Justin Timberlake – Everything I Thought It Was

3.5

Justin Timberlake has lost none of his boyish charm in the six years standing in between 2018’s Man of the Woods and his latest album Everything I Thought It Was. Across most of the 18 tracks, he sang, crooned, cried, and hoped, all in the name of love. Apart from trying to conjure all the good and bad that may or may not come from giving and receiving love and the crazy expectations that are often associated with fame, he was also a bit experimental with his sound, but not too much that he did away with the famous hooks he’s generally known for.

Man of the Woods was a heavily criticized record when it hit the market in 2018, and six years later, you can’t doubt that pressure will be on the superstar to deliver, because if it took you six years to make something and it falls through, fans are not going to let you forget it. So of course, he started with “Selfish,” a smooth mildly catchy track about the all-consuming nature of love, but with lyrics that are way too shallow to fall in love with.

On the other hand, the next single “Drown” was the first to clue us into the mindset that Timberlake may be onto something deeper and more emotional in Everything I Thought It Was. The song sees him reflect on how he’s always going out of his way to please this person who won’t even lift a finger to save him. And it’s got lines that cut sandwiched in between rhythmic pop hooks that slide into a falsetto.

Arriving on the heels of the album complete with a music video is the third track from the album, “No Angels.” “Full throttlе, pilot on auto / There ain’t no angels hеre on the dance floor / Forget tomorrow, move like you wanna, babe,” he sings in the chorus of the disco funk-inspired dance song, as he seamlessly conjures the kind of careless “have fun forget about tomorrow” experience that’s sure to make Sia’s “Chandelier” proud.

This “let’s live in the present” energy was carried over to Timberlake’s effort with Timbaland, “Infinity Sex,” though why “Drown” has to separate it from “No Angels” makes me question the reasoning behind the track listing. The song dazzles with sweeping strings and a bass line that wants you to throw your hands up in the air like you just do not care. And yeah, there’s a joy that comes with doing that, even if that feeling doesn’t last.

For “Paradise,” Timberlake reunited with his former bandmates *NSYNC to bring us a track that lets the quintet’s dynamic shine through much more deeply than it did on their first collaborative effort in two decades, “Better Place.”We were chasin’ after hopes and dreams, and we’re still under the stars / And all this time I’ve always wondered if it would feel the same / As it did when we were young and not afraid,” they sing. And yes I do feel these lines deeply, for what imagination of paradise can transcend remembering the times when you weren’t afraid to be anything you wanted to be?

For a comeback, Timberlake did not disappoint with Everything I Thought It Was, and while I may feel the need to nitpick and point out the areas he fell through, there are also many places he let his creativity steer him right. His style may be a bit old, but it’s definitely not worn out, and if he were in his 20s, I bet this record would then touch more hearts than it’s doing so far.