The producer seems to have forgotten what made him special in the first place.
Mike Diver 2009
While it’s not exactly been languishing in development hell, Timbaland’s sequel to 2007’s starry Shock Value – which saw the likes of 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, Fall Out Boy, The Hives and even Elton John collaborate with the accolade-laden producer – has nevertheless seen its release date shunted and shunted until now. And a year-end emergence doesn’t bode well, pre-listen. Few artists unleash their newest wares in December, knowing full well they’re sure to be swallowed by the flood of festive specials and list-topping recommendations. It’s usually a case of damage limitation, labels hoping critical types have already clocked off for Christmas.
The first thing to note here is how the quality of guests has rather dropped since Timbaland’s last solo venture – Furtado and Timberlake return, but both are long-term associates of the man born Tim Mosley. RnB star Brandy appears in her rap guise Bran’ Nu, but elsewhere the credibility tumbles to unforeseen lows. The Fray’s spot on Undertow turns the piece into a slushy Keane-echoing nightmare of sugary excess; teeny popper JoJo – she scored a worldwide hit in 2004 with Leave (Get Out) – shrieks her way through Lose Control like Christina Aguilera having a temper tantrum; and the presence of Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger alone is enough to have many a recipient of this disc scratching it up straight out the box, if only to prevent any stranger picking it up from the second-hand racks.
Alongside JoJo, turns from Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry go some way to painting this album as one focused firmly on pop market disposability, rather than looking to emulate the crossover achievements of Timbaland’s previous, rap-focused material. Cyrus’s We Belong to the Music sounds every note as you expect it to – U-rated, Disney film-friendly lyrics shackled to some beefier-than-normal beats. The banality of her appearance plumbs new depths for Timbaland, who must’ve been on autopilot during the creative process for this particular number. Elsewhere, limp acoustic effort Timothy Where You Been, featuring Jet, answers the question nobody asked: just what has Timbaland been up to since the first Shock Value?
Forget the song’s replies – the straight, honest answer is forgetting what made his name in the first place. There’s nothing here of a vibrancy comparable to what Timbaland’s managed in the recent past, and his (perhaps career-best) breakthrough work with Aaliyah and Missy Elliott now feels like another lifetime ago.