|Image courtesy of Sony Music Ireland.|
We've already chatted about Justin Timberlake teasing with the details of his return late last week. Earlier today, JT finally gave us Suit & Tie the opening gambit from new album The 20/20 Experience due later this year (as confirmed by Timberlake in an open letter on his website). The production comes via Timbaland and also features Jay-Z. So far, so starry. But what's really impressive about Suit & Tie is just how "subtle" it is.
After a slow-mo opening with a judder-y hip-hop beat it bursts into a sprightly R&B groove that feels like the kind of fusion of radio-ready R&B, soul references and shimmery pop that only a Timbaland/Timberlake production could provide. It's got a grown-up air to it, like a logical follow on from the overall feel of his Futuresex/LoveSounds album.
The consensus from fans and pundits today (speaking of, both The Prophet Blog and The Guardian's Michael Cragg have good takes on it here) is that it's not a Sexy/Back style banger, a big lead single that announces a triumphant return to chart dominance. But in a odd way this feels like a good thing. For starters, Suit & Tie may not sound like some kind of huge comeback song but it's sophisticated, infectious and has a sort of lived-in confidence that only a huge star could pull off. Timberlake is effectively taking a look at what's huge and doing his own thing. Given that his previous material was produced by Timbaland who then went on to enjoy a ubiquity that would see a certain production style seem played out it's a smart move. For an artist that prides himself on keeping a fairly low musical output (as that now infamous video speech suggests) it's a good fit to keep things moving at a pace that feels like his.
Whether the R.Kelly/Robin Thicke vibe of this will comfortably land with radio and big audiences is hard to debate but as an opening gambit Timberlake has got us talking with a tune that feels like a solid mix of throwback and something fresh. By doing his own thing Justin has probably made the most interesting move of all.
Suit & Tie is on iTunes now, you can stream it in full here. The 20/20 Experience is released later this year.