Justin Timberlake – Man of the Woods Album Review

Story posted February 9, 2018 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Zach Hall

There was a time during the early 2000s where it seemed that Justin Timberlake could never fail. After a stunning breakout as a member of the pop group NSYNC and a few solo albums with enough chart-topping singles to keep Justin at the top, it seemed the sky was the limit. However, with almost any artist, there’s a point where name alone won’t guarantee a hit. Such is the case with Justin Timberlake’s newest album, Man of the Woods. After a few less than stellar singles, it seemed as if maybe Justin was running a little dry on the creative front. No matter the radio play, no matter the super fans that will defend him to the death and no matter the sheer star power that Justin has, one simple fact remains: Man of the Woods is bad.

With the exceptions of a shining moment or two across Man of the Woods’ 17 tracks, the majority of the way through Timberlake’s newest effort comes off as bland and repetitive. What used to be glittering instrumentals with variety and excitement have now devolved into basic chord progressions with very basic pop style instrumentation (mainly bland synthesizers and tiresome pop tropes that happen all over the industry). Virtually no songs on this project have anything to say other than the typical feel-good pop music always tries. While it can be argued that much of what Timberlake put out in the past has this same problem, at least songs from his past projects had a very genuine energy to them that made up for their occasional lack in real thematic meaning. Man of the Woods lacks this genuine energy and creativity that fueled Justin Timberlake’s solo career early on.

Over the years, Timberlake’s music has slowly been enveloped by industry clichés, pandering to whatever will get the most sales and ample radio play. It’s guaranteed that whatever new body of music he is working on, a few of those songs are going to be all over the radio in a matter of time. Man of the Woods reflects this perfectly, all the way down to his biggest single “Filthy.” From the beginning, it’s clear how the album is going to play out: basic pop instrumentals with little variety or depth and bland and repetitive lyrics that play it way too safe. While some of these tracks may be catchy, it’s a symptom of Timberlake’s excellent vocal delivery, which makes the failures of this album all the more disappointing. The only other shining moment on the album is the last track “Young Man,” which sees Timberlake having a heart to heart with his son. It is a genuinely heartwarming moment amongst a laundry list of uninspired songs.   

An equally great tragedy of Man of the Woods is the production choices. Much like the lyrics, the instrumental choices throughout the entirety of the album feel like carbon copies of the ones that came right before it, with only slight variation. There are three instrumental types on Man of the Woods. Songs like “Filthy” and “Man of the Woods” are the heavily synthesized, bland pop, funk-esque tracks. Songs like “Flannel” and “Young Man” take a slower approach, but keep in the repetitive and uninspired nature of those in the first category. The last category is the upbeat, positive vibe songs that favor live instruments that help exemplify those positive vibes. These songs make up pretty much the rest of the album. Unfortunately, even these songs fall to the same issues as the other songs. With this much instrumental and lyrical repetition, Man of the Woods does not need to be 17 tracks long. Each song in each category sounds too much alike, hurting the potential for listeners to want to listen from start to finish. The lack of variety and pandering to current pop tropes are what plague the album from start to finish and keep Man of the Woods from being anything more than a disappointing footnote on an otherwise long and successful career.

Man of the Woods is a huge disappointment, plain and simple. Justin Timberlake fails to do anything new or interesting and with a career as long as his, that’s a real problem. Repetitive instrumentals, lack of lyrical depth and a slew of bland singles that are going to get a ton of radio play regardless of any of this. At the end of the day, Man of the Woods is just another boring pop album amongst dozens of other uninspired projects. It’s a real shame someone with as much success and creativity as Justin Timberlake could put out an album as bad as this one. Just go and listen to “SexyBack” for the 400th time. You’ll be better off this way.

Rating: 3/10 

 

Zach Hall is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zth5043@psu.edu.