Timbaland's much-buzzed-about new solo album Shock Value suffers from a serious case of musical multiple-personality disorder. The producer's exhilarating but ultimately exhausting musical odyssey gets off to a thrilling start that suggests the album could be Timbaland's The Chronic: a seminal, influential culmination of everything he's worked toward his entire career. The album's middle section bears a distinct resemblance to Diddy's Press Play, however, and not just because they share an affinity for big-voiced R&B singers, slick hooks, and mile-wide dance-floor-friendly grooves. Shock tracks like "Fantasy," "Bombay," and "Scream" capture hip-hop icons desperately trying to pin down the quicksilver sound of today before it becomes yesterday's style.
Nothing in Timbaland's outsized oeuvre can quite prepare listeners for the disc's final third, which attempts strange new rap-rock hybrids opposite Fall Out Boy, She Wants Revenge, The Hives, One Republic, and yes, Elton John. Timbaland deserves credit for pushing boundaries and working outside his comfort zone, but rap-schlock misfires like the mopey "Apologize" deserve an A for audacity and a D for execution. The Hives fare much better on "Throw It On Me," and while Timbaland has certainly learned how to meld his signature drum patterns with rock guitars, he hasn't figured out how to convert that sound into memorable songs.
Lyrics remain Timbaland's Achilles heel. He's got nothing to say, but on slinky early tracks like the monster single "Give It To Me," it doesn't really matter. Shock Value is all about getting asses on the floor, not imparting timeless wisdom. The album is so irrevocably rooted in today that it pretty much flings itself into a time capsule. It's nice that Timbaland is intent on challenging himself and his fans, but his daring misfire is the rare major-label hip-hop album that's arguably too adventurous for its own good.