Album Review: Man of the Woods

by Stephanie L. Carlin

So, remember a couple years back when Justin Timberlake came out with “Can’t Stop the Feeling?” It probably came back into your head after the Super Bowl last Sunday, when Justin ended his halftime show with the song in a glittery pit of explosions, colors, and confused children taking selfies. Anyway, when the song first came out, Timberlake insisted that a new album was in the works and this album had been building up for a while. “The 20/20 Experience” came out back in 2013 and it was a critical and commercial success, becoming the second best-selling album for Justin behind “Justified.” No one can argue that Justin Timberlake’s legacy isn’t cemented with his achievements in music.

However, I can argue that this album is absolute garbage.

DO NOT get me wrong. I love Justin Timberlake more than you know. In high school, I created a marching band arrangement of “Suit & Tie” to play at football games. I love him, but this latest venture is very shallow and leaves little to the imagination.

Trust me, it was difficult for me to figure out that this album was bad. It came to me in “waves.” See what I did there? Well, it came earlier than that. I really tried to find some hidden gems in this album and after listening to it 20 times asking myself why am I doing this to myself, I found some. The duets are interesting, with Alicia Key’s sultry, low tessitura in “Morning Light” and Chris Stapleton weirdly working himself into the Timbaland produced “Say Something.”

Actually, anything Timbaland produced on this album was pretty phenomenal. There’s “Filthy” and “Say Something” that are topping the charts right now, “Sauce” is a fun song, and “Young Man,” a cute song that’s actually about his son (we’ll get to that in a second). Those songs, to me, are good not only for the solid production brought on by Timberland, but also great songwriting.

But that’s it.

IN A 16-TRACK ALBUM.

As for the other tracks, I’m not going to bore you with my nitpicky philosophy about albums but I will say this: in my opinion, an album, similar to a story of any nature, should have some kind of through-line or metaphor to keep the album cohesive. There is nothing I can think of in this album that ties anything together. The only thing that comes close to that is a random woman that comes up in “Filthy,” “Flannel,” and “Hers (Interlude)” who talks about being hunted and owned by “him.” I don’t know what to think of that other than it’s slightly misogynic that he’s hunting a woman in the woods. Just a little.

Also, the weirdest thing about this album—and there are plenty of weird things—is that it’s dedicated to his son. The title “Man of the Woods” is a play on “Man of the forest,” which is the meaning behind the name of Justin’s son, Silas. But if the title track “Man of the Woods” is about anything kid related, I think Justin needs to see a counselor.

Here are the lyrics from the first verse:

Hey, sugar plum, look at where we are 
So tonight, if I take it too far, that’s okay because you know
(That’s okay because you know)
I hear the making up’s fun
Been a minute since we’ve had some time to breathe
So if you see another side of me that’s okay because you know
(That’s okay because you know)
I hear the making up’s fun

There’s also a classy line, comparing a woman’s vagina to a “faucet” and basically, the message is: “I’m a prick but make-up sex is great, right?” Now that’s the kind of kid-friendly message I don’t think Disney Channel could top.

While I may be destroying a few childhoods in this review, understand that I’m trying to understand how this album became this rushed mess of lost opportunities. There are songs like “Breeze Off the Pond” and “Livin’ Off the Land” that are the exact same song, and “Hard Stuff” and “Montana” that make me so angry because they sound like they’re mastered versions of a high school senior’s demo coming from a POP ICON.

But I think the song that sums up my review of this album the best is the second song “Midnight Summer Jam.” The songs take off with strong production and the opportunity to land somewhere interesting but don’t. They just sit there with nothing to offer, nothing to learn, and nothing to gain but a giant headache.

What did you think? Are you going to pick up a copy of Man of the Woods? What did you think of Super Bowl Halftime show? Let us know in the comments!