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Timberlake not so great in `20/20′ hindsight.

Byline: Craig S. Semon

COLUMN: TRACKS

“The 20/20 Experience”

Justin Timberlake (
RCA

)

* *-1/2

Late-night television has ruined Justin Timberlake for me.

Due to his hilarious “(expletive) in the Box” digital
short with Andy Samberg on ”
Saturday Night Live

” and inspired
“History of Rap” segments on “Late Night with Jimmy
Fallon,” it’s easy to see Timberlake is a natural-born
entertainer, but it’s hard to take him seriously anymore as a
singer.

In addition to his uncanny knack for sketch-comedy, SNL’s
newest Five-Timers Club member has a solid screen presence (as evidenced
by his scene-stealing role in “The Social Network”) and an
incredible singing voice. Yes, the man can sing. And, in many ways,
Timberlake is rightful heir to the King of Pop.

Unfortunately, most of the overstuffed numbers on Timberlake’s
first album in six-and-a-half years, “The 20/20 Experience,”
sound like song parodies in search of a punch line.

During the course of this bloated 70-minutes-plus album, Timberlake
compares his lover to meth (talk about “Breaking Bad”),
Bubblicious
bubblegum
  
n. also bubble gum
1. Chewing gum that can be blown into bubbles.

2. Slang A style of popular music designed to appeal to adolescents, characterized by bouncy rhythms and a generally cheerful tone.
, a sex-starved space alien, an Easy-Bake Oven of
sorts and his reflection in the mirror. On top of that, seven of the
album’s 10 tracks are more than seven-minutes long (including three
clocking in at the eight-minute mark.) Yikes!!! Nothing, especially a
Justin Timberlake song, needs to be that long. It’s torture.

Timberlake is just a “junkie” for your love on the
leadoff track, “Pusher Lover Girl. Despite it being totally
irresponsible for a squeaky-clean pop star to be rattling off a series
of illicit drugs that could put you in the slammer and/or the morgue,
Timberlake’s flawless
falsetto
  [Ital.,=diminutive of false], high-pitched, unnatural tones above the normal register of the male voice, produced, according to some theories, by the vibration of only the edges of the larynx.
 is so smooth and seductive that it
momentarily makes you overlook the bad drug metaphor. Backed by Benjamin
Wright Orchestra, the song starts as a lavish throwback to

sophistication
  
v. so·phis·ti·cat·ed, so·phis·ti·cat·ing, so·phis·ti·cates

v.tr.
1. To cause to become less natural, especially to make less naive and more worldly.

2.
 and class, before slipping into a slinky hip-hop groove.

For those of you who ever wonder what Ken (aka Barbie’s
boyfriend) would be like if he came to life and was full of himself, you
don’t have to look any further than “Suit & Tie.” In
his quest to become an honorary member of The Rat Pack, the
ex-Mouseketeer sets out to show us a few things about neo-soul and
R&B romance. His soulful, silver-tongued
croon
  
v. crooned, croon·ing, croons

v.intr.
1. To hum or sing softly.

2. To sing popular songs in a soft, sentimental manner.

3. Scots To roar or bellow.
 delivers an insanely
(and inanely) catchy chorus about looking good and how he’s going
to be stripping down to his birthday suit by evening’s end. And, in
what seems like a well-calculated corporate merger and not-so-subliminal
advertising for their co-headlining summer stadium (which stops Aug. 10
at Fenway Park), Timberlake hoodwinks and hobnobs with Beyonce’s
hubby Jay-Z, who pontificates about Armageddon, his in-laws, designer
threads, the “N-word” and how “This is truffle season,
Tom Ford tuxedos for no reason. In the end, you can dress up in a suit
and tie but that doesn’t make you The Chairman of the Board.

“Don’t Hold the Wall” is a brain-dead, dance-floor
ditty that makes Jennifer Lopez’ “On the Floor” sound
like “Kashmir.” A sonic marvel as well as sonic
monstrosity

 to
behold, Timberlake’s go-to guy Timbaland (who also helmed the bulk
of “FutureSex/LoveSounds” and co-produced each track on
“The 20/20 Experience” with Timberlake and Jerome
“J-Roc” Harmon) weaves together Middle-Eastern strings, clanky
rain-sticks percussion and chirping crickets to create an unrelenting,
club-hopping groove for the song’s sub-par mantra of “Dance,
dance, don’t hold the wall” to be pummeled in the ground to.
Instead of holding the wall, most likely you will want to hit your head
against it.

Timberlake is a regular “Charms Blow Pop” in search a
“Bubblicious” babe on the laughably bad bubblegum pop ditty,
“Strawberry Bubblegum.” Sounding like something his former boy
band ‘N Sync would record (and not a 32-year-old), Timberlake
boasts, “Little girl won’t you be my strawberry bubblegum/Then
I’d be your blueberry lollipop/And then I love you ’til
I’ll make you pop.” Here’s a word of caution
for the
ladies

. If your boyfriend is sporting a “blueberry lollipop,”
demand he sees a doctor immediately or give him his walking papers.

Timberlake does a lousy job loving the alien on the David Bowie
rip-off, “Spaceship Coupe.” Not only does this song never get
off the launch pad, there are no signs of intelligent life anywhere.

Talk about being the man in the mirror. On the gooey ballad,
“Mirrors,” Timberlake serenades his lover, whom he finds to be
a perfect reflection of himself. Flawlessly shifting from caressing
croon to tender falsetto, Timberlake lets the audience decide if
he’s singing to his better half (aka, his wife Jessica Biel, who
he’s obviously in “7th Heaven” with) or merely his mirror
image. Even if you consider this romantic drivel or out-of-check
narcissism at its worse, it’s hard to argue that Timberlake
doesn’t deliver the good, despite the song’s whopping
eight-minute length.

Timberlake’s voice is haunting as it floats through a murky
mix of reversed synth-loops, ambient beats and sparse piano noodlings on
the Radiohead-inspired closer, “Blue Ocean Floor.” Not only
does it sound like he’s a disembodied spirit is submerged
underwater, it sounds unlike anything he has ever recorded.

Key to the Stars

* * * * Hot Stuff

* * * Good job

* * Not Bad

* Never Mind

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Justin Timberlake’s latest album is “The 20/20
Experience.”

PHOTOG
  
n. Informal
A person who takes photographs, especially as a profession; a photographer.
: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

VEDO: “Boyfriend” – The Voice Highlight

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