Whatever Justin Timberlake had, musically, he's lost—at least for now, if his excruciating The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 is an indication. Some critics who stretched to defend the uninspired first half of this unpleasant "experience" earlier this year can't even muster a pro argument for this collection of outtakes of an album that already sounded like outtakes in the first place (2 of 2 is to 1 of 2 as 1 of 2 is to FutureSex/LoveSounds). The guy has nothing to say, and so he structures the majority of the overlong songs here around thematic metaphors, like R. Kelly without the humor, smarts, panache, individuality, and soul. His trusty producer, responsible for the bulk of 2 of 2's beats similarly has nothing new to say. Who's hungry for twice-reheated '00s revivalism?
2 of 2 is home to the most embarrassing songs of Timberlake's career, at least since "(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time On You." Below they are ranked and described, in order from tolerable to mortifying. Enjoy. (You won't.)
Song length: 4:33
Thematic metaphor: Sex as showbiz
Timberlake’s mood: Jazz hands-and-dick
Worst lyric: "I got you saying Jesus so much it's like we are laying in the Manger"
Sounds like: “My Love” in garters and a bowler
11. "You Got It On"
Song length: 5:56
Thematic metaphor: Being well-dressed equated to being a good lover
Timberlake’s mood: Stereotypical gay best friend who just happens to like pussy
Worst lyric: "And all I'm saying is you don’t gotta worry what you wear tonight / Those heels lift you up where you fit me right, said oh / You already got it on oh baby"
Sounds like: Fallin’ in love, right now (according to Timberlake’s lyrics). It actually sounds like William De Vaughn's "Be Thankful for What You Got" with a stutter.
10. "Gimme What I Don't Know (I Want)"
Song length: 5:15
Thematic metaphor: Jungle/love
Timberlake's mood: Prowling like a Persian that thinks he's a tiger
Worst lyric: "Now take me to your jungle, I'm not afraid / And if you're looking for your animal, hop in my cage"
Sounds like: The inside of your head while you are swishing mouthwash and rocks in a cavernous bathroom while someone plays a gentle electric keyboard sporadically in the background. In other words, your preparatory ritual for a night on the town.
9. "Take Back the Night"
Song length: 5:53
Thematic metaphor: The night as a tangible entity
Timberlake’s mood: Jealous of Chris Brown’s moderately successful, similarly milquetoast disco attempt, "Fine China."
Worst lyric: "Attraction can drive you crazy, and the way you move when you go crazy, that’s incentive for me"
Sounds like: A feminist rally cry. Just kidding. It sounds like someone listened to Michael Jackson's Off the Wall and arrogantly thought, “I can do that.” But he can’t.
Song length: 7:04
Thematic metaphor: Boxing
Timberlake’s mood: Crying a river of blood from above his eye
Worst lyric: "Been swinging after the bell and after all of the whistle blows / Tried to go below the belt, through my chest, perfect hit to the dome / Dammit, babe"
Sounds like: Endless pummeling, except for the squealing, which sounds like it’s coming from seizing animals abused by the aforementioned pummeling. The breakdown is Timbaland’s trademark mouth music, regurgitated.
7. "Drink You Away"
Song length: 5:31
Thematic metaphor: Alcohol
Timberlake’s mood: Boozy or bluesy – he’s too busy with that acting career of his to decide
Worst lyric: "The bottom of the bottle / To fill this empty heart up / A thousand proof don't change the truth I'm diving, but I can't"
Sounds like: That token rock-y track on an otherwise R&B/pop album—a flop attempt at a crossover hit.
Song length: 7:05
Thematic metaphor: Amnesia
Timberlake’s mood: He’d be brooding if only he could remember how
Worst lyric: "Amnesia, every memory fades away till it’s gone / Where did you go? / Amnesia, went from everything to nothing / No we anymore, she’s a stranger that I used to know"
Sounds like: Timbaland crawled up his own asshole and rediscovered some funny noises.
5. "Only When I Walk Away"
Song length: 7:06
Thematic metaphor: There isn’t really one, but I guess the concept of walking away is kind of figurative? In the laziest, most prominently metaphorical way.
Timberlake’s mood: Fuzzed out and raw, like a really cool vintage vest made out of a rug.
Worst lyric: "Is that shit in sync or insane, love? / I guess that's the way we play it"
Sounds like: Timbaland has a bird caught in his throat and a megaphone as a guitar pick.
Song length: 5:08
Thematic metaphor: Murder
Timberlake’s mood: Death wishful—he’s not working so hard because it’s all gonna be over soon
Worst lyric: "You know you killin' me softly but we can go as hard as you want to / Until the bed's way under the ground, under the ground I would be down to go to that level"
Sounds like: Timbaland thinks he can just throw some horns over the rhythm track of “Pass That Dutch” and no one will notice since that song flopped anyway.
And also: Let's take a second to recognize Jay Z's contribution, which is at least cliche if not uninformed to the point of being slanderous: "Yoko Ono, she got that Yoko Ono / You know that shit that made John Lennon go solo / Know that shit gotta be lethal / If that pussy broke up the Beatles / Chocha ruined pop culture." Hova did, too, with this verse and that "Suit & Tie" garbage.
3. "Not a Bad Thing"
Song length: 5:08
Thematic metaphor: None, really
Timberlake’s mood: Tough-talkin’ sweetheart who drives a hard bargain.
Worst lyric: “You might fuck around and find your dreams come true with me”
Sounds like: In the same way that time transformed "Ashley’s Roachclip" from being the freshest underground-club sample in 1987 via Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full” to something suitable for doctor’s offices by 1994 via Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be,” Timbaland's trademark shuffle beat is so familiar that it can form the basis of an adult contemporary track. We heard it in 20/20 1 of 2’s “Mirrors” and here it is back again. All of that is to say that it sounds like you’re old.
2. "Pair of Wings" (Hidden Track)
Song length: 6:02
Metaphor: Wings. Two of 'em.
Timberlake’s mood: So delicate. So tender. So real. So soft. So quiet. So America’s sweetheart.
Worst lyric: "And if I had a pair of wings / I’d pick you and fly you far away from here / And we’d fly so high up in the sky / Where the stars are so clear / And then I could save you / From the troubles of the world / And all you’d have to pack is your heart to bring / And there we are, you and me / Flying on a big ol’ pair of wings, mmm"
Sounds like: An Angel Soft commercial featuring a baby playing an acoustic guitar. Justin Timberlake is that baby’s ass.
1. "True Blood"
Song length: 9:31
Thematic metaphor: Vampirism
Timberlake’s mood: "I-vant-to-suck...period." Also: “I vant my own Thriller.”
Worst lyric: "I think she's got that true blood / Every time your 'round I can smell it in you / She's got that true blood / I come around and raise the hell out of you / It's that demon in me that's got me screaming / Make me wanna build a coffin for two / She's got that true blood / But baby I just do it for the thrill out of you"
Sounds like: The funk of forty thousand vampire references in the past 10 years of pop culture. Also like “SexyBack” without the sexy or back. Also like a commercial. For True Blood. Also like, "Hey, no fair! The Backstreet Boys got to dress up as monsters!!!"
[Image via Getty]