What Is Justin Timberlake Trying To Prove With ‘The 20/20 Experience’?

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(Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

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When fans last heard Justin Timberlake, he was a spry 25-year-old hell-bent on bringing sexy back. Now, at 32, he’s more interested in being suave and debonair in his Tom Ford suit and tie with The 20/20 Experience.

On his third album he plays the role of the big-band leader, giving each song ample time to breathe. On the hour-and-ten-minute-long record, only one track, “That Girl,” clocks in under five minutes, with two songs – “Pusher Love Girl” and “Mirrors” – stretching to over eight minutes long.

It’s been seven years since Timberlake hit the charts with FutureSex/LoveSounds. That is a long time by any standard, but in music it is actually an eternity. Things have changed since Timberlake decided he wanted to focus on his acting career. Now more than ever, songs stick to a formula: keep it short and catchy, and if they’re not, well they can be edited down to work for radio. Clearly, Timberlake is aware of this, but he isn’t interesting in following the rules. He’d rather make his own.

When it came to the first single, “Suit & Tie,” which broke his own personal best first-week digital sales record for a single, Timberlake stayed true to the five-minute-and-26-second version on the album. The song, he said, was inspired by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack.

His second single, “Mirrors,” is an eight-minute opus to his new wife, Jessica Biel, that reads like the fairytale ending to “Cry Me A River.” Despite its length, “Mirrors” is the album’s most conventional-sounding track; that, combined with its “I believe in soulmates” theme, will earn the song prime placement throughout prom season 2013. This single has yet to see the same success as “Suit & Tie” in the U.S. but has managed to make it to No. 1 on the U.K. single charts, according to Billboard.

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