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Strawberry Bubblegum

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"Strawberry Bubblegum"
Song by Justin Timberlake
from the album The 20/20 Experience
Recorded June 2012; Larrabee Studios (North Hollywood)
Length 7:59
Label RCA
  • Timbaland
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon

"Strawberry Bubblegum" is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake for his third studio album, The 20/20 Experience (2013). It was written and produced by Timberlake, Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley and Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon, with additional writing from James Fauntleroy. "Strawberry Bubblegum" is a mid-tempo pop, R&B and soul song with elements of EDM and ambient. Its music structure received comparison to the works of musicians such as Barry White, Prince and Stevie Wonder.

Music critics were divided on "Strawberry Bubblegum"; the song's production was generally praised, but the lyrics were criticized as being cliché. Despite the mixed reactions from reviewers, the song debuted at number 22 on the singles chart in South Korea, upon the release of The 20/20 Experience. It also peaked at number 34 and 38 on the UK R&B Singles Chart and US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart respectively. Timberlake performed "Strawberry Bubblegum" for the first time on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on March 15, 2013.

Writing and production

"Strawberry Bubblegum" was written by Timberlake, Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley, Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon, and James Fauntleroy,[1] with production by Timbaland, Timberlake and Harmon.[1] Timberlake arranged and produced his vocals, which were recorded at Larabee Studios in North Hollywood, California.[1] Harmon provided keyboards for the song, while Elliot Ives played the guitar.[1] The track was engineered by Chris Godbey, with assistance from Alejandro Baima,[1] and mixed by Jimmy Douglass, Godbey and Timberlake at Larabee Studios.[1]

Composition and lyrical interpretation

"Strawberry Bubblegum" is characterized as a pop song by HitFix's Melinda Newman,[2] an R&B song by Billboard magazine's Jason Lipshutz,[3] and a combination of slick grooves and psychedelic soul by Arwa Haider of Metro.[4] Jean Bentley of found the song influenced by electro,[5] while Pitchfork Media's Ryan Dombal said that it evokes music by Barry White, Sly Stone, and Drake's "ambient R&B" style.[6] According to Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times, the song transitions from a stark electro song to an amiable keyboard vamp comparable to Stevie Wonder's 1973 song "You Are the Sunshine of My Life".[7] The song features electronic blips, string movements, and upbeat percussion breaks.[3] Mesfin Fekadu of Times Colonist wrote that the song is "smooth, airy and full of sexual innuendoes, and it transitions into something that's heaven-like."[8] Timberlake sings in a falsetto voice and refers to a mature woman as his strawberry bubblegum in the song's lyrics.[9] Joey Guerra of The Houston Chronicle remarked that the eccentric song recalls the work of Prince.[10] Helen Brown of The Daily Telegraph attributed the song's relaxing style to how it samples Barry White,[11] while Lauren Martin of Fact found the song to be in the style of Frank Ocean.[12]

"Strawberry Bubblegum" begins with the sound of a stylus dropping on a vinyl record. The line "Hey, pretty lady" is declared by a deep voice, and Timberlake sings "This goes out to you!".[13] ABC News reporter Allan Raible wrote that "such a move seems engineered to make gullible teen girls in the audience scream".[13] The lyrics feature daft double-entendres and are complemented by spoken-word background vocals.[14] MusicOMH's David Meller wrote that the song's transition into "’70s funk-cum-porno keyboards" is likable, but may seem ridiculous to many listeners.[14] The string loops and the record scratches on the song complete "the faux-vintage" vibe of "Strawberry Bubblegum". Raible concluded that it attempts to sound like Michael Jackson's 2002 song "Butterflies" because of its delicate tone.[13] According to Clyde Erwin Barretto of Prefix Mag, "Strawberry Bubblegum" takes its R&B style in a more avant-garde direction, but its second half is more classic-sounding.[15] Craig Manning of the Western Herald said that the first half of "Strawberry Bubblegum" draws from Frank Ocean's psychedelic style of R&B, while the outro is more comparable to the music of 'NSYNC, Timberlake's former group.[16] Jason Lipshutz called the outro "sashaying" and "pleasant".[3]

