Album- Man of the Woods
Artist- Justin Timberlake
Reviewed by: Justen Vargas
Justin Timberlake’s newest album, “Man of the Woods”, is an odd mix. Awkwardly trying to find a new sound and style for Timberlake, sticking to his boy band pop sound, and trying out new things that I can only assume a middle-aged board executive thinks the “kids listen to nowadays.” Take Timberlake’s first song of the album, “Filthy”, that starts off with a high energy rock sound, then abruptly transitions into a lackluster electronic beat that loops for most of the song. This beat gets old fast and isn’t improved when the lyrics are put on top of it. “Haters gonna say it’s fake,” “got my swagger on” and “whatcha gonna do with all that meat?” are just some of the lines that you’ll be hearing from the first song of the album. Timberlake’s voice alone has always made for good music, but the awkward lyrics on top of an already odd track leave a terrible first impression.
Some of the highlights of “Man of the Woods” are the staples of Justin Timberlake himself. His vocal power and memorable harmonies are fantastic, best illustrated in the songs “Higher Higher,” “Morning Light,” and “Say Something.” The harmony he does with himself in “Higher Higher,” and the duets he performs with Alicia Keys and Chris Stapleton (sung in “Morning Light” and “Say Something” respectively) feel like they belong on some of Justin’s older albums (in a good way). Timberlake’s fantastic vocals and high-quality production of the album are the saving grace of “Man of the Woods”. And these aspects of the album deserve recognition, as they are some of the best things “Man of the Woods” has to offer.
Unfortunately, the album seems to be undergoing an identity crisis, scared to fall under a single genre and unsure of what feel they are going for. Nearly of all the songs in “Man of the Woods” are lacking in substance both lyrically and musically (except for those already mentioned), but this identity crisis can be clearly seen in the two songs “Wave,” and “Supplies.” “Wave” consists of a lighter tropical sound with steel drum backgrounds, a modern electronic beat, and a bouncy guitar lick that plays throughout. Yet the song that immediately follows, “Supplies,” is Timberlake’s attempt at pandering to all audiences, with a beat that sounds like it came from an upcoming Soundcloud rapper’s first attempt at making music with the soundboard his parents bought him for his birthday. This unconfident approach to each song leaves “Man of the Woods” with a lack of direction, and makes each song feel unimportant or misplaced in the grand scheme of the album.
Later, the interlude “Hers” is essentially an up close and personal ASMR session with Timberlake’s wife, Jessica Biel, as she describes wearing his shirt is like “his skin over mine.” For a first-time listener, this may be understandably uncomfortable to hear, and her expressing how it makes her “feel like a woman” just feels like a poor attempt at a spoken word piece, that ultimately doesn’t do anything for the next track. The song then leads into the cliché track “Flannel” which is about his flannel (a metaphor for Timberlake himself) keeping the people he loves warm and safe. It’s obvious that somebody on Timberlake’s team told him that songs about girls wearing guys’ clothes and “rap beats” are what millennials listen to and I can only assume he was bound by contract to produce something with these values in mind.
With “Man of the Woods”, if the weird sexual metaphors weren’t enough to turn you off to Timberlake’s new album (see “But then your hands talking, fingers walking / Down your legs, hey, there’s the faucet,” from the track “Man of the Woods”) the cliché lyrics, tired and old rhythms, “young and hip” beats, and JT’s repetitive formula will be enough to tell you to stay indoors and tell the creepy “Man of the Woods” to kindly stay in the woods where he belongs. Flannel and all.