Justin Timberlake ‘Everything I Thought It Was’ album review

Estimated read time 3 min read

Music review

Everything I Thought It Was

Justin Timberlake is finally out of the forest. Thank God.

Six years after dropping the dud that was “Man of the Woods,” the Grammy winner has found his groove again on his irresistible new album, “Everything I Thought It Was” (out Friday).

The practically fillerless LP is a much-needed return to form for Timberlake after his stuffy 2018 effort; it feels nostalgic yet fresh at the same time.

The 18-track LP includes the single “Selfish.” RCA Records

It feels nostalgic yet fresh at the same time. Getty Images for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

After a vibey introduction urging his younger self to follow his dreams (titled “Memphis” after his hometown), the “Suit & Tie” singer brings funky back with the one-two punch of the Calvin Harris-produced instant classics “F–kin’ Up the Disco” and “No Angels.” Both are quintessential JT, from catchy hooks to his signature falsetto.

The theme of love oozes throughout the 18-track project, with the most ambitious piece coming in the form of a seven-minute slow jam.

Timberlake is no stranger to long songs — only one of the 10 tracks on his 2013 opus “The 20/20 Experience” clocked in at under five minutes — but the Timbaland-produced “Technicolor” is the clearest evidence yet that he’s mastered sprawling soundscapes.

Timberlake, seen here with wife Jessica Biel, has a seven-minute love song titled “Technicolor.” FilmMagic

Collaborators include Tobe Nwigwe (left). Will Heath/NBC

“Everything I Thought It Was” has something for everyone.

Its lead single, “Selfish,” is a dulcet — albeit safe — midtempo in the vein of 2013’s “Not a Bad Thing,” while the unadulterated earworm “Imagination” is the closest JT’s come to pop perfection since 2006’s “Summer Love.”

And then there’s “Paradise,” the second song Timberlake’s former boy band, *NSYNC, has released in six months. It’s an ever-harmonic homecoming for the fivesome (and a necessary reminder that JC Chasez deserved a prosperous solo career, too).

The pop prince reunites with *NSYNC on “Paradise.” Getty Images

“Drown” is a poor man’s “Cry Me a River,” which was about Britney Spears (left). Getty Images

The past has a heavy influence on “EITIW.”

At times, Timberlake even feels like he’s aiming to improve upon where he once fell flat.

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He succeeds in that with the undulating groove “Play,” which is everything 2018’s “Filthy” wanted to be, as the entertainer speak-sings about indulging in life’s simplest pleasures over the stankiest rhythm of the year so far. “Drown,” on the other hand, isn’t much more than a poor man’s “Cry Me a River,” his 2002 smash about his ex-girlfriend Britney Spears.

Timberlake’s Forget Tomorrow World Tour begins in April. Saturday Night Live

This is his sixth solo studio album. Getty Images for Fontainebleau Las Vegas

But when the pop prince experiments beyond his comfort zone, he’s unstoppable.

“Love & War” is one of the most vocally challenging entries in his nearly three-decade catalog — and he manages to make it look easy. “My Favorite Drug,” meanwhile, finds him gliding along a timelessly sleek instrumental with the same inimitable swagger Michael Jackson had moonwalking on “Motown 25.”

At last, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that Timberlake’s woodsman days are behind him.