Timbaland’s first album was released almost a decade ago. Tim’s Bio was more a compilation than a proper solo release, and now, in 2007, Shock Value takes a similar approach. But while Tim was a moderately successful producer for his friends Aaliyah, Magoo, Ginuwine, and Missy Elliott in 1998, the current day Timbaland has a stranglehold on the pop charts thanks to his work with Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake. And while Shock Value is a non-stop party featuring song-after-song of eclectic club music, it lacks the innovative and epic musicality of Tim’s more recent work, and is bogged down by the excessive presence of the artists he is trying to put on.
The opening track, “Oh Timbaland,” is the only solo song on all of Shock Value. With a familiar piano-and-handclaps intro sampled from Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” (also used in Talib Kweli’s “Get By”), Timbaland boasts and brags about his recent success in one of the album’s few straightforward hip-hop songs. The only other similarly basic song, the G-Unit assisted “Come & Get Me,” is a testament to the lack of hip-hop sensibility on Shock Value: Tony Yayo has the album’s best-rapped verse.
Shock Value shows the best and worst of what happens when Timbaland experiments. The constant space-bass and beatboxing of “Bounce” is annoying in its own right, but is made worse by the terrible sex-driven lyrics provided by Tim, Dr. Dre, Missy Elliott and Justin Timberlake. Songs like “Fantasy,” “Way I Are” and “Miscommunication” are plagued by Timbaland’s abuse of ‘80s electropop and his unknown, uninteresting artists Money, Keri Hilson, D.O.E., Attitude and Sebastian.
Shock Value is at its best when Timbaland works with seemingly different artists and still manages to formulate classic-sounding-Timbaland. “Throw It On Me” is as good as any chart-topping Timbaland club jam, which is strange considering it features Swedish rockers The Hives providing guitar riffs and vocals. The electropunk hybrid “One & Only” is similarly upbeat, with Tim and Patrick Stump trading verses about bittersweet relationships over a bed of Fall Out Boy’s stripped-down punk and Tim’s quirky synthesizers. “Time” with She Wants Revenge and “Apologize” with Colorado-based rock band OneRepublic slow Shock Value’s pace down before the album’s capstone, “2 Man Show,” a beautiful, mostly instrumental duo featuring Timbaland on drums and Elton John on piano.
Although Timbaland is typically praised for his originality, Shock Value often settles for the formulaic, with “Give It To Me” and “Release” rehashing his recent work with Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake. That, combined with the lack of promised contributions by the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West and Bjork, keep Shock Value from being the innovative musical masterpiece it should have been.