Timbaland can do whatever he wants. After the great hip-hop producer’s huge year in 2006, everyone and your grandmother wants to work with him. And on Shock Value, almost everyone does: 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake, Fall Out Boy, the Hives and Elton John make appearances, among others. For the most part, the guests leave plenty of room for Timbaland to do his thing. But on Shock, Timbaland’s thing isn’t quite what you’d hope.
Shock Value doesn’t feel as random and indistinct as many albums by producers using all-star lineups do: The entire disc has a dark, futuristic mode, with Tim using rhythm instruments like riffs and giving you beat candy in different flavors; even his rhymes don’t get in the way too much. On “Release,” Tim and Timberlake work up disco that sounds a bit like “SexyBack,” in a good way. The seductive “Oh Timbaland” seems to groove sideways and straight ahead at once. “Bombay” splits the difference between Bollywood and synth pop, and “Scream” rides a thumping, guitar-specked beat that deserves to have a better tune attached.
Shock Value sags toward the second half: The Fall Out Boy and Hives songs show that Timbaland has moved past the novelty stage of working with rock bands, but just barely. (The She Wants Revenge-assisted “Time” has a cool New Wave gloss, though.) The guests’ main job is usually just to adorn whatever Tim has in mind, which makes sense â€“ no one can say he doesn’t have lots of ideas floating around that big noggin. But for now, those ideas sound better on the radio, not on this album.