Thoughts: Justin Timberlake gets lost in the Woods
On Sunday Justin Timberlake will have performed in front of what may have been the biggest television audience of all time at Super Bowl LII. When this was announced last year, it made perfect sense; he seemed like a relatively safe and likable choice, a megastar with a sense of humor. But in a post Man of the Woods world, I'm left wondering where that stardom and humor have gone.
Man of the Woods is easily the most confusing and bland album Justin's released, and there isn't a whole lot of material to compare it to. His previous albums Justified, FutureSex/LoveSounds, and both halves of The 20/20 Experience were funky, experimental pop albums produced closely by Timbaland and the Pharell-led outfit the Neptunes, each with strong singles that stuck around ("Cry Me a River," "SexyBack", "Mirrors"). The Neptunes and Timbaland both return this time around, but the singles don't.
Pre-album releases "Filthy" and "Supplies" showed Timberlake emulating trends instead of starting his own. The rest of the album follows suit; it bounces from funk to folk to trap to shlock over 60 aching minutes. Most of the songs deal with Timberlake celebrating his family (wife Jessica Biel even has a few embarrassing monologues between tracks!) and the wonder of being secluded from the pressures of stardom. This all feels strange from a man who once did self-aware comedy sketches with about his own fame. I can't help but feel worried that Justin is becoming so anxious about his next steps he's forcing himself into middle age.
The beats aren't here, the lyrics certainly aren't here (I'm pretty sure the chorus of "Flannel" is about his penis) and the charm certainly aint around, so there's little on Man of the Woods to recommend. We may have already seen the peak of JT's career, and that's pretty depressing.