In early 2018, Justin Timberlake dropped a trailer that gave us a glimpse of the direction of his new music. If you don’t count the soundtrack of the 2016’s film, Trolls, it had been five long years since Timberlake took the music industry by storm. The preview of the album showed the artist going back to his roots while blending it with his signature music style. The name of the album—Man of the Woods—with the artist himself hailing from Tennessee, suggested that this album was to feature country music. After multiple listens, is it a country album? The question is contestable.
The President of Pop has striven to innovate music with every album. For example, the album Justified introduced us to the perfect blend of beat-boxing and pop, FutureSex/LoveSounds gave us touch of electro pop and funk, and the 20/20 Experience had more hits than misses.
The Man of the Woods, has a new take on pop, funk, disco, and country. The entire album is mix of modern-day Americana, but, I thought, falls flat in some tracks.
Timberlake knows how to play the game though. The singles prior the album’s release included “Filthy”— the most Timberlake-eque and least country song that is guaranteed to unleash killer dance moves when it comes on, “Supplies”—a puff of auto tune with a chorus that sounds like something you would sing around a campfire, “Say Something”—a collaboration with Chris Stapleton.
In the album, “Sauce” is the most Timbaland-produced sounding song to keep long-time fans happy, “Montana” sounds like a mix of Michael Jackson and the Bee Gees. Timberlake’s duet with Alicia Keys in “Morning Light” provides light reggae with smooth vocals. As a whole, the album goes into the classic Timberlake territory, while positioning itself with country.
Timberlake does go back to his roots by collaborating with Pharrell Williams in the production of this album—something he has not done since 2002’s Justified. Though you can see Timberlake trying to find the sweet spot of mixing country and pop, the album shows the growth of the artist. You can see and hear that he has grown and is happy being a down-to-earth family man. Though he does throw in some of this adult-themed lyrics, this album does sound very personal to him. Timberlake’s wife. Jessica Biel, provides her vocals in multiple songs, and “Young Man” is dedicated to their son Silas. Even the meaning of the name Silas is “of the forest,” as confirmed by Timberlake himself to be the inspiration behind this album’s title.
It is refreshing to see Timberlake dedicating his art to ones close to him while making it sound good. This album might not always sound like the Timberlake you are used to, but I applaud him for stepping out of his comfort zone. Timberlake might not have brought sexy back with Man of the Woods, but he sure is trying to reinvent it.