After five years without releasing a studio album, Justin Timberlake returns to the spotlight with his fifth album “Man of the Woods.” While some songs stay true to his futuristic pop and R&B sound, most of the album is unlike anything else Timberlake has released. It’s clear he’s trying to connect to his Tennessee roots, as many songs have some kind of weird folky/country vibe that just doesn’t work for him. The album marks his transition from pop icon to husband and father, and while it does have its moments, it ultimately falls short.
If there’s anything to appreciate about this album, it would have to be its authenticity. Timberlake easily could have created a cookie-cutter pop album, but instead he created something that’s different and more personal to him. Jessica Biel, his wife, and Silas, his son, are both featured on the album, talking in several songs. Timberlake’s southern pride runs deep through many of the songs, and “Say Something” even features country artist Chris Stapleton.
You have to admire the effort and the personal touches he’s sprinkled throughout the album, but it just doesn’t work. With song titles like “Livin’ Off The Land” and “Flannel,” it’s a bit too much for me. Especially when you add in songs such as the single “Filthy” which is a horrendous techno mess, or electro-funk “Sauce,” which have a completely different sound, it just doesn’t make sense. The album is so incoherent and disorganized. JT tried to mash up two different genres and make it work, but it really doesn’t.
The two highlights of this album would have to be “Say Something,” featuring Chris Stapleton, and “Morning Light,” featuring Alicia Keys. Both featured artists mesh well with Timberlake. “Say Something,” guided by Stapleton’s expertise, has a country feel to it that actually works, while “Morning Light” is more soulful and dreamy.
Many critics agree that this is not JT’s best. Esquire Magazine says, “‘Man of the Woods’ is not a country album. It’s more like deep-fried Justin Timberlake. It's like stumbling across some awkward campfire party in a clearing in the middle of a forest. It's like eating a handful of poison berries from a bush and finding yourself scared, confused, nauseous, and lost among the foliage. ... It’s his infamous denim suit resurrected as music."
With a superstar like Justin Timberlake, you would expect his fifth album to be great, but this album definitely falls short. Since its release on Feb. 2, his Super Bowl Halftime performance has received more recognition. Timberlake has done himself a disservice with this album. Not only are many songs completely forgettable, but many are actually bad.
I went into this album with a hopeful attitude that it would be a return to the “FutureSex/LoveSounds” era Justin Timberlake (aka the best Justin Timberlake) and was pretty shocked at what I found instead. No, Timberlake is not pulling a Taylor Swift and completely changing genres, but these subtle tones of southern pop are just not working well.
Overall, this album is a jumbled-up mess of vastly different-sounding songs that don’t mesh well and don’t leave any kind of lasting impression.
Melissa Scrivani is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.