The last month in music news has been a bit of a time machine, with the likes of David Bowie, Destiny's Child and Justin Timberlake promising to dominate the music universe in 2013. Even without a single, you could sense the collective yearning building up across the Internet in reaction to Timberlake's countdown to his new album The 20/20 Experience.
A video clip shows him confidently walking into a studio, waxing about waiting until he had the proper muse to return to this music game. Now with a finished product to tease, Timberlake promises the wait was worth it and ends the video with an assured, "I'm ready," into a microphone. The initial teasing was short-lived. "Suit & Tie" landed in our speakers late Sunday night to a pretty resounding, "Meh." Well, initially anyway.
In the span of a few hours I watched my twitter feed cycle from "Meh," to a new Pitchfork-approved, "Dope!," back to, "I mean, it's fine." We all seemed to agree the Jay-Z verse was a strange phoned in piece of guest-artistry. I like to think he is saving the stellar 16's for the Destiny's Child remixes.
Stephen M. Deusner's strange, glowing review for Pitchfork hit the nail on the mediocre head, but I am not sure they meant to. He calls the single, "... one hell of a wedding reception jam," which I guess is a compliment now? I mean, "The Chicken Dance" also pretty much kills it at weddings. So.
My first impression of "Suit & Tie" is that it sounds like a song left off of 2006's FutureSex/LoveSounds. Which makes for a boring song in 2013; the real disappointment is the lack of evolution. FutureSex/LoveSounds was exciting sonically, but it also established Timberlake's ability to create new patchworks from relevant muses. We aren't waiting for another futuristic record from Timberlake in any clichéd sense, we are literally waiting for him to tell us what pop music is going to sound like in 2013. Unfortunately, according to the first single it sounds like 2006, and post-Miguel or The Weeknd, that just isn't good enough.
It has already been asked if there is room in the pop world for two Justin's -- a reference to Bieber -- but Timberlake has a wild new school of pop experimenters to contend with. The dark horse in the sexy R&B tinged pop race might actually be Toro Y Moi's new release,Anything In Return
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. If there is someone poised to steal the prize from those matinee idols, my money is on Chaz Bundick.
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Anything in Return evolves Bundick's chillwave genre with less ferocity then Timberlake's offerings, but it's impact feels just as strong. Lively '70s funk references, and touches from Bundick's dance project Les Sins make for one hell of a complete pop composition. There is nothing 2006 about it, and after pushing through "Suit & Tie," a few times I find myself returning to Bundick's more germane pop rather quickly.
Admittedly, it's still too soon to see Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience clearly. "Suit & Tie," is just one song off an album that is entirely capable of making up for this sleepy release. There is room in the playground for more than one defining pop album in 2013, but for now there is a clear head start. Your move, iconoclast pop icons.