‘Man of the Woods’ album review
By Joshua Toevs, Columnist
It has been a long time since Justin Timberlake has released a full-length project. He’s stayed relevant since The 20/20 Experience – 2 out of 2 (2013) with “Can’t Stop the Feeling” (2016), and people have been clamouring for a new project.
The 20/20 Experience projects that he released in 2013 were actually the first two albums I decided to review and post online. I enjoyed both projects as they had interesting productions, long track lengths, and beautiful vocal harmonies. The question is: Can Justin Timberlake recapture the imagination and creativity on his new album?
In short, the answer is no. Man of the Woods is bloated, campy, and lazy. A lot of the songs bleed into each other in terms of melodies, and everything sounds dated. “Filthy” sounds like a first attempt at industrial house mixed with rock. The guitar work is reminiscent of terrible ’90s video game boss music. There are so many electronic sounds going on that it is really hard to find a groove for that track.
This is not an isolated problem for the album. “Midnight Summer Jam” features some of the most nauseating drum loops of the past few years. His vocals are nice and smooth, and when Timberlake does his sing-rap, it usually comes out well. “Sauce” sounds like it was mastered in a basement using GarageBand, while titular track “Man of the Woods” sounds like a singalong karaoke song that you only admit to knowing after a few drinks in. The song has an annoying siren sound effect throughout and is mixed with a twangy guitar piece. It is arguably the worst track on this record, which is saying something.
There really isn’t much good that comes out of this album. “Higher Higher” is a sultry record with some jazz tones that are very infectious, while the Alicia Keys-featured “Morning Light” is breezy and laid-back with a beautiful guitar melody and island drums background. Chris Stapleton’s soulful country sound is the show-stealer from a vocal standpoint on “Say Something,” and the bassline on “Montana” is head-turning.
Overall, Timberlake sounds old and out of touch. For an artist whose last project was dense lyrically and forward-thinking from a production standpoint, he now sounds lost. The lyrics are surface level and hollow, while production is all over the place. Sometimes Timberlake tries to be laid back, then transitions into his more R&B side with the trap samples, and finally switches into country for the worst results of them all.
The record almost feels like Timberlake realized he was performing at the halftime show of the Super Bowl and needed to rush out new music, so he went into his vault and picked the best of the worst that he had stashed away. For the pretty-boy pop star, “Man of the Woods” is a terrible attempt at crafting something new for his catalogue.