After a while out of the spotlight pop music’s American vanguard returns to the front with his latest album Futuresex/Lovesounds. Timbaland is at the helm for a lot of the tracks that means you have at least some assurances that things are going to be at least OK.

As it stands things are more than OK, musically the album is a mingling of futuristic funk blended with machine precision pop. At its height you get the absolutely filthy strut of tracks like the single ‘SexyBack’ with its static tinged vocal buried under claustrophobic tinned drum patterns. There’s nothing here that for me stands in the same territory. Tracks like ‘Sexy Ladies’ (seeing a theme yet) drop the tempo a little but still demonstrate the first rate production. Tracks like ‘Let Me Talk To You’ unveil an abandoned use of percussion as does the slightly Eurocentric ‘My Love’ with its falsetto delivery and clip clop beatboxing propping it up at the back end.

‘Lovestoned’ is reminiscent of Michael Jackson before he went uber weird. Think of the plush dense vocal arrangements that Jacko used to use on the choruses of all his big numbers and you’ll get what I mean. ‘What Goes Around’ plays with some ethnic percussion and it’s around here that the album starts to cut the engines and coasts in for a slow landing.

‘Chop Me Up’ is a straight up and down hip hop number minus the rapping but with more or less the same lyric content it’s a touch uninspired but a minor blip at this point because the next track up makes up for its shortcomings.‘Damn Girl’ featuring a cameo from (Black Eyed Peas) is a natural choice for a future single with its lighthearted flourishes and playful knockabout raps. For me the album ends with the next track ‘Summer Love’ an obvious attempt to retread the winning formula of ‘Cry Me A River’ from the first album. Its not a bad effort but sadly it doesn’t come close in comparison to the drama of its forebear.

I say the album finishes here for me because the final three tracks don’t really have any place being in this collection and only serve to take the polish and edge of the rest of the songs. It seems here JT is eager to prove himself a soul balladeer rather than a 21st century pop icon. So the songs step down a major amount in tempo and everything gets seriously slushy. The trouble is although Justin might have a half decent set of pipes on him he doesn’t carry the weight, credibility or experience to go for the real seduction numbers.

While he’s in pop mode talking about being the hottest thing since matches I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt but in full seducer mode its not happening (at least until he looks older than twelve). And it ain’t just the singer either, the songs have a cheesiness about them that in all honesty should be avoided at all costs.

As an album it’s a pretty good selection, perhaps lacking the innocent drive and ambition of the debut. In places there’s a confidence in the performance that the material doesn’t live up to. Lyrically it’s a one trick pony which gets a little tiresome but that’s not why we are here, right. The cameos from Timbaland and are all well placed and executed. And if you scrub the frankly diabolical last three tracks you’ve got a worthy if not earth shattering release.