Prince of Pop, Justin Timberlake, returns with his new release, Man of The Woods on RCA Records. Timberlake ventured away from R&B influences opting instead for a country sound on this fifth album.
Timberlake, a Memphis, Tennessee native, is no stranger to country music. His first appearance was on Star Search where 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: Can 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 and third singles were also a bit underwhelming. Although, I’m sure “Supplies” will be even better once Timberlake releases a remix with a rapper guest appearance. I may need to see “Say Something”, live to fully appreciate the instrumentation in it.
Timberlake also missteps with “The Hard Stuff,” which comes across as a disappointing follow up to the vastly superior “Drink You Away.” While “Sauce” is another letdown from Timbaland production wise.
Reuniting with production duo, The Neptunes, for the first time in over a decade, some of the best work Timberlake has done in years are courtesy of the pair. “Midnight Summer Jam” is a dance-ready groove. “Breeze off the Pond” and “Montana” are laid-back grooves that remind me of being on a road trip, where I can clear my head. However, I did find “Livin’ off the Land” and “Waves” to be unimpressive.
R&B fans may also be disappointed from the lack of ballads or slow jams on the album. Duets with Alicia Keys nearly fit into those criteria. Keys and Timberlake’s voices mesh well on “Morning Light”. I’m sure that will be a single. “Flannel” has a nice acoustic vibe I can see coming across great in concert with a lucky female fan.
Closing out the album is the only Timbaland production I liked, “Young Man”, a tribute to Timberlake’s son Silas, who the album is named after.
Man of the Woods is a vast departure from the Timberlake we’ve become accustomed to recently. Listening to