ENTERTAINMENT
01/15/2013 04:24 pm ET Updated Jan 15, 2013

6 Reasons We're Worried About The New Justin Timberlake Album, And 3 We're Not

Justin Timberlake wowed the world by announcing his return to music, then caused it to let out a collective sigh by releasing "Suit & Tie," a sleepy throwback joint that features an actually maybe-asleep Jay-Z. That's the bad news, but there is still hope: Timberlake also announced that he'll release "The 20/20 Experience," an all-new album that will feature Timbaland's production, this year.

But is that really good news? Timberlake -- like Beyonce, Kelly and Michelle of Destiny's Child -- lives in our musical memory, a place where all faults are forgiven. His two albums, "Justified" and "FutureSex/LoveSounds," solidified his standing as a feel-good pop icon. People love Timberlake because he's a goofy nice guy who went from being in a boy band to bragging about being sexy (a word most men weren't using to describe themselves before "SexyBack") to actually marrying a gorgeous actress. They also both love and love to hate him because he walked away from music when he was at the top. His return to the studio will probably be met with a similarly dual-pronged response: Pop fans will be happy and excited -- until they hear the first track they don't like.

Ahead, HuffPost Entertainment Editor Kia Makarechi and HuffPost Blogger DJ Louie XIV present six reasons you may hear quite a bit you don't like when "The 20/20 Experience" hits your iPhone 5 earbuds, followed quickly by three reasons this comeback might just work.

1. Timbaland fell off. The once-buzzy producer's latest big-name credits are a string of low-impact Missy Elliot singles (remember those? exactly), some work for "Step Up Revolution," Demi Lovato, Michelle Branch, Slim Thug and somebody named Brasco. JT can work with anyone he wants, so sticking with Timbaland is an uninspired choice.

2. Justin Timberlake is not a child anymore. He's married now (to Jessica Biel), he's a Serious Actor, and he apparently hasn't thought about music for seven years. There's a lot of daylight between the early-20s club-hopping Justin Timberlake of "FutureSex/LoveSounds" and his current incarnation (philanthropist, husband, elder statesman of not making music).

3. He's not in great company. There was another big "comeback" last week. Destiny's Child released a new song that was sleepy enough to make us wonder what Pharrell Williams was thinking when he produced it. Taken with the aforementioned flop-tastic Missy singles and Mariah Carey's abominable comeback single "Triumphant (Get 'Em)," the universe seems to be telling us to give up on our hopes of '90s/early 2000s icons making it again. (One quick note: Of all the people Timberlake worked with on both "Justified" and "FutureSex/LoveSounds," it's the rappers who have made their way back to the airwaves. Juicy J and Pusha-T were in 3 6 Mafia and Clipse, respectively, when they made music with Timberlake, and both have found their late-career solo voices as of late. Maybe JT should ditch the singing and focus on his "Dirty Pop"-esque rapping.)

4. "Suit & Tie" is no "SexyBack." None of Quentin Tarantino's post-"Pulp Fiction" movies match up to the standard he set with that film, but most of them are pretty damn good. So while it's true that "Suit & Tie" doesn't necessarily have to rival the genre-defining virility of "SexyBack," it should be a better-than-just-OK song. Which it's not. It's lyrically inspiring and sonically reductive, a quick reboot of '70s-meets-early-R. Kelly stepping. Timberlake's voice sounds fine, but Jay-Z's verse on the record is one of the rapper's worst-ever: A lazy regurgitation of Jay's "I'm rich and I dress well" theme, without any of his usual humor. The bar is set awfully low on this one.

5. There are no more Michael Jackson songs for him to sing. It's an open secret that some of Timberlake's best songs were originally written for Michael Jackson. There's no evidence that "The 20/20 Experience" will benefit from such source material, though we'll admit that we may be mistaken here.

6. "Dance Music"/"EDM"/"electro" isn't a novelty anymore. "SexyBack" and much of Justin's schtick was re-introducing four-on-the-floor, uptempo dance music to pop. It was a revelation, but one that has since been run into the ground by everyone from Rihanna and Nicki Minaj (their work with David Guetta apes electronic dance music's general ethos for the radio) to Taylor Swift. House's transition from something that was too gay or too black for radio into something that's manufactured for radios and mega-festival leaves Timberlake with the opportunity to refocus pop music once again. But whether or not he's capable of making lightning strike twice remains to be seen (see No. 4).

And, because we love Justin Timberlake, three reasons we're not too worried:

1. "Dance Music"/"EDM"/"electro" isn't a novelty anymore. While there's no question that "Suit & Tie" felt a little anticlimactic after a 7-year hiatus, it's definitely a relief that JT didn't go for the obvious uptempo, EDM-infused single. Doing so may have resulted in a sure-fire hit, but an artist of Justin's caliber needs to do something both distinctively Justin and befitting of a legend,as opposed to the work of a run of the mill pop star-du-jour. Taio Cruz or even Bieber could never pull off "Suit & Tie." It is the kind of capital-C Classy record that only a vocalist as accomplished as Justin could deliver. Beyonce's recent songs "Love on Top" and "1+1" come to mind as apt comparisons: neither are earth-shatteringly unique songs (and both, like "S&T," are unabashed throwbacks with very little focus on sonic innovation), but they are songs that only an extraordinarily talented musician could pull off effectively and there's something nice about seeing Justin showcase his artistry in this fashion. 

2. Timbo is probably the most influential club producer of the past 20 years. So yeah, Timb's output since "FS/LS" has pretty much sucked, but that doesn't mean he's not capable of a comeback. I mean this man has given us "Get Ur Freak On," "Are You That Somebody,"  "Pony," "Big Pimpin," "Cry Me a River" -- the list of genre re-defining music is really endless. And let us not forget that the last time Mr. Mosley was slumping was just prior to the Justin's last album - History teaches us that these two bring out the best in each other. There's at least a 64 percent chance they have some bangers up their sleeve. "S&T" may just be a preview. 

3. Our expectations are our greatest enemy. Another Beyonce comparison, because she's the pop star in closest proximity to Justin's status as walking the line between contemporary pop-stardom and timeless legend. I remember being extremely disappointed when I heard the kick off single to Beyonce's last album "4," "Run The World (Girls)" and while the album certainly didn't feature the smash hits of her first three solo albums, it actually turned out to be far-and-away her strongest effort. She experimented, she went back in time and explored her influences, and the results were truly magical: an artist at the top of her game making an a personal album that stretched her talent. It was an artist's album, not a pandering single-machine (a la Rihanna's yearly hit parades). If we ditch the notion that Justin needs to reinvent dance music every time he drops an album (a tall order for any artist), "Suit & Tie" may actually give us a lot to look forward to.

PHOTO GALLERIES
Justin Timberlake, Then and Now

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