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Review: Justin Timberlake ‘Man of the Woods’

Alex Hanna

Alex is currently studying Politics and Spanish. He enjoys and likes to write about everything from current events to music and film.


The cover alone of Justin Timberlake’s new album, ‘Man of the Woods’ speaks volumes about its content. Severed into two, the thirty-seven year-old appears dressed in a stylish black and white suit on top juxtaposed with a rugged look of jeans and a flannel shirt on the bottom. Half traditional pop funk-soul, half adventurous spirit and folk, ‘Man of The Woods’ brings Justin segmented, creating contrasting results therein.

Justin Timberlake has, without a doubt, an enviable career. Something of a renaissance man across modern art, he has acquired praise for his work both on screen and in his musical ventures. It is safe to say that his new album was among the most anticipated in the industry as soon as first announced, marking his first since the 2013 album ‘20/20 Experience’.

Do not be fooled by those who call this work experimental – ‘Man of the Woods goes way beyond that. ‘Filthy, the first single released, is the song that comes closest to deserving the term, mixing elements of hard rock, R&B and electronic music into a strange yet tasty composition, which sounds almost like a tribute to Prince. The album is well attached to already established musical structures, and clear inspirations of Timberlake’s resonate throughout. ‘Midnight Summer Jam and ‘Say Something’, with the participation of the great Chris Stapleton, feature a timid country/folk influence, but don’t truly fulfil the potential that working with Stapleton deserved. Pharrell Williams also strongly inserted his brand into the production, doubtless reminding listeners of his previous dancehall pop in tracks like ‘Higher Higher which exudes the retro-modern funk of Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’, as is the excellent and friendly double of Montana in ‘Breeze off the Pond.

Timberlake also displays some of his worse qualities throughout the record. ‘Flannelturns out to be insipidly and dully displaying the quintessence of mediocrity, exhibiting a frightening breach in his production. Likewise, Timberlake closes the album in such a generic and characterless way without ever truly leaving his indelible mark – a truly frustrating shortcoming, especially when JT’s self-proclaimed personality on the album is taken into account, having said ‘this album was influenced by where I came from. It’s a personal album’.

He plays it safe by sticking with his tried and trusted anodyne pop that secured him commercial success with ‘Can’t Stop the Feelingby creating the poor and forgettable arrangement ‘Man Of The Woods. The eponymous track of the album does not seem to convey anything of the much talked about “personal side” of the album, simply acting as an addition to Justin’s ever-growing catalogue of weak lyrics and cheap aesthetic. The music market has been producing unnecessarily lengthy pop albums in recent years and this is yet another example. Of the sixteen tracks, Timberlake could easily remove ten and form a leaner and more cohesive album. The same goes for the duration of the songs, which are often longer than necessary (almost every track lasts more than four minutes), leading to an exhaustive repetition of not-so-refined choruses that will only survive for so many minutes. Overall, Justin Timberlake’s new album is satisfactory, but rather inconsistent and falling short of being a reinvention. It fails in its attempt to be conceptual and sounds too shallow for a work said to encompass folk music and act as a paragon for the pop singer’s personality, especially for someone once responsible for redefining the face of R & B.

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