By Maria Lubanovic, Copy Editor
Key Tracks: “Midnight Summer’s Dream”, “Montana”
Justin Timberlake’s fifth album, Man of the Woods, opens with the lyrics “you know what’s good.” Those lyrics, unfortunately, do not refer to this record, an album that is too long, too shallow and overall hard to listen to.
One of its biggest problems is that many tracks overstay their welcome by several minutes. Tracks that could easily be three minutes are five and are lengthened in ways that don’t add anything to the overall feel of the song. This album could have been 20 minutes shorter and probably would have been better. In this case, less is more.
An excellent example of this is the album’s opener, “Filthy”. The lyrics are just snippets of stuff that sound trendy and “hip with the kids”. The production is so bad that it’s hard to listen to, and the chorus repeats a few too extra times, extending this track from bad to excessive.
“Midnight Summer’s Dream” has a disco feel and one of the album’s only effective riffs, but it ends up being repetitive, topped off with cringy lyrics like “Y’all can’t do better than this”. It ends with a harmonica solo, proceeding into an unnecessary extra two choruses. The song even reprises itself at the end, even though the track is already four minutes long without it.
In an attempt to feel sexy, this album drops the ball in every way. We don’t want to hear you creepily breathe over track after track, Timberlake. We don’t want to hear you refer to sex as “I like your pink and you love my purple”. Ever. This line comes up on “Sauce”, a track that is completely nondescript and cringe-inducing, with a generic background that’s nothing we haven’t heard before.
“Man of the Woods” has a strange backing track, as Timberlake sings about going too far, but it’s okay because “making up is fun”. He sings about bragging about his girl and that he has to protect his pride because he’s a “Man of the Woods”. The simple bassline and jumpy production do not help this track either.
Even worse is an interlude of Jessica Biel literally talking about wearing Timberlake’s shirt for a full minute on “Hers”: It basically has Biel admit that she feels like she’s “his” when she wears his shirt. “Flannel” continues this shirt obsession, as Timberlake sings about wrapping up his woman with his flannel. It’s pure cheese, from the slow tempo to the doo-wop bassline, until the music changes to a creepy squeaky theme and Biel talks lustily about “feeling it.”
Justin Timberlake is a pop star. There is no way this man is “Livin’ Off the Land” or a true outdoorsman. He claims that he’s just “one man and I’m doing the best I can”, and that he has so many life problems and not enough money. Don’t even kid yourself JT, you just sang at the Super Bowl again.
He ends the album with a semi-heartfelt track dedicated to his son. It’s shamefully shallow, telling him it’s okay to cry and that he should stand for something, but doesn’t specify what. He gives conflicting advice, but it’s all so empty and cliché, it’s honestly kind of sad. The album ends with his son saying “love you daddy” and blowing a kiss, something that feels too wholesome for all the innuendo-peppered tracks that were before it.
There are some redeeming moments. Timberlake still uses a lot of his signature falsetto, and some of the background tracks are danceable. Unfortunately, there are so many vapid musical choices that, no matter how much he tries, Timberlake is just missing the point. He lacks thematic elements that could have propelled this album to something worthwhile.