We’ve known for a while now that Justin Timberlake was planning to release The 20/20 Experience Part 2, a sequel of sorts to his comeback album of the same name from earlier this year, on Sept. 30. Then earlier this week, he teased a new single, “Take Back the Night,” with “Subterranean Homesick Blues”-like flash cards offering decidedly little new information other than the title of the new song.
Now the full song has arrived, and it’s a much livelier introduction to the upcoming album than the smooth jam “Suit and Tie” was to The 20/20 Experience. Singing and riffing over a funky guitar riff and vibrant strings and horns, Timberlake sounds even more like Michael Jackson (circa Off the Wall) than usual, if that is possible for a performer who has embraced comparisons to the King of Pop since his solo career began. And while he continues the last album’s trend of long-form pop songs (this clocks in around 6:30), “Take Back the Night” doesn’t include any big shifts or transformations; aside from a rather insignificant breakdown of handclaps, the rhythm and tempo remain constant throughout.
The song is a fun party track, even if the name is a tad unsettling. “Take Back the Night,” as some have already noted, is also the name of an annual rally held around the world to bring awareness to violence against women, a gathering that laid claim to the phrase as long ago as the mid-1970s. Timberlake presumably meant no harm in using the phrase, but it’s a bit surprising that no one in his camp flagged this as a potentially awkward connection. For some, hearing “They gon’ try to shut us down/ But I’ll be damned if we gon’ let ’em take back the night” will sound more provocative than it is probably meant to.