I’d be lying if I said Timberlake didn’t have a lot of pressure coming into this his new album, “Man of the Woods.” His normal pop-hop antics can only appease the crowds for so long. Timberlake very well knew that he had to experiment with this new album or it might flop – and sadly, flop it did by getting no more than three stars in any professional review. Timberlake’s desire to go ‘back to nature’ resulted in his spending time in his exclusive estate at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana. Through his songs, you can tell that he has taken some liberties, thinking that owning a section of Montana will make his country twist sound good.
Without Timbaland and The Neptunes producing and advertising the soul out of this album, it for sure would have dropped stale. The rhythms at times are musically incoherent, particularly in Timberlake’s tribute to his son, Silas, titled “Young Man.” The mixing is subpar for what was expected of Timberlake, with the sultry vocals he is known for getting lost in the mix.
He does very little to stay true to his FutureSex/R&B feel, incorporating faux Milky Chance into his songs. The song “Flannel” features the go-to indie feel of guitar arpeggios, simple beats and harmony made primarily of major thirds. With Timberlake’s falsetto, it sounds mix-matched and jumbled, not to mention the end of the song which is made of bird calls, waterfall sound effects and a creepy overlay voice, which unsettles the listeners, to say the least.
Not only this, but Timberlake brings his empty pop lyrics to life with exceedingly shallow rhymes. Bo Burnham explained this phenomenon perfectly in his song “Repeat Stuff“: “I love your hands cause your fingerprints are like no other, I like your eyes with their blueish, brownish, greenish color!” which is almost verbatim for Timberlake’s song “Filthy.” However, he has definitely tried to break away from his ‘NSync days by playing with these new sounds. This falsetto-filled frenzy with a twist of bass notes has critics from The New York Times to Billboard.com wondering what happened to the once playful 20-something.
Timberlake does feature some good tunes in this album, such as the popular collaboration with Alicia Keys, “Morning Light.” The typical tenor range of Timberlake goes exceptionally well with the reggae feel of the production. Keys brings strong vocals to the record, which drastically improves the overall quality. However, it has the same aforementioned empty lyric conundrum. It is the same love song as every other. However, the short piece, “(Her) Interlude” is refreshing by breaking free of that mold and producing something with a little bit of deeper meaning.
Another honorary mention is yet another collaboration, “Say Something” featuring Chris Stapleton. Timberlake’s boy-band days are extremely evident with this song. The repetitive eighth note licks assisted by the basic chord progression definitely feed the simpletons desire for catchy beats. On the basis of radio popularity, this song would be the best bet to rise to the top.
Overall, this album is ranked three stars of five. The poor mixing, cheesy lyrics, basic beats and inappropriate experimenting lowered the quality of this collection. I have high hopes that Timberlake will pull up the straps of his boots and blow us away with a new “FutureSex” album worthy of our ears in the near future. But for now, we will wait for this album to blow over as much as it blew up.