers, but they’ve made quite an impact with this stunning debut.
By Reetu Rupal, Associated Press