Justin Timberlake – Man of the Woods (Review)
I was having a conversation post Super Bowl (a performance I just watched) about how Justin Timberlake doesn’t quite have the clout as his recent half time show predecessors. Yes, he has a good catalogue of hits via both NSYNC and his solo career, but none of his commercially well performing tracks feel like stadium-ready anthems, and everything I’d heard from Man of the Woods already had reaffirmed this view.
In 2018 I’m not sure what I’m supposed to think of the man we’re told is a global superstar/heart throb. His recent persona from his film roles and musical choices have thrown him into the goofy-dad territory which, especially in this non-white-male-favouring sociopolitcal climate, makes any return to a sexyback-esque sound and a stereotypically-masculine-toned subject matter seem a highly questionable move.
But with Super Bowl performance in lieu, whether it feels like the right time for it or not, here came Man of the Woods.
I’m going on record as saying there are some good standout tracks on here, but from an album that is as long as it is, standout is just the best of an average bunch. Lead single Filthy from every angle seems like it should be an objectively bad song, like the ‘haters gonna say it’s fake’ lyric that mocks the listener in what can only be an attempt to become some kind of meme. But it just works. It’s irritatingly hooky and it never quite feels like the five minutes have passed – which can’t be said for a lot of the other tracks on the album. Similarly, the Gino Russ-sampling Sauce is a Prince inspired track that we all know Bruno Mars can do ten times better with a bit more production that misses out on being a moment but is a real album highlight.
Both duets are a welcome respite from some of the album filler. The Chris Stapleton featuring Say Something doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of the pair’s CMA performance of Drink You Away/Tennessee Whisky but it clicks and claps and you just know there’s another great live performance potential that didn’t quite translate in recording. Alicia Keys could really be anybody on Morning Light, but her part is sweet all the same. The song is just perfect for a lazy Sunday morning and I’ve already listened to it over 50 times.
The not so good
I know that Timberlake is from Tennessee, and I know that this pushed him towards making a roots album, but there’s too much going on. The connect between country and R&B/pop doesn’t quite line up and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel when it’s over. There are a number of filler tracks (Midnight Summer Jam, Higher Higher, Wave, Flannel, Livin’ off the Land) that could be easily cut and some others, like titular track Man of the Woods sound like they’re an advert for kids summer camp and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear featuring on the Trolls 2 soundtrack.
Second promotional single Supplies sounds like a song that wouldn’t go amiss on a Fast and Furious OST but be entirely ignored, and Montana feels like a hip-hopera parody song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The likes of Breeze off the Pond, which has that distinctive JT sound, and The Hard Stuff, which could really be an album track by any country artist, aren’t bad, but, as I said above in regards to a lot of Timberlake’s music, they don’t really take off and are easily forgotten.
An overlong album that could cut off some dead weight and could stand to gain a real defining track. Not bad, some definitely playlistable songs, but mostly forgettable.
- Morning Light (feat. Alicia Keys)
- Say Something (feat Chris Stapleton)