Justin Timberlake
Man of the Woods


2.0
poor

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
February 2nd, 2018 | 197 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I'm up in the woods - I'm all outta style

Justin Timberlake could have done folk. I didn't want him to, to be clear, but his work on Inside Llewyn Davis surely proves that he at least has the pipes and the warmth, and his ending-of-Dexter beard and rugged outfit (I'll get to the fucking flannel in a minute – don't worry) proves that he could at least pull off the look, as we must imagine Timberlake can pull off any look imaginable. Again, I didn't want a folk album and nor did I expect one, but he could've done it.

Justin Timberlake could have done straight R&B. Hell, he could have pulled a passably convincing album of songs like "Filthy", preferably with every utterance of haters gon' say it's fake edited out, but still. It would have sounded like a dozen cheap imitations of "SexyBack" recorded to fulfill a contract, sure. But there would have been undeniable moments of beauty regardless, like when "Filthy" cracks open its faux-Yeezus shell and reveals a gorgeous vista in that all-too-short bridge. I didn't want a straight R&B album, I probably wouldn't have settled for one, but he could've done it.

Instead, at the end of "Filthy" a ghostly Jessica Biel voice literally beckons Justin into the woods. If that sounds like a piss-poor attempt at giving this album some sort of overarching concept, that's because it is, and it also somehow manages to sound like a cheap commercial for a nature walk. And we're still in the good part here.

In fairness to Timberlake – a fairness I feel legitimately disinclined to extend, but will do anyway as a feint towards objectivity – it almost sounds like he's gonna pull it off. "Midnight Summer Jam" reminds me of what "True Blood" could have been as a good song, keeping the beautiful clattering drums but with the wolf howls and minor key harmonies replaced by a cheery guitar strum, a light, easy vocal, and a final minute jam like Bowie's "Fame" played on helium. The best track, "Sauce", winds a distorted riff tightly around a hook so good it's inconceivable that it wasn't tapped for a lead single, and towards album's end there's even a semi-comeback with "Montana"/"Breeze off the Pond", the only point where the cringeworthiness of this 'woodsman' affectation is held at bay by the eagerness of the melodies. Justin Timberlake could have done a decent album, maybe even a good one.

But good lord, the rest. If titles like "Livin' off the Land" and "Flannel" don't immediately raise warning lights, it takes a few seconds of dollar-store-Bon Iver-meets-worst-member-of-'N Sync to torpedo every good impression Man of the Woods might have made towards the start. Hell, "Flannel" alone could have sunk the entire affair, being arguably the worst song of all time by anyone, an ode to the glories of the titular shirt type apparently composed at a bible camp by an aging counselor who covers Cat Stevens by the campfires. That's without mentioning the laughable interlude leading into it, where Jessica Biel 'waxes poetic' about the benefits of shirts - once again these songs are about flannel - over twinkling piano keys to sound like either the world's tamest porno opening or a very Christian PSA inexplicably equating flannel shirts with dangerous drugs. The truth is, with the half-comeback excluded, it's all garbage from the breathtakingly terrible chorus of "Wave" (spoiler: there's another wave) up to the final moments – from the shamelessly chart-hungry "Supplies" to an Alicia Keys collaboration in 2018; from "Say Something" (budget "Drink You Away") to the bit in "Young Man" where Timberlake imparts the wisdom to his two-year-old son "beautiful boy, got it from yo mama/don't she look good, you might get a sister" (no Justin, you are not Kanye and you do not get away with this).

To summarise, Man of the Woods is an astoundingly poor, inconsistent, and sloppily constructed outing from an artist whose defining feature has been his ability to cleanly reinvent his image. I guess the "Filthy" video was the outlet for all that creativity this time around, 'cos there's certainly none of it on the goddamn album. Maybe 2 of 2 and Man of the Woods are just a temporary low point, the equivalent of those 80s nadirs that James Brown, Bowie and all those other artists Timberlake admires seemed to hit. It's just worrying how easy it is to believe the guy's lost his touch instead. If moving out to the woods did this to one of pop music's greatest talents, maybe deforestation's not such a bad thing.



