Review: Justin Timberlake — Man of the Woods

Categories:  The Arts    Music
Wednesday, February 7th, 2018 at 6:10 PM
Review: Justin Timberlake — Man of the Woods by Rick Chernicky

                                                                            ★★☆☆☆

Would a “Man of the Woods” make music eligible for nightclubs? There’s a sensual vibe to Justin Timberlake’s mix of hip-hop and raw acoustics, but there’s more to being a man of the woods than wearing a flannel.

The front cover of Timberlake’s album portrays a woodsy and surreal image of the hip-hop/pop icon, but the songs behind the curtain lack the substance of a backwoods lifestyle. Timberlake’s soothing falsetto doesn’t seem to be enough to uncage himself from his ivory tower. In reality, “Man of The Woods” is probably the farthest thing from backwoods Americana.

The album may have resonated better with audiences if the musician would have taken time to make his lyrics about the hardship and struggles he faced while living in the wilderness. The meaning behind the image seems skewed and indecisive. Some of the songs are catchy but it makes you ask yourself “what are you going for here Justin?”

Perhaps Timberlake was trying to leave his message open for interpretation when he sang of “Livin Off the Land,” because he never really went into detail as to how he used the earth to fend for himself. His sound is predominantly electric and chirpy which gives most of his songs a happy go lucky feeling. It’s the type of sound you might hear at a college party to wind people down when they start feeling too drunk and emotional.

This is definitely Timberlake’s most obscure album yet. The message of soul searching surfaced a few times in his songs, but the lyrics are too repetitive and ambiguous to pinpoint the relevance between his fashion statement and his music.

Timberlake’s song “Wave” has a bumpy dissonance that makes it difficult to follow. There is little chord progression, mainly because there are very few natural sounds to begin with, and it seems to be more of a cat call rather than woodsy introspection.

To someone who has never listened to his music and has stumbled upon his album cover, the title of the song “Morning Light” might be a bit misleading because it provokes thought of a woodland sunrise, but serves as a tool of seduction. It’s romantic and soulful, but still too R&B and uppity to match the work of a woodsman like John Denver.

Timberlake might be able to fool the crowds of New York City, but his chances of relating to a rural demographic in southern Texas might be more challenging. The same could be said about Montana, especially since he made a point of naming one of his songs after the state. Referencing mountains and seduction doesn’t make him anymore woodsy than Kanye West.

It’s been five years since his last album “The 20/20 Experience,” so it’s clear that Justin Timberlake is pursuing something contradistinctive with “Man of the Woods.” The album is a postmodern clash between the Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson and a dash of Keith Urban. Perhaps this is his idea of reinventing his image. 

Standout tracks: “Morning Light,” “Say Something” & “Higher Higher.”

Stream below: 

Rick Chernicky is a staff writer for The Spectator.

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