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It’s been five years since Justin Timberlake released his last solo album and with today’s release of his fifth studio album Man of the Woods, it appears the singer should have taken a bit more time to figure out what he wanted to say.
Dropping the title track today as his fourth single, Timberlake has already found split reviews of “Filthy,” “Supplies” and “Say Something.” What has always made Timberlake stand out in the pop landscape is his ability to embody various musical elements and dip his toes into every genre, but with Man of the Woods, Timberlake is only skimming the surface, instead releasing singles that feel not yet fully realized.
There’s no question as to whether Timberlake can produce a pop hit that receives unanimous praise. The success of “Can’t Fight The Feeling” more than proves that. Timberlake also has a track record of going beyond the three-minute pop formula to successfully experiment with new sounds and compositions, something that we saw in droves on The 20/20 Experience. But with Man of the Woods, we seem to only be scraping the surface on both the surefire hitmaking Timberlake and the outside-the-box Timberlake.
Earlier this week while in Minnesota rehearsing for the Super Bowl, Timberlake posted an Instagram video telling people to stop saying his new album is country because of the name. Man of the Woods, according to Timberlake, is the meaning of Silas, his young song’s first name.
We’re supposed to ignore an album trailer shot entirely in the wilderness, a duet with country superstar Chris Stapleton, and song titles like “Flannel,” “Livin’ Off The Land,” and “Breeze Off The Pond” because it’s not a country album. Nope, still confused.
Adding another layer of glaze to our current look when pondering JT’s fifth album, the singer has now released the title track. Okay, here we go. A song called “Man of the Woods” is going to be all about Timberlake’s son, right? Nope. It’s about his wife, Jessica Biel, and all the great make-up sex they have after fighting. Now we’re confused and grossed out. We’re not even going to point out that the entire video is shot in the woods surrounding a country and western bar, because THIS ISN’T A COUNTRY ALBUM, RIGHT? Whatever.
Music is art and art doesn’t have to have a theme, but with Timberlake releasing a one-note trailer that was so emboldened in a country theme, then releasing two lead singles that completely ignore that, with a title explanation that doesn’t even come close to the title track, well, it’s off-brand and sets the listeners up for something they’re not going to hear, which is off-putting from the start.
It’s too bad that JT opened the album with a trailer that doesn’t resonate with the rest of the album, because the songs are all catchy enough. Next time, JT should put less effort into the aesthetic of the album and more into letting the music speak for itself, because so far nothing is making sense. We’re having trouble focusing on the trees and not the forest.