Review: Justin Timberlake – Man Of The Woods

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Justin Timberlake is a man of many things, including, of course, controversy. He’ll never live down the infamous Nipplegate incident where a choreographed grab at Janet Jackson’s bra during their Super Bowl halftime show caused the most sensationalized wardrobe malfunction of all time. Despite Janet being blackballed in the aftermath of this turmoil, Justin seemingly took no real heat for his involvement as his career flourished. Then the follow-up to that controversy with Timberlake being invited to perform during the 2018 Super Bowl with the potential of a Prince hologram. Not to mention how he’s built that career off of appropriating Black music and culture without explicitly standing up for social justice movements in ways that, say, Eminem or Macklemore have in recent years. Black Twitter is here to remind him, however, that he’s got work to do in that area! And in that context, fans are scratching their heads over the timing and theme of Timberlake’s fifth album, “Man Of The Woods”, where he’s exposing his deep southern roots, or so it seems on the surface. Produced by longtime collaborators The Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, as well as Timbaland and Danja, this new Timberlake album is decidedly more Country than Urban. So, if you absolutely hate country pop, this isn’t the JT album for you. Having said that, I was surprised by how many of the songs actually maintain the R&B pop undercurrent that Timberlake is known for. Dare I say, if you split the album down the middle, you’ll find that half of the songs, at their core, could be found on a long lost N.E.R.D album with Pharrell singing lead instead of Justin. The other half “sounds more like where I’ve come from than any other music I’ve ever made,” Timberlake is noted as saying. “It’s Southern American music.”

The album’s theme shows Timberlake in a new light as a family man. There’s cameo appearances from Ms. Timberlake, the actress formerly known as Jessica Biel, and their son Silas, whose name meaning inspired the title of the album. Of the country songs, many of them have a catchy musicality that draws you into the melody in pleasant ways. The title song is a bouncy light-hearted love song while “Flannel” is a tender lullaby with stronger lyrics and a harmony that draws you in. A surprising treat is the Jodeci-inspired interlude at the end of the tune. “Wave” begins with bluegrass ukulele vibes then morphs into a N.E.R.D sounding tune featuring Raphael Saadiq on bass and electric guitar. “Morning Light”, one of two songs produced by Rob Knox and Eric Hudson, features Alicia Keys on vocals and Chris Stapleton on guitar. It’s another feel good love song with Southern gospel influences where Justin is a lot more bluesy in his vocal delivery. “Livin’ Off The Land” is more funky than the other songs while “The Hard Stuff” is as countrified as you can get. “Say Something” is a single on the album that also features the soulful Chris Stapleton with the message, “sometimes the greatest way to say something is to say nothing at all.”

The true hits on this record include “Montana”, “Higher, Higher”, and “Breeze Off The Pond”. All distinct onto themselves, they are the types of songs you hit repeat and let ride for an hour or two. The album isn’t without its misses, though. “Supplies” is JT’s attempt to be current and sound like radio charting trap songs, but it’s not working for him. “Filthy” is just okay, and “Midnight Summer Jam” has an awkward intro bigging up the South but pretty much morphs into another classic Neptunes sound. “Sauce” sounds like his earlier work with a bit of a Color Me Badd vibe on the chorus, but it’s not wack. The album closes with “Young Man”, an ode to Justin’s son teaching him to stand for something in this world, a lesson that he likely needs to learn for himself. In the grand scheme of things, for true Justin Timberlake fans, this “Man Of The Woods” album is a solid addition to his catalogue. Even with its country theme and southern sensibilities, you’ll find yourself enjoying an artist that’s still giving his all to his sound.

 
Written by Mai Perkins

Originally from Los Angeles, Mai Perkins is living a genuine bona fide love affair with NYC and the music that keeps its spirit moving. While spending the majority of the last decade in Brooklyn, many of her adventures around the globe are documented on her blog: Mai On The Move! www.MaiOnTheMove.com

 
Author’s rating for Man Of The Woods

Pop Magazine’s official rating for Man Of The Woods

Rating key
MASTERPIECE a must-have
SUPERB for heavy rotation
EXCELLENT a great achievement
VERY GOOD a respectable result
GOOD worth checking out
FAIR an average outcome
WEAK not convincing stuff
BAD an underwhelming effort
VERY BAD quite a waste
FAIL a total failure

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