Comedian and Justin Timberlake fan Eli Matthewson reviews JT’s new country-tinged album, Man of the Woods.
I have to start this with a disclaimer: despite being tasked with reviewing this album, I have not yet been able to listen to all sixteen tracks over 66 minutes of Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods in one sitting.
And I’m a big fan of Justin Timberlake! His first three albums are pop excellence, “My Love” is one of the greatest songs of all time, and he’s actually an alright actor. But something went wrong around the time he released ‘Take Back The Night’, where he obliviously used an anti-rape organisation’s name in a song about care-free sex. I guess we can count ourselves lucky this new album doesn’t include songs called ‘Times Up (Let’s Head to a Different Club)’ or ‘Me Too (I’m Freaky Too!)’
As much as that song might have seemed like one little misstep, I can’t stop the feeling that was actually a window to much worse. Justin has refused to publicly acknowledge his role in essentially ending Janet Jackson’s career and is one of the few actors in Woody Allen’s recent output to not express regret. His values have clearly not caught up to 2018, and, listening to Man of the Woods, neither has his music.
The promotional material in the lead-up to this album gave the impression Justin would be going back to his roots (he was born and raised in Tennessee), giving us the same folk/country schtick that went pretty poorly for both Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. It seemed like it’d be the music equivalent of when a stand-up comedian does a show that focuses on “storytelling instead of jokes”. But Man of the Woods turns out to be the music equivalent of when a stand-up does the same old dick jokes, just more lazily than ever.
Album opener ‘Filthy’ is essentially a cheap knock-off ‘SexyBack’, exclaiming “you know this ain’t the clean version”, despite the fact there is no explicit version of this album available. Also, I don’t know any woman who likes to be told she has “filthy hands”.
Second track ‘Midnight Summer Jam’, which has a real 6pm vibe to it, begins with the repeated lyric “Y’all can’t do better than this, y’all can’t do better than this”. It’s almost as if he knew this album would not be listened to by anyone of musical repute. It’s a Neptunes-produced track that, like most of the songs here, could be a b-side from any point in Justin’s career.
‘Sauce’ is evidence six years of marriage has rendered Timberlake incapable of dirty talk. “I love your pink, you love my purple” is a line so repulsive I don’t know when I’ll be able to have sex again.
But look, there are some bright spots in here! The title track sounds like an Uncle Kracker song, but a good Uncle Kracker song. Alicia Keys and Chris Stapleton both sound great on their features. There’s a kind of charming song with some Fleet Foxes-esque harmonies but you’ll never want to listen to it because its called ‘Flannel’. ‘The Hard Stuff’ is also quite nice, and the title is a great indicator of what you’ll need to consume upon reaching track fifteen of this album.
I don’t know why this album is called Man of the Woods. The whole thing is an attempt by Timberlake to go back to his roots but it doesn’t feel like his memory goes back beyond about 2005. More accurate titles would include: Man Who Did a Photoshoot in the Woods, Man Who Did a Photoshoot in Front of a Green Screen and Was Then Placed in Front of the Woods, Man Who Went Camping Once, and Man Who Has Photos of the Woods in His Apartment.
So I was tasked to review this album but in the two days never listened to the whole thing all the way through. I know that’s bad, but Justin Timberlake spent five years crafting this album and it’s such an artistic shrug that I get a sense he has also never listened to it all the way through.
This is a bad album from someone who will probably never make a good one again. Listen to some Janet Jackson instead.
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