There are some bright sparks on the record which aren’t explored further to give this album a sonic recognition. Album opener ‘Memphis’ provides an unexpected start to a JT record. Timberlake’s album openers in the past have been positive, danceable introductions, such as 2002’s ‘Senorita’ or 2013’s ‘Pusher Love Girl’. However, Memphis is essentially a complaint about the pressures of early stardom. Perhaps this is a reflective attitude that the longevity of his career has provided. Nevertheless, it doesn’t quite land the same as previous entries. It may come as a surprise that since his first solo album in 2002 after parting ways with N-Sync, over that 22 year period he’s only released 5 full length albums (excluding the film soundtrack ‘The Book of Love’).

In that time he’s had some of the biggest chart toppers of the last 20 years. But attempts to recreate that winning formula is what prevents this album from excelling. Fourth track ‘Play’ has an almost identical vocal melody as ‘Give It to me’ - his collaboration with Timbaland and Nelly Furtado. When the melodic line escapes that trip down memory lane, it lacks its own identity.

There are a couple of stand out tracks. It’s a bit of surprise that ‘F**King Up The Disco’ wasn’t released not just as the main single for this record, but as a single at all. This track was co-written and produced by Calvin Harris, which perhaps is a collaborative invitation in which Timberlake should extend. The song provides a dubbed bass pulsing efficiently with JT’s melodic line, grasping the attention of the listener, with an original, dancing energy that we’re accustomed to with Timberlake’s earlier work. The other stand out on the record is the following track 'No Angels’ which is a funk-infused groove, with a Nile Rodgers-esque rhythm guitar layering the well written structure of the song.

It may be from that longevity that I touched on earlier, but besides these tracks (which may be back to back on the record for a reason) there seems to be a lack of passion funding the material as a whole. When asked what the meanings were behind the tracks, Timberlake offers very little insight. When talking about ‘F**king Up The Disco’, Justin said “That It’s a disco…and we’re f**king it up”. The song ‘Imagination’ was described as “put on your roller skates….umm….dance your asses off”. It’s hardly the creative insight which is going to persuade even the most dedicated of JT fans to purchase the record.

The lead singles of this record have been the slower tracks. But they don't tend to land. That being said, ‘What Lovers Do’ is perhaps the sonic identity that they should have explored if they wanted the ballads to stand out. Unlike the others, ‘What Lovers Do’ has a great blend of new and old Timberlake, with an offbeat driving the song which captures that initial groove. Despite this entry not having a great as impact as previous JT records, he’s not only well established, but could be considered as one of the best pop stars of the last 30 years. This year see’s Justin’s first major tour since 2018/19, and whilst these newer tracks may not be the shining stars of those sets, he certainly has the discography to make up.