It’s difficult to define what musical blandness is, but for some reason it’s very easy to give examples, as evidenced by this latest album of little noteworthiness from an experienced entertainer who seemed to have nothing better to do. Justin Timberlake’s music has a rather distinctive style, which is important when making music that ultimately has very similar purposes to what is considered popular. Being distinctive is more that I can say about many other modern musicians attempting the same thing, which I will chalk up to Timberlake’s overall experience and generational upbringing when creativity was simply better harvested as a whole in the top layer of popularity. I may have not felt it at the time, but now I feel somewhat fortunate having grown up with the likes of *NSYNC, Britney Spears, and the Black Eyed Peas thrust into my ears instead of Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, because there was at least a palpable dosage of musical intelligence back then. Yes, at least Timberlake has a brain. His constant falsetto voice used as a punchy energetic delivery is a decent signature to have. However, his signature style also happens to have an annoyingly delicate backing timbre, uninvolved directionless melodies, and an emphasis on colorless, uninteresting harmonic progressions. Despite owning a rather recognizable sound that’s been proven to sell, this album is an incredibly bland take on those tactics. I’m not talking about any lack of a standout song; a couple of songs did stick out to me for better or worse. It’s also not the fact that I’ve simply heard a lot of these same techniques and musical ideas before. It really comes down to the lack of engaging musical material, be it a surprising melodic leap, a sharp change of course in the texture, a supportive instrumental addition, etc. which instead gave way to attempting at driving a flimsy personal style into the ground. Now, it was done with some small flair on this album. While the outright attempts at the nightclub/bedroom atmosphere produced nothing of worth thanks to lousy, bleak instrumental usage and melodies that were underdeveloped and not even combining with any other part of the song, there were some switches in technique with guitar dominance and some variance in harmonic rhythm that came to create a more relaxed setting. The difference between the songs “Filthy” and “Say Something” highlights this switch. Still, genuine expression and interesting musical growth was at a minimum throughout. Perhaps the worst musical decisions were the attempts to ignite the texture by addition, which resulted in some odd misplaced harmonicas or terribly dull and overpowering guitar techniques. The song “Morning Light” may have seen the height of where Timberlake’s signature soft style could go by itself, and in the grand scope of things that’s just a boring, halfway decent song with some neat uses of pause. Other songs like “Wave” and “Livin’ Off the Land” were quite dreadful in their entire organization, the former being very erratic and the latter being vey mundane, leaving behind a tasteless experience. People may think this washed up style is fun, but it lacks fundamentals and has no good ground to stand on.

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