Justin Timberlake Goes for the “TKO” on New Single

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Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 20 2013 10:10 AM

Justin Timberlake Goes for the “TKO” on New Single

Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake's new single is yet another 7-minute pop epic.

Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

Justin Timberlake’s sequel to the The 20/20 Experience, 2 of 2, is 11 tracks and more than 74 minutes long, so anyone hoping for a return to tight, three-to-five-minute pop songs should settle in. The new single “TKO,” which Timberlake shared last night, finds him going all 12 rounds again.

If you groaned at that boxing metaphor, you better prepare yourself: “TKO” extends its love-as-fisticuffs analogy through all seven minutes. His lover is a dirty fighter who “knocks [him] out,” who “tried to go below the belt” and “swing[s] after the bell and all the whistle blows.” It gets goofier, and more forced: “It cuts right on my eye, yeah it hurt, won’t lie,” he croons, describing the pain of seeing her with another man. Later, he is more straightforward: “This rematch sex is amazing.”

Musically, from the beat to the chord progression to the vocal percussion and the synth line, the song is strongly reminiscent of “Cry Me a River,” though since it’s 2013 JT it also gets a breakdown around the five-minute mark. “River” remains one of Timberlake and Timberland’s best songs, but part of me wishes they would take more risks and come out swinging with something new, rather than persisting with this old rope-a-dope.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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