Justin Timberlake
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Second Listen Sunday: Justin Timberlake, Man of The Woods

Two days before headlining The Super Bowl LII Halftime Show, Justin Timberlake gifted fans his new album, Man of The Woods, on February 2nd, 2018, via RCA Records. For his fifth solo album, Timberlake decided to venture away from the R&B influences, which were the dominant force of his previous releases, opting instead for a country sound this go around.

Timberlake, born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, was no stranger to country music, as with his first appearance on Star Search, he sang a country song. Timberlake also explored country music on his last album with the song “Drink You Away.” The question on everyone’s mind was could Timberlake pull off a full-on country album?

Initially, judging from the lead single “Filthy,” I thought Timberlake might have his first flop on his hands due to the underwhelming production of the song. The second & third singles, “Supplies” & “Say Something,” were also a bit on the underwhelming sound for me personally. “Supplies” has grown on me in recent years. I thought for sure Timberlake would release a remix with a rapper guest appearance. While “Say Something,” has edged well, I still feel it might be one of those songs I need to see LIVE fully appreciate the song’s instrumentation.

Thankfully, Timberlake hits more than he misses with this album, and Man of The Woods is stronger than I remember. Timberlake reunited with production duo, The Neptune’s for the first time in over a decade; the album’s best songs come courtesy of the pair.

“Midnight Summer Jam,” “Breeze on The Road,” and “Montana” are some of the best work Timberlake has down in years. “Midnight Summer Jam” is a dance-ready groove, while “Breeze on The Road” and “Montana” have a lovely laid-back groove that reminded me of being on a road trip, where I can clear my head. However, four years later, I still find some of the Neptune tracks to be a bit underwhelming, particularly “Livin on the Land” and “Waves.”

Timberlake also missteps with “The Hard Stuff,” which is a disappointing follow-up to the vastly superior “Drink You Away.” While “Sauce” is another letdown from Timbaland production-wise. I only enjoyed one of the four songs that Timbaland produced on the album. Man of the Woods’ biggest misstep is that there is not anything close to a ballad or slow jam on the album. Only two songs that even fall into the criteria are Alicia Keys duet “Morning Light” and “Flannel.” 

Keys & Timberlake voices mesh well on “Morning Light,” and I am surprised the song was not a single. While “Flannel” has a nice acoustic vibe that I can see coming across great in concert with a lucky female fan. Closing out the album is the only Timberland production I liked from the album, “Young Man,” which is a tribute to Timberlake’s son Silas.

Man of the Woods is a vast departure from the Timberlake we had become accustomed to since his solo debut. While it is nowhere as good as his previous work, it is not a misfire either. Listening to the album with an open mind, I enjoyed most of it. I would give it a higher rating if Timberlake cut some of the weaker material and added just one R&B slow cut.

Final Grade C+

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