When Justin Timberlake announced his return earlier this week, he did it with a one-minute trailer showing the pop star emoting his way through the wilderness. Calling his fifth solo album Man of the Woods, Timberlake promised his most personal collection of songs yet, with the new record including guest vocals from country superstar Chris Stapleton. We kinda figured this would be Timberlake’s folk/country crossover effort. Maybe it is. But his first single “Filthy,” which just dropped at midnight, is the JT we already know.
Instructing listeners to play it ‘very loudly,’ “Filthy” is a throwback to JT’s 2006 “Sexyback,” with a heavy repetitive bass line and simplistic lyrics making the track easy for listeners to play again and again. The comparison between the songs is even less shocking when considering that Timberlake worked once again with Timbaland and Danja for “Filthy,” the same production team behind “Sexyback.”
“Filthy” seems like an odd choice for lead single considering the aesthetic Timberlake went with for the album trailer, but with his upcoming performance at the Pepsi Super Bowl LII Halftime Show on February 4, it may be that Timberlake wanted to lead with a pop single that could be performed in front of millions of viewers.
For “Filthy,” Timberlake teamed up with visionary director Mark Romanek, the man behind some of Michael Jackson, Madonna and Nine Inch Nail’s most groundbreaking videos of the 1990s. More recently, Romanek shot Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” Jay Z’s “The Story of OJ” and worked with Timberlake in 2016 on “Can’t Stop The Feeling.”
In the video, Timberlake takes on a Steve Jobs persona while appearing at a tech conference set ten years in the future. He’s there to introduce his latest AI creation, a robot that is able to mimic his movements, including his dance moves and closer to the end of the video, his sexual positions. Even with the high energy song playing throughout, the video has an eerie quality, with the viewer waiting for the robot to turn on the audience and its creator at any moment. Welcome to 2018, where Alexa and Google Home are just the tip of our paranoia iceberg.
Man of the Woods drops February 2, but we can expect more new music from Timberlake before the album is released in full. He plans on releasing one video each week beginning January 18 in a lead up to the album release, complete with music videos featuring a new director each time. The return of Justin Timberlake is officially upon us.