Lyrically, Timberlake assures his love interest that they are "making love like professionals" and declares: "If you’ll be my strawberry bubblegum, I’ll be your blueberry lollipop".[17] In addition, he sings about the girl's many characteristics and sensual qualities,[18] and proclaims that he will love her until they "make it pop".[2] The Boston Globe's James Reed wrote that the lyrics are silly, but irresistible,[19] while Sarah Dean of The Huffington Post found "Strawberry Bubblegum" as seductive as its title, but according to her, "if you had too much of it you might end up feeling a little sick".[20] Additionally, Timberlake sings lyrics about he has "recipe for a good time".[20] Genevieve Koski of The A.V. Club felt that the lyrics' sense of humor is somewhat similar to "Pop" by 'NSYNC.[21]

Critical response

Mesfin Fekadu of the Times Colonist called "Strawberry Bubblegum" an "eight-minute event" and one of the album's standout songs.[8] Sean Daly of the Tampa Bay Times wrote that the song is "best enjoyed on satin sheets".[22] Clyde Erwin Barretto of Prefix Mag wrote that "as the name suggests", the song is "as sweet as it sounds".[15] Kitty Empire of The Observer wrote that the "surface silliness" of the song "deepens to a feeling of respect a few plays in, when the penny drops, and everything suddenly makes sense".[23]

Robert Copsey of Digital Spy wrote that while "Strawberry Bubblegum" is musically "rich and rewarding", the lyrics are "embarrassingly cliché".[24] According to VH1's Bené Viera, one would expect a cliché such as "Strawberry Bubblegum" to "fall flat".[9] He wrote that Timberlake's falsettos "make it almost cute" to hear a "grown man referring to a grown woman as his strawberry bubblegum".[9] He concluded that envisioning Timberlake perform on stage at a "small juke joint on Bill Street" is not "far fetched".[9] Lauren Martin of Fact wrote that "if you’re going to release an eight minute song with only two verses and a hook", singing the words "strawberry" and "bubblegum" 34 and 20 times respectively "begins to grate".[12] Jed Gottlieb of The Boston Herald wrote that "Strawberry Bubblegum" is a "killer vamp" without a "killer change to hook us".[25]

Live performances

Timberlake performed "Strawberry Bubblegum" for the first time on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on March 15, 2013.[26] Wearing varsity baseball-style jackets, Timberlake and his backup singers "shook and finger-snapped" through the song, according to Rachel Brodsky of MTV Buzzworthy.[26] "Building upon the performance's sports theme", additional backup dancers later joined them onstage in full baseball uniforms.[26] Brodsky suggested that the choice of wearing baseball hats and striped pants could "have something to do with baseball players and their penchant for chewing [bubble]gum".[26]

Credits and personnel

Credits adapted from the liner notes of The 20/20 Experience.[1]

  • Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley – producer, songwriter
  • Justin Timberlake – Mixer, producer, songwriter, vocal producer, vocal arranger
  • Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon – keyboards, producer, songwriter
  • James Fauntleroy – songwriter
  • Chris Godbey – engineer, mixer
  • Jimmy Douglass – mixer
  • Alejandro Baima – assistant engineer
  • Elliot Ives – guitar


Upon the release of The 20/20 Experience, due to digital downloads "Strawberry Bubblegum" charted at number 34 on the UK R&B Singles Chart.[27] For the week dated March 17, 2013, the song debuted on the South Korea Gaon International Chart at number 22 with sales of 7,089 digital copies.[28]

Chart (2013) Peak
France (SNEP)[29] 172
South Korea Gaon International Chart[28] 22
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[30] 193
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[27] 34
US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)[31] 6
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[32] 38


