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Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z’s ‘Suit & Tie’: Our Impulsive Reviews

Jay and J. Timberlake, now how heavy is that? / Lester Cohen/Wireimage

Today, Justin Timberlake leaked his first music in six years, “Suit & Tie,” produced by Timbaland and featuring Jay-Z. Here, eight SPIN editors give their hasty and completely impulsive opinions…

Charles Aaron
The second “Suit & Tie” properly kicked in, I was getting neck- and shoulder-roll twitches. The twinkly-trippy wind-chime flutter, the taut horn bursts, the lighter-than-air MJ rhythmic shuffle, it’s all sublimely seamless ’70s/’80s/’90s/’00s retromania mix-and-match. Jay-Z sorta phones in his feature, but still ably ups the grown-folks quotient. And fellas, if you’re trying to convince a date that your dinner at that high-end chain restaurant was tres romantique, just crank this in the car and you’ll be golden.
Early score: 7/10

Christopher R. Weingarten
The 2002 dream team of JT and Timbo ask: Do you want new wave or do you want the truth? There’s nothing we’d love more than for these guys to bring SexyBackBack, and they technically do. Call this aughties mash-up “dated” or “retromania” or whatever makes you feel better: You’ve got the drive-slow-homie crawl of Houston rap circa 2005, the Timbaland gloss ‘n’ floss of Danity Kane or Nelly Furtado singles circa 2006, the rat-pack Jay-Z horns from 2007, the sneak “Motherlover” ref circa 2009. The only things that tether it to the new decade is the 2 Chainz-jacking cover art and the tempo change that leans towards dubstep but settles on a Givenchy pillow instead of dropping anywhere. I mean, “SexyBack” was a brisk 118 bpm, and that was years before people were saying the word “EDM” at the Grammys. Now his big comeback waltzes in at a lurching 102? Being forced to brake yourself in the molly age is why “Suit & Tie” parses as “underwhelming,” but there’s a safe bet that you’ll be singing “shit, tie, shit” at someone’s wedding this year anyway.
Early score: 7/10

David Marchese
JT was off starring in rom-coms and taking supporting roles in Oscar bait for so long that it became easy to wonder if he’d lost his interest in creating music. “Suit & Tie” doesn’t exactly make the case that he was compelled back into the studio by some grand artistic vision. It’s just…nice. The melody is sunny, the singing relaxed. Timbaland’s production is airy and soulful. And that’s about the best you can say — this single is a low-stakes breeze of a song, which is probably the point. The biggest thing Jay-Z’s guest verse adds is marketing power. Maybe Timberlake’s next song will be the statement of purpose.
Early score: 7/10

David Bevan
Timberlake’s at his best when he dims the lights and curls his lip, when the obligation to be bubbly is supplanted by sharper edges. “Suit & Tie” goes another route: digitized harp, looped sonar pings, and a Charles & Eddie-like repetition in the verse melody gives way to a chorus horn-y and faceless enough to be a Bublé-Black Eyed Peas collabo. But then Jay arrives, downshifts, and does an admirable job of adding some much-needed growl to the affair. It’s truffle season!
Early score: 6/10

Caryn Ganz
The limp fanfare at the top sorta says it all: Part “Ain’t No Other Man” on quaaludes, part MySpace promo, part proof he can hang with Jay, JT’s big comeback is as meh as our long-awaited “new” taste of Destiny’s Child. “Suit & Tie” keeps changing gears, but it doesn’t truly hit its stride until the outro, when Timbo’s beat is laid bare without being suffocated by Timberlake’s falsetto.
Early score: 5/10

Brandon Soderberg
There’s an Adam Levine-ian cornball-brilliance to “Suit & Tie” that Timberlake’s lumpy falsetto, and Timbaland’s sunny/mundane production tap into. But the first song from dude in six years shouldn’t be on some “Remember how Maroon 5 used to have some secret jams” type shit. And Timbaland sending the instrumental in three different directions (sub-FutureSex/LoveSounds “Chop Me” up slur, Burt Bacharach-from-the-future horns, and, for Jay-Z’s phoned-in verse, a slow-motion rise and fall of the beat) at different times rewards multiple listens. But the first Timberlake song in six years shouldn’t be a slow-to-reveal-itself kind of sort of grower, now should it? JT going Jon Hamm and smugly singing about his suit, as if looking moderately suave is next-level, is dispiriting, especially in a time when R&B is exploring every nook and cranny.
Early score: 6/10

Philip Sherburne
Pretty sure this is just stealth promotion for the new, improved MySpace, which has Timberlake at the helm; the way the aggressively screwed introduction drags mimics the way that trying to load one of the old MySpace’s GIF-encumbered pages would invariably slow your computer to a crawl. But then, boom: Like Michael Jackson crossed with Bruno Mars, the brunt of the track is breezy and carefree; it sails like Ruby on Rails. (That tacked-on Jay-Z verse, however, is an uncomfortable reminder that even the most celebrated upgrades can come with serious security flaws.)
Early score: 6/10

Marc Hogan
Ain’t nobody disappoint you like Timberlake disappoints you. It’s not that “Suit & Tie” is awful, but, well, seven years must’ve been long enough for everybody to forget he wore a suit and tie on the cover of his last album — it’s just that FutureSex/LoveSounds was more “space suit” than “button-down.” R. Kelly’s been making these ’70s soul homages work by investing them with his usual unrestrained lyricism, but Jay-Z and J.T. don’t say much here that sticks out. Their invocation of old sounds just makes all involved sound old. And if the event is tux-required, as the single art suggests, why don’t they say that’s what they’re wearing? Suit and tie is a whole other dress code.
Early score: 6/10