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Album Review: “Man of the Woods” by Justin Timberlake
February 3, 2018
Justin Timberlake’s fifth studio album, Man of the Woods, gives his fans their first taste of a new project since the widely successful The 20/20 Experience released in 2013. Timberlake, once considered one of pop music’s brightest stars, comes back with an attempt to mix genres and tries his hand at new sounds. From a mix of pop and rock to bass-heavy hip hop beats, the sound on Man of the Woods is spread across the spectrum.
Taking inspiration from his wife, son and his roots in Tennessee, the album focuses on love and his appreciation of where he grew up. The album cover itself shows Timberlake in two different types of clothes: the rugged outfit of a woodsman that represents his past, and a cleaner, classier look that represents what he has become through his fame. His past and his appreciation for the peaceful, natural world is a theme throughout the album.
Man of the Woods begins with Timberlake proclaiming that he’s gotten his swagger back on “Filthy”, a song that disregards his haters and has some musical elements of his 2006 hit song “SexyBack”. Timberlake expresses his desire for his lover’s confidence and swagger on the song “Sauce”. The standout track, “Morning Light” featuring Alicia Keys, is a heavy love song in which Timberlake and Keys sing about how much their significant others mean to them.
The production, coupled with the strong vocals of Keys, gives the song a vibe that makes it unique from the album’s other tracks. In a chorus that has the potential to put people in their feelings, Timberlake sings, “I’m in love with you, laying here in the morning light/All I want to do is hold you tight, just one more night”. Timberlake also experiments with his take on country music on tracks like “Say Something”, featuring Nashville native and country star Chris Stapleton, and “The Hard Stuff”. The final track of the album, “Young Man”, is Timberlake giving his young son advice on how to grow to be a man, as well as telling him he will always be there for him.
While Timberlake’s attempt at new sounds that honor his Southern background was an interesting idea, it took him away from the sound that made him famous in the middle to late 2000’s. Timberlake’s apparent attempt to reinvent himself to a new audience in this album is a step away from the unique pop style and sexually-laced music that made him unique as an artist. This album felt like a safer approach than his past albums, now that Timberlake is grown with a wife and child.