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user ratings (194)
Chart.
2.2
poor
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VaxXi (2.5)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 2nd 2018


40417 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

lol

Digging: Charli XCX - Focus/No angel

ramon.
Contributing Reviewer
February 2nd 2018


2349 Comments


nae nae'd

Astral Abortis
February 2nd 2018


6523 Comments


“ending-of-Dexter beard”

Surely “Lumberjack beard” would be universally better here

Digging: Hopesfall - Arbiter

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 2nd 2018


40417 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

yeah, but this way is funnier to me

Astral Abortis
February 2nd 2018


6523 Comments


If you say so

Astral Abortis
February 2nd 2018


6523 Comments


Listening to the album now and I’m not really seeing all the hate for it. I was expecting it to all be as obnoxiously bad as Filthy but as a whole it’s mostly pretty innocent and easy folky/electronic pop mixes. Choruses are a bit repetitive but I’m really not understand why it’s so bad. Flannel is completely, demonstrably fine as a song. Sounds a bit Christmas-carol-y but...”worst song ever”? No way.

Probably a 3.5 if I had to rate it.

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 2nd 2018


26968 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Nice. About to listen to this right now.

Digging: Collections Of Colonies Of Bees - HAWAII

Gyromania
February 2nd 2018


25356 Comments


Good rev. After 20/20 experience pt 2 I was worried he'd go downhill

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 2nd 2018


40417 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I don't actually think Flannel is the worst song ever btw



fair bet for bottom 50 tho



@Gyro it was def not a good omen, though I do really like some songs on there

onionbubs
February 2nd 2018


8808 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I am very not excited to listen to this

Digging: Yellowcard - Yellowcard

Eons
February 2nd 2018


1736 Comments


I really doubt this guy lives in the woods or even close to them. Unless palm trees count

Digging: Bernie Sanders - We Shall Overcome

Jacquibim
Staff Reviewer
February 2nd 2018


2686 Comments


I feel like the first two paragraphs could basically be whittled down to a sentence each, then combined with the third. I get that you're going for a relatively informal, thinking-out-loud tone - at least that's what I'm getting from this - but I don't really feel like reading through to the fourth paragraph for the actual analysis.

Said analysis is overall pretty good, but a couple of your quips feel cheap: "apparently composed at a bible camp by an aging counselor who covers Cat Stevens by the campfires", "world's tamest porno opening or a very Christian PSA", etc. Some of these similes are so weirdly specific that you err towards run-ons quite regularly.

Otherwise, mindpos.

guitarded_chuck
February 2nd 2018


15349 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i dont not like this as much as everybody else and need to give it some time but yeah early conclusion - its not great

RadicalEd
February 2nd 2018


9271 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Singles were so dreadful, that I have no interest in checking this out. Like wtf is supplies.

Digging: Ryo Fukui - Mellow Dream

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 2nd 2018


26968 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

I'm on 'Higher Higher' right now and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I find the album delightful so far.

guitarded_chuck
February 2nd 2018


15349 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah its fun/light/different and obviously a JT album is gonna be well produced



prolly end up dropping a 3.5

bloc
February 2nd 2018


50780 Comments


Step 1: Put your wood in the box

Digging: Oubliette (USA) - The Passage

ProjectFreak
February 2nd 2018


2851 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

This is 16 tracks long, I'm terrified. I didn't like either of the singles too much but 20/20 part 1 was my AOTY, so I guess I HAVE to listen to this...

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 2nd 2018


26968 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Wave/Supplies ruined any early momentum this had going for me. I'm temporarily retracting my aforementioned affection until this thing is over.

Sabrutin
February 2nd 2018


5472 Comments


beautiful boy, got it from yo mama/don't she look good, you might get a sister




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