Shock Value II is a vanity project, the kind of bonus fluff that you can get away with releasing when you’re as famous and respected as Timbaland. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that; albums like this can be amusing gift baskets when pulled off correctly—samplings of different artists and styles, mini-portfolios with something for everyone. Unfortunately, the first Shock Value was something far drearier, and so is the sequel, serving more as a grounds for Timbaland to play out his fantasy-camp rapper dreams than anything else.
To be fair, Timbaland is not a terrible rapper. His clumsy flow is no worse than Diddy’s jittery streams of twaddle, but it’s just as annoying. The tendency here, whether intentional or not, is to surround himself with mediocre talent rather than the titans who he helped make superstars, meaning we get Drake and Timbaland’s younger brother Sebastian instead of Missy Elliott and Jay-Z. The mix of professional and amateur has the feel of watching a millionaire running the court with NBA players, only it’s the Nets instead of the Celtics.
Even worse is the fact that Timbaland aims for broad appeal rather than quality, an attempt to highlight diversity that results in untenable appearances from Chad Kroeger of Nickleback, the Fray, and JoJo. Justin Timberlake and Drake both offer admirable turns, but are forced to operate with unenviably tepid production. The overall laziness of that facet is even more inexcusable coming from one of the most renowned producers of the last decade.
Mildly pleasant surprises (Chad Kroeger’s verse on “Tomorrow in a Bottle” actually isn’t that bad) are matched by outright disasters like “We Belong to the Music,” where Miley Cyrus gives a lesson on being unbearable. Then, when things seem just bad enough, there’s the Jet collaboration of “Timothy Where Have You Been,” which enters a different realm of miserable by pairing mopey, bloodless rock with a grating “my story” narrative, shaping a pile of ungainly wordplay into astoundingly embarrassing disaster.