Justin Timberlake: Man of the Woods

Posted February 13, 2018 by in Pop



2.5/ 5


Genre: ,
Producer: , , , , , , , ,
Genre: Pop, R&B
Producer: Justin Timberlake, Danja, Larrance Dopson, Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon, Eric Hudson, Elliott Ives, Rob Knox, The Neptunes, Timbaland
Label: RCA
Format: Digitial download, compact disc
Time: 65:54
Release Date: 2 February 2018
Spin This: "Say Something," "Morning Light," "Midnight Summer Jam"


"Midnight Summer Jam," "Morning Light" and "Say Something" are the best of the lot; Timberlake actually tries to find a sweet spot with some of his homestate's musical gifts


Lacks the finesse and readiness of his last three studio works.; very few "a-ha" moments exhibited

Justin Timberlake’s detour into Memphis-Nashville sounds comes with little JT familiarity and very few TKOs

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Justin Timberlake’s detour into Memphis-Nashville sounds comes with little JT familiarity and very few TKOs

justintimberlake-03Spoiler alert: In case you didn’t get the memo, JT’s latest album, his Super Bowl LII memento album, does not venture into the rustic Americana country he had been originally nudging at. And it’s a wise move, actually, that he averted the costly experiment. That’s because Timberlake has built his brand of youthful cocky pop and future sounds on the technical backs of the Timbaland and Neptunes, applying enough makeup from swag-heavy urban beats to launch him beyond the “bye bye bye” adolescence of his *NSYNC era. He wore it once again on his two-part comeback cantata, The 20/20 Experience, while showing off a more aggressive, sophisticated grown-folks’ tapestry, one infused with live brass, warranted strings and a warped execution of alternative R&B. To go all out for country like Gaga tried with Joanne, although Tennessee is his native home, would be a major risk and almost entirely alienating the audience he’s nurtured for two decades.

But Timberlake makes a cluster of faux pas on his fifth solo album. Man of the Woods doesn’t even sound like a sturdy follow-up to 20/20, even its drier second half. What we get are overtures building up to a climax. But that’s the funny part — there’s no climax. “Filthy,” the opener, struts like it is literally borrowing George Michael sex while traveling through galactic portals. But other than its funky use of lyrics (“this isn’t the clean version”), it’s absent of solid gold hooks. “Midnight Summer Jam” opens up the window of Earth, Wind & Fire-inspired rhythms and in-flight falsettos (the phrasing on the first half of the verses sound awfully like “Mighty Mighty”), but its opening lyric sounds like a gentrification war cry (“Y’all can’t do better than this/Act like the South ain’t the shit”). Sure, EWF ringleader Maurice White may have been born in Memphis, but his musical journey actually starts in Chicago and then migrates west. The cocky phrase should have been quickly omitted since the song sounds more like EWF than Stax. Having said that, it remains one of the better moments on the album and a reflection of what made JT’s 20/20 Experience so appealing. The Memphis soul sprouting from the Alicia Keys romantic duet of “Morning Light” and the mesh of country-soul of “Say Something” with Nashville breakout star Chris Stapleton are also delights to the ear and surely will find a home on radio.

But much of the album in its climb to touch on Nashvillian traits come off sounding, may I say, boring. “Flannel,” with all its insipid singer-songwriter capabilities, can’t be rescued by the minimalist hip-hop production framing of The Neptunes. And other tracks like “Montana” and the urban club-ish “Supplies” hint at good possibilities, but very seldom take off.

So it seems the honeymoon of FutureSex/LoveSounds and the brash experimentation of 20/20 has been put on hiatus. Man of the Woods has a few good moments, but maybe Timbaland’s former schedule with TV scores (i.e. Empire, Star) and the jumbled craftsmanship of the Pharrell-powered Neptunes with musical styles hardly explored may have hindered the potential of a solid strong album. Regardless of the studio fumbles from the production crew, this is still JT’s horse. And it appears it’s not ready to race.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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