By Kaila-Marie Hardaway Managing Editor
On Feb. 2, musician, producer and 2018 Super Bowl halftime performer Justin Timberlake released his fifth-studio album, “Man of the Woods.”
While Timberlake is known for his intricate, catchy and multi-layered pop hits, “Man of the Woods” was intended to be a new era for the performer.
Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Timberlake decided to incorporate elements of country, funk and blues into the album to pay homage to his roots as a “man of the woods.”
Unfortunately, the end product does not come close to the concept.
Technically speaking, the album is impeccable. With production help from a powerhouse team of Danja, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland and more, a lot of time was clearly spent on the production of this album. Songs like “Higher Higher” bleed with influence from Williams, while “Midnight Summers Jam” resembles older Timbaland-produced songs with funky, futuresex beats.
“Say Something” and “Morning Light” — the only two songs on the album with features — are the standouts of this album.
“Say Something,” features Nashville star Chris Stapleton and contains the strongest production on the album. The song’s core, pointed message is found in the bridge, “Sometimes the greatest way to say something / Is to say nothing at all.” The meaningful lyrics, matched with the ultimate vocal pairing between Timberlake and Stapleton, creates a unique and timeless track.
“Morning Light,” an R&B ballad featuring Alicia Keys, features simple, yet eloquent lyrics about waking up next to your loved one. Timberlake opens the song by singing, “Look, every time there's a new sunrise / I open up my eyes / And I say to myself, ‘In the whole wide world of guys / I must be the luckiest alive’” while a consistent bass line plays in the background.
His creativity is clearly confined, and, excluding a handful of songs, this album is forgettable and unconnected to Timberlake’s mark as a successful, contemporary artist.
Despite the album’s convincing start, things quickly change halfway through the album. Listeners become exposed to uninspired, overly-literal songs like “Montana” and “Livin’ Off the Land,” which feature cliche lyrics about elements of the woods. In "Supplies," the album’s second single, Timberlake compares his love to light, firewood and emergency generators, in addition to an out-of-place reference to “The Walking Dead.”
“Flannel,” which is arguably the worst song on the album, resembles a Christmas carol with painfully literal lyrics about, you guessed it, a flannel. Timberlake sings, “Right behind my left pocket / That is where you'll feel my soul / It's been with me many winters / It will keep you warm.” The lyrics show little to no relevance to Timberlake’s hometown or influences from it; instead, it feels as if Timberlake was influenced by an overnight camping trip.
Aside from lazy songwriting, my biggest problem with this album is that, in totality, it doesn’t feel like a Timberlake album. Over his four previous albums, Timberlake created a one-of-a-kind, easily-recognizable sound that is nowhere to be found in “Man of the Woods.” His creativity is clearly confined, and, excluding a handful of songs, this album is forgettable and unconnected to Timberlake’s mark as a successful, contemporary artist.