Skip to just shy of the four minute mark of this eight minute super-jam, and you’ll hear why “Mirrors” should have been the standard-bearer single for JT’s latest album The 20/20 Experience. This is the first track to meld his new soul leanings with the pop smarts of those boy band tracks which made his vocals ubiquitous in the first place. “Forget the old me, he’s already gone,” he sings, and though that won’t happen completely, “Mirrors” is an apt reflection of where he’s been and where he wants to go, even if at times he spends too much time standing in his own way. There’s no reason he needs to be such a perfectionist, waiting half a decade between albums. If he wants to be an actor, act. If he wants to be a musician, he needs to be willing to release things before they’re polished to death. That’s what made “Suit and Tie” come off as such an overplayed hand … all the talk of needing to hold these songs until he really felt they were ready was left meaningless when the song he did choose to be his comeback didn’t sizzle when we finally got past the “JT comeback” smokescreens.
That said, while I’m still not entirely convinced that Timberlake hasn’t set himself for a dramatic crash and burn, “Mirrors” is the next best thing he’s written since “What Goes Around Comes Around.” It’s the first thing to make me excited to hear the rest of the album, Is The 20/20 Experience going to leave Future/Sex/Love/Sounds in its dust? Unlikely. But it could wind up standing strong as a proper follow-up, even if it took too long to gestate. And though anything less than a global sales explosion will be seen as a failure, if Timberlake actually builds on this new expansion of his sound to build future albums, he could finally live up to the hype and prove he’s more than a jack of all trades and master of none.