Last night at his album release party Justin Timberlake basically confirmed a rumor started by none other than Roots drummer Questlove that The 20/20 Experience, officially out today, was only the first half of a comeback album that wasn't... or might not be.
So in case you weren't too thrilled by the smooth sounds of this effort—in case you were wondering, Pitchfork loved it—there's reason to be hopeful about Timberlake's return to the entertainment genre that gave him his fame. Questlove mentioned that Part Two will be out in November, but Timberlake himself hasn't given a date.
But is this really the path that Timberlake wants to take? Jon Caramanica was respectful of Timberlake in the New York Times, while insisting that the album was still "primarily a paean to brand maintenance." Caramanica writes:
Forget the album; go see the show, or whatever else Mr. Timberlake applies his talents to. He’s learned how to be a musician who has no need to make records, the perfect solution to the modern economy.
And yet this album also seems very much like a step towards "serious" artist-status. A follow-up would seem to indicate that that's what he wants. On the other hand, the most memorable elements of Timberlake's press tour haven't been his performances of new material. They've been his SNL stint and his bits with Jimmy Fallon.
Timberlake also has his film career to worry about. He's got a role in the new Coen brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis, which could very well make it to next year's Oscars. He's also got a film with newly minted Oscar darling Ben Affleck, and a turn as an alcoholic in The Last Drop, a screenplay that made it onto the prestigious Hollywood Black List. Then there's also the little matter of the rumor that he might be in the running to play Daddy Warbucks to Quvenzhané Wallis' Annie, in the remake produced by his tourmate and "Suit & Tie" collaborator, Jay-Z. Of course, Sony tells The New York Post that this is "not true."
Timberlake can obviously have his cake and eat it, too, even if it doesn't please all of his fans. He's Justin Timberlake, dramatic actor, dramatic singer, celebrity extraordinaire. But does he want it? Or is Part Two just an effort in legitimacy?