Justin Timberlake started the new year by releasing a teaser for an upcoming album called “Man of the Woods which suggested a new and promising return to Timberlake’s childhood roots.
Unfortunately, the album mostly fails to deliver on this front.
The teaser and title suggest a country-influenced album. This thought is augmented by the fact that there is a collaboration with Chris Stapleton.
However, the album mostly focuses on electronic sounds provided by prior Timberlake collaborators like Timbaland and The Neptunes.
It makes sense why Timberlake is working with the people who have helped him create his best work.
However, their efforts feel uninspired this time around for the lead single “Filthy” is a messy listen, while second single “Supplies” contains cheesy references to The Walking Dead despite being catchy.
The album’s theme is more prevalent in its second half, and those tracks work better as a whole than those featured in the first half.
“Montana” and “Breeze of the Pond” are both solid fusions of Americana and modern R&B, while album closer “Young Man” is a sweet song directed toward Timberlake’s son Silas.
The fact that Timberlake is now a husband and father is present throughout the album and it creates potential for new and good ideas, but they are either not done or executed poorly.
The lowest point of the album is undoubtedly “Hers (Interlude),” which features Jessica Biel talking about how she loves wearing her husband’s flannel.
The disconnect is perhaps due to the fact that Timberlake is working with the same people that he did on his previous albums.
Timbaland and the Neptunes seem to have run out of good ideas for Timberlake and new creative forces likely would have produced a better effort.
One of the strongest tracks on the album is “Sauce,” which feels like vintage Timberlake with its catchy lyrics and funky groove.
The production is primarily handled by Timbaland protégé Nate “Danja” Hills, who has produced some of Britney Spears’s best work.
Danja has worked with Timberlake before, but not to the extent that his boss his and this is likely why “Sauce” is more worthwhile than redundant songs like “Midnight Summer Jam.”
The fact that Alicia Keys and Chris Stapleton are featured on the album should be noteworthy to many fans.
However, “Morning Light” is a boring song that does not make good use of Keys. “Say Something” featuring Stapleton is decent, but it does not stack up to Timberlake’s more impressive Americana-influenced hit “Drink You Away.”
It is hard not to compare the songs on “Man of the Woods” to Timberlake’s best material because the album retreads old musical threads used on previous hits. The innovation apparent on FutureSex/LoveSounds is long gone here.
“Man of the Woods” had potential to be a great album.
It could have been revealing and shown the world a Justin Timberlake that they were not familiar with.
Instead, the album shows Timberlake doing pale retreads of previous triumphs.
“Man of the Woods” is easily Timberlake’s weakest effort yet, and that is made more disappointing knowing that it had the chance to be his best.
The Flyer gives “Man of the Woods” a 4 out of 10.
By CHARLIE FERN
Featured photo: Consequence of Sound image.