“Man of the Woods” Strays From Timberlake’s Normal Genre Disastrously



Filip Dimitrovski, Staff Writer

Justin Timberlake returns after five years of absence to release his new album “Man of the Woods.” This is his first album since his critically-acclaimed album “The 20/20 Experience.”

His last few albums, as well as his work with pop supergroup “NSYNC” in the early 2000s, established Timberlake into an international superstar. His previous resume, however, plays little part in the sonic approach to his latest release.

Much like some of his pop contemporaries such as Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, Timberlake decided to switch things up and release a more experimental, electronic pop album to spice up a repetitive discography. Not only did he follow this cliche, Timberlake also decided to focus this album on “going back to his roots;” an approach often taken in artists who have a failing career.

Essentially the album is split into two different sounds mended into each other. One side offers a modern, electropop/synth funk style that has been very popular in mainstream. The counterpart is a folky, southern bluegrass/country pop sound. Even the album cover depicts what he was going for in terms of the conflicting styles of the album, having Timberlake show two sides to himself.

The initial problem with the idea of meshing two completely different styles together is there are only a few times, if that many, during the entire length of the album that they actually work well together. Coming into the album, one standout feature was the bulk of the album’s production coming from The Neptunes. Even this wasn’t a saving grace for the structural mess of this thing.

Right of the bat, Timberlake throws listeners into the album’s lead commercial single “Filthy” which is just a huge, disgusting mess. The track has awful mixing, suppressing Timberlake’s echoed vocals, which in retrospect might not be a bad thing considering how bad the songwriting is on the track.

While on the subject of songwriting, if you’re appalled by it initially, don’t go off the hunch that it might get better over time because it won’t. Throughout the 66-minute playtime, Timberlake consistently has these ridiculously corny, oversexualized lines that are intended to be charming and witty, but couldn’t help but come off as plain-out laughable.

The production on “Filthy” is also terrible. This legitimately doesn’t sound like it was intended for an artist as big as Justin Timberlake himself because of how cheesy and outdated it sounds. The bassline of the song is dubstep. Yes, dubstep– in 2018. “Filthy” is one of many songs on the more contemporary pop side of the album. This side of the album also features one of the other lead singles in the album entitled “Supplies.” In it’s theme, Timberlake attempts to make this one the boldest, most serious tracks on the album. The outcome is genuinely hilarious.

The song’s lyrics are about Justin Timberlake being in a situation with a woman if they were the last people on earth, which has been copied dozens of times over the years. It doesn’t even compare to how bad the production of this track is. Even the whiny chorus is nothing compared to Pharrell Williams repetitively purring as part of the instrumental to imitate a trap snare. How anyone could take the track seriously is amazing.

“Filthy” and “Supplies” are both good examples of the general bulk of the modern poppy side of the album, which in short is really bad. The good thing about this album is that it has a completely different style to mirror the mediocre electropop side of it. The bad news is the folk side of the album isn’t any better.

The album’s title track is a great example of why it isn’t. Vocally, the track is actually nice. Timberlake uses a southern drawl on the track, which is usually meant to be complimented by the production, but is the complete opposite in this case. The glaring issue with the folk side of the album is the production as a whole. The Neptunes are regularly a top-notch production group when producing pop, R&B and hip-hop, but not in the field of country or folk. The unnecessary addition of a bouncy a sub-bass is prevalent throughout this side of the record, and it ruins the few showing of good vocals in the album.

The issues of the album come down to the core of its production which for the most part, wasn’t fitting of the sound Timberlake was attempting. Normally, the idea of Justin Timberlake and Pharrell collaborating for the length of a full album sounds great, but why team up on an album that is going for a country/folk sound? Hopefully if these to come together again, it’s in the field of R&B that both are more familiar in and probably have more chemistry with together. If that’s not the case, Justin might want to call Timberland up to avoid anything resembling “Man of the Woods” again.

All in all, the album is aesthetically a huge mess. This is one of the most amateur attempts at creating a chart-topping album in recent history. The overall sound on “Man of the Woods” sounds disjointed, and almost as if the record label didn’t even listen to the completed tracks after they were assembled. In a musical period where mainstream artists are attempting to reinvent themselves by taking an experimental route, Timberlake’s attempt in “Man of the Woods” is among the worst. If he’s learned anything from this, is that he should find one solid style and stick with it throughout a single project. Listening to this is a really uncomfortable 66 minutes.