In the past week Justin Timberlake launched his Legends of Summer stadium tour with Jay Z (they play the Rose Bowl on July 28) and premiered a new single, “Take Back the Night,” the lead track from Part 2 of his uber-successful comeback album, “The 20/20 Experience.”
“Take Back the Night,” a disco cut that could have cleanly fit on Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall,” got us wondering what exactly Timberlake plans on offering with “The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2,” which hits stores Sept. 30.
Having kept “The 20/20 Experience” in near-obsessive rotation since its release earlier this year -- we aren’t alone, considering it’s the year’s biggest-selling album so far -- there are a few guarantees for its sequel.
Timberlake will most likely heavily lean on his dream team, which includes Timbaland, Jermone “J-Roc” Harmon” and the Y’s (the production team consisting of Timberlake, singer-songwriter James Fauntleroy and producer Rob Knox) to handle the production of the record. And considering the slinky disco bounce of “Take Back the Night,” Timberlake is still time traveling through vintage soul sounds, which should make for a second disc full of deliciously catchy (and hopefully lengthy) pop grooves catered for dance floors, and bedrooms.
But in the slight chance Timberlake wanted to reach outside his team -- "a special surprise from Justin" is promised to appear on the album -- we’ve drafted a wish list of collaborators that the singer should consider for “The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2.”
1. Kanye West. Yes, Kanye hated Timberlake’s comeback single, “Suit & Tie.” He really hated it. But that’s largely just the notoriously outspoken rapper acting petulant since his bestie Jay Z had logged so much studio time with Timberlake and put the sequel to their joint album, “Watch the Throne,” on the back burner. West, despite his often-hilariously (and annoyingly) outlandish ways, knows his way around a studio, especially when it comes to expertly injecting throwback soul samples into productions. What better olive branch than a West-produced track with a guest verse from the Throne?
2. The-Dream. There aren’t many songwriter-producers out there that navigate pop-R&B like The-Dream. He’s a master craftsman of hits for formidable divas like Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige and Rihanna that effortlessly tug at your heart, make you charge the dance floor or light a candle on your nightstand. But as an artist, most of his dripping, often sex-crazed, singles would be better suited for a crooner with a sturdier voice. It was difficult listening to his latest album, "IV Play," without thinking the records would have been better sung by someone else.
3. Beyoncé. “The 20/20 Experience” is a sexy listen on its own, but the one thing that could have made the album steamier was a fiery female vocal. Enter Beyoncé. The two have jumped on a number of tracks in the past, and even backup Bey’s hubby on a track on his latest opus, “Magna Carta... Holy Grail,” which was spun out of studio sessions from Timbaland’s work with the two singers. Timberlake has reportedly done work for Beyoncé’s anticipated album. Hopefully she’s returned the favor. Even if she’s credited by her latest alter ego, Third Ward Trill.
4. Any student of the new school of R&B. The surge of acts pushing the boundaries of contemporary R&B with edgier, genre-blending productions brought a much-needed renewed energy to the genre. Acts like Miguel, Frank Ocean, the Weeknd, Elijah Blake and Jhené Aiko have waved a flag for an alternative brand of R&B that certainly doesn’t play it safe -- even if its miles apart from what's being spun on radio. The harshest criticism Timberlake’s comeback album received was that it played it too close to chest, even if every single track boiled over four minutes. Though Timberlake & Co. crafted some mighty fine pop-R&B that nodded to the past and felt current, he could have benefited from one of the cool kids who never made it to history class.
5. Pharrell. Speaking of “Magna Carta... Holy Grail,” another MVP of the album was Pharrell Williams. The producer, like Timberlake, has his hand prints all over the project -- including producing album standout “BBC,” which features Timberlake and Beyoncé (sorry, Third Ward Trill). Williams has had a ridiculously massive year with two songs of summer: Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” to which he lends his voice, and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” which he produced and guests on. Williams, along with Timbaland, provided much of the framework for most of Timberlake’s breakout debut, 2002’s “Justified.” Both have grown up tremendously since then, so the possibilities are limitless.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun