Man Of The Woods

Justin Timberlake | Man of the Woods

Label:  RCA
Release Date: February 02, 2018
Rating:  2.5 out of 5
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February 12, 2018
By Luanne Lim
As mentioned in my previous Fall Out Boy review, it seems that there’s a trend for all things beat and synth related. EDM, though a popular music genre, is not meant for every artist, particularly those with established sounds and associations.

Justin Timberlake dropped his fifth studio album, Man of the Woods, just two days prior to his big Super Bowl Halftime show performance. Similar to fans who were disappointed in the lack of a *NSYNC reunion, I would say I was just as disappointed in Timberlake’s latest album release. Preceded by a strong album, [the first half of] The 20/20 Experience, Man of the Woods lacks a common bond in its tracks, seeming too all over the place to be a solid, memorable work - especially by Timberlake standards.

Out of 16 songs, only a handful standout for differing reasons. With a duration of just over an hour, Man of the Woods seems to drag on; its mix of tracks attempt to blend country, R&B, and funk in a modern way. The blend was an idea that seems poorly executed.

The first single and first track “Filthy” has a good build-up that ends in disappointment, quickly disintegrating into a flurry of weird lyrics paired with an equally weird track. It’s unusual and not one that I would expect from Timberlake, let alone one that would be dropped as a single.

From weird to 80s dance-party, Man of the Woods jumps into “Midnight Summer’s Jam”. It’s very fast-paced and dance-worthy, one that you can see yourself jamming to… perhaps on a midnight summer (pun-intended).

The title track of the album, “Man of the Woods” is one of the standout tracks on the album. It’s among the songs that are more reminiscent of the Timberlake sound fans know and love. It has a catchy, pop-feel to it, with more lyrical variety than the others.

Featuring Alicia Keys, “Morning Light” is another standout track on Man of the Woods. I think it’s a beautiful song. The ballad-like, R&B sound flows well, as does Timberlake and Keys’ vocals. It’s a very smooth track - one of the few on the album that throws it back to Timberlake’s notable ballads from both his solo career and his *NSYNC one.

“Say Something” is the second collaboration on the album. Featuring instrumental and vocal assist from country artist, Chris Stapleton, “Say Something” is the track that leans more towards the country-meets-R&B sound. Stapleton and Timberlake are equipped with acoustic guitars, making this track a nice break from the other, overproduced, beat-heavy tracks.

A standout factor of Man of the Woods are the vocal guest stars - and not just Alicia Keys and Chris Stapleton. At the end of “Filthy”, listeners are treated to a ghostly, spoken accompaniment by Timberlake’s wife, Jessica Biel. She makes another appearance in “Flannel”, but also has a track all to herself. Titled “Hers (Interlude)”, Biel’s voice takes over the album for one minute, serving as a prelude to “Flannel”.

“Flannel” is on the stripped down side of the album. A weirdly soothing, lullaby-esque track, “Flannel” coincidentally follows “Hers (Interlude”, a spoken track by Biel about wearing his shirts, actually bringing back her vocal assist towards the end. “Flannel” is exactly as one would assume it was about - a soft description of a flannel shirt. I’m sure there’s more to it, but on the surface, that is essentially the significance of this track. Like “Flannel” in sound, “The Hard Stuff” is ballad-like, slowing things down from the other up-tempo tracks.

Similar to “Filthy” and “Hers”, the final track, “Young Man”, features guest vocals from Timberlake’s son, Silas. A song that serves as a message from father to son, “Young Man” offers fatherly advice and fatherly anecdotes in a JT way. Noteworthy advice includes “Don’t back down”, “don’t act out”, “don’t stay down”, and “you can go your own way”. The conclusion to the song and album is aww-worthy, featuring Silas saying “daddy” (presumably to Timberlake) with encouragement from Biel.  

Aside from these tracks, the majority of the album lacks significance and meaning. Tracks generally lack lyrical variety or contain lyrics that are overshadowed by production.

Overall, Man of the Woods is definitely not my favorite Justin Timberlake album. While there are a few standout tracks from the fifth release, it isn’t enough to make Man of the Woods memorable or comparable to its 2013 predecessor.
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