The 20/20 Experience, Reimagined

20:20This is not, by any means, a timely post, as it’s been over a year since Justin Timberlake released Part 1 of his 7-years-in-the-making album, The 20/20 Experience. Part 2 came out six months later, and as I’ve written before, it was underwhelming.

So I’m out running errands today and “Pusher Love Girl” shuffles on the iPod. It got me thinking about both Parts of 20/20 and what changes I’d make to turn it into one, complete, doozy of a single album. So here’s my track list for the definitive 20/20 Experience.

  1. Pusher Love Girl (4:53)
  2. Suit & Tie (4:29)
  3. Cabaret (4:01)
  4. You Got It On (5:31)
  5. Strawberry Bubblegum (7:20)
  6. Only When I Walk Away (3:45)
  7. Tunnel Vision (4:03)
  8. Spaceship Coupe (5:20)
  9. That Girl (4:18)
  10. Let The Groove Get In (7:12)
  11. Mirrors (5:24)
  12. Blue Ocean Floor (6:53)

Full track list, complete with new time designations. My version is just over an hour. Yes, I adjusted not only a song’s placement, but also how long each song is. Let me explain.

The actual “Pusher Love Girl” is just over 8 minutes on the actual recording. Too long. And the song is so perfectly segmented at the 5 minute mark that leads into the back half of the song, which, in my opinion, is completely superfluous. So on my reimagined 20/20 Experience, the last three minutes of the song are removed. Next.

“Suit & Tie” no longer features Jay Z. His verse felt like a throwaway and I don’t think he adds anything to the song, so he’s cut. The intro is kept though. That’s just the sort of Timbaland/JT weirdness I like.

“Cabaret” is the first appearance of a song from the original Part 2, which, full disclosure, I thought paled in comparison to Part 1. You won’t see lots of Part 2 tunes on here. But this is a great song, minus the Drake verse. So take him out completely, but keep the song change right before the 3 minute mark where the breakdown happens. So we’re only actually cutting about half a minute from the song length, and Drake is nowhere to be seen.

“Cabaret” is followed by another Part 2 cut, “You Got It On.” This one has a very relaxed pace, and begins a nice breather period before the slightly darker phase of the record. I’d only cut a bit of the string section out at the end, like half a minute or so of strings.

“Strawberry Bubblegum” ends the big inhalation section of the record. I’d only cut out the first 40 seconds because Timbaland’s low-voiced intro is not required. I’m also keeping the second section of the song intact. In fact, if I was pressed with time or space limitations, I’d favor the last 3 minutes of the song over the first part. The song works well as a whole, but the second segment is by far the better one.

Now we launch into the heavy part of the record with “Only When I Walk Away.” I have no idea why, but I get a major Prince vibe from JT on this song. The distorted vocal maybe? I’m not sure. But I’d cut it off at 3:45, as the breakdown half isn’t really needed.

That takes us to another minor chord-based tune, the faster-tempoed “Tunnel Vision.” I’m cutting this one off right at the 4 minute mark; again, the last ~3 minutes are fine but not necessary.

The dark section ends with “Spaceship Coupe.” This one ends at 5:20, almost a full 2 minutes off the actual version. I could probably cut even more off this one but this is another great example of the JT/Timbo weirdness I want to preserve. Great tune.

“That Girl” follows, and we’re only losing the awful spoken word club intro. There is little worse in this world than when JT talks on a record instead of sings. Other than the 30 second intro, this whole song stays, including his beginning count-off.

After a full year of listening to this album, I’ve realized that, as unexpected as this might seem, “Let The Groove Get It” is my favorite song off of Part 1. I’m not cutting a single second off this tune.

And then “Mirrors” follows it up with the back half lopped off. To be honest, even a truncated version of this song should not be 5 and a half minutes long but I’d have to search for a lot more of the meat of the song to cut and I’m too lazy to do that.

I’m closing my version out with “Blue Ocean Floor,” and only cutting the 30 second breakdown that starts right about the 5 minute mark. The whole tune is a great example of JT doing something that sounds unlike anything else in his catalog and the 30 second bridge is the only thing that takes me out of it. The whole thing sounds very aquatic, otherworldly and full of shadows. I’m never thinking about chords or anything until that bridge, so I’d cut that out for sure.

And there’s my 20/20 Experience, reimagined. For the most part, I kept Part 1 intact and just sprinkled my favorites from Part 2 in where they fit. The only song I took off of Part 1 was “Don’t Hold The Wall,” which I like, but was the one I could live with losing. I also like “Drink You Away” and “Amnesia” from Part 2, but not so much that I had to find space for them on my version.

Some obvious key take-aways: Part 1 was a fantastic record, and it could’ve been a lot shorter than it was. Not to say the long songs take away from the overall execution, but JT and Timbaland could’ve trimmed here or there and not been any worse off. Also, Part 2 was almost completely unnecessary. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait until 2020 before JT gives us a new album.

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