  1. ^ a b c d e f g The 20/20 Experience (booklet). Justin Timberlake. New York City, NY: RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. 2013.
  2. ^ a b Newman, Melinda (March 15, 2013). "Justin Timberlakes The 20/20 Experience: Album Review". Hitfix. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "Justin Timberlake, 'The 20/20 Experience': Track-by-Track Review". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. March 12, 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  4. ^ Haider, Arwa (March 15, 2012). "Album review: Justin Timberlake's 20/20 Experience hits the spot". Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  5. ^ Bentley, Jean (March 11, 2013). "Justin Timberlake's 'The 20/20 Experience' is Streaming Online Right Now! An Early Review | Celebrity News". Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  6. ^ "Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience". Pitchfork. March 19, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  7. ^ Wood, Mikael (March 14, 2013). "Album review: Justin Timberlake's 'The 20/20 Experience'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 17, 2013. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  8. ^ a b Fekadu, Mesfin (March 18, 2013). "Review: Justin Timberlake's '20/20 Experience' is near perfect, echoes 'FutureSex/LoveSounds'". Times Colonist. TC Publication Limited Partnership (Glacier Media). Retrieved March 27, 2013.
  9. ^ a b c d Viera, Bene (March 20, 2013). "Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience is from the future". VH1. Viacom. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
  10. ^ "Not a drop of hindsight on forward-looking '20/20' – Houston Chronicle". March 15, 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  11. ^ Brown, Helen (March 15, 2013). "Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience, album review". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on March 17, 2013. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  12. ^ a b Martin, Lauren (March 18, 2013). "Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience". Fact. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
  13. ^ a b c Rabile, Allan (March 23, 2013). "Review: Justin Timberlake's 'The 20/20 Experience'". ABC News. ABC. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
  14. ^ a b Meller, David (March 15, 2013). "Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience". MusicOMH. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  15. ^ a b Clyde Erwin Barretto (March 20, 2013). "Album Review: Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience | Prefix". Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  16. ^ Required (March 20, 2013). "Justin Timberlake's latest is pop excess at its finest". Western Herald. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  17. ^ Thrills, Adrian (March 21, 2013). "Justin is strutting to a whole new beat: The Tennessee Kid refuses to play safe". Daily Mail. Daily Mail and General Trust. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
  18. ^ Montgomery, James (March 12, 2013). "Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience: The Bachelor, The Bride, And The In-Between". MTV News. Viacom. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
  19. ^ "Justin Timberlake's unfettered, confident new album". The Boston Globe. March 14, 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  20. ^ a b Dean, Sarah (March 15, 2013). "Justin Timberlake 'The 20/20 Experience' Review: It's Good to Hear from an Old Friend". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  21. ^ Koski, Genevieve (March 19, 2013). "Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience | Music | MusicalWork Review". The A.V. Club. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  22. ^ Daly, Sean (March 18, 2013). "Review: Justin Timberlake's new 'The 20/20 Experience' is a smooth ride | Things to do in Tampa Bay | Tampa Bay Times". Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  23. ^ Empire, Kitty (March 17, 2013). "Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience – review". Guardian. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  24. ^ "Justin Timberlake: 'The 20/20 Experience' – Album review – Music Album Review – Digital Spy". March 14, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  25. ^ "Justin Timberlake robs from the past for his new release". Boston Herald. March 17, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  26. ^ a b c d "Watch Justin Timberlake Perform 'Strawberry Bubblegum' On 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon' (VIDEO)". March 15, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  27. ^ a b "Official R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  28. ^ a b "South Korea Gaon International Chart (Week, March 17 to 23, 2013)" (in Korean). Gaon Chart. Archived from the original on March 28, 2013. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
  29. ^ " – Justin Timberlake – Strawberry Bubblegum" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  30. ^ "Official Singles Chart for the Week Ending 30 March 2013". ChartsPlus. Liverpool (605): 1–4. March 23, 2013.
  31. ^ "Justin Timberlake Chart History (Bubbling Under Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  32. ^ "Justin Timberlake Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved April 6, 2013.

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