First, Listen: Justin Timberlake’s rustic ‘Man of the Woods’ falls flat

By James Burcky

Photo via Ryan McGinley

The fifth studio album by Justin Timberlake is an interesting departure from his more well-known work. It’s very reminiscent of early 2010’s John Mayer, in the manner that this album takes on a seriously western and Americana feel.

I like this style and approach to songwriting, but it is potentially alienating to the public at large, being that it’s normally seen as outdated and continually more and more unpopular. However, to combat that, JT employs very modern styles of drum backbeats and vocal performance, while still delivering his typical JT vocals that we all know and love.

He also seems to tap into a very Ed Sheeran-esque style on a lot of tracks—too many tracks, that is. Towards the back half of this record, with a few exceptions, each song seems to play into the next. Not in a prog rock ballad manner, rather in the manner that they all nearly have similar cyclical chord progressions, quick and “on the beat” drum grooves, and that Ed Sheeran vibe. I do not like that. I think albums should take the listener on a journey musically, like a movie or play, with an overarching intensity curve to highlight its best moments.

Although, by the time the last track, “Young Man,” comes up, you realize the overarching lyrical theme and story of the album. It seems that JT is reflecting on his own success and the happiness it brought, and how it made him the man he is today. His reflections eventually culminate in his greatest achievement as a person, his son Silas.

The record starts out at the height of his success, and gradually calms and quiets down to show his more reserved life as a family man. This explains the title, “Man of the Woods.” The men of the woods, or even pioneers or farmers, are normally seen as introverted and slower. This album highlights JT’s journey into becoming a man of the woods. Overall, it has strong potential for commercial success, as song by song it hits hard. However, it’s mostly a weak album as a whole.

Best Tracks: “Filthy,” “Midnight Summer Jam,” “Supplies,” “Say Something,” “The Hard Stuff”

Worst Tracks: “Man of the Woods,” “Wave,” “Breeze Off the Pond”

Overall Score: 6.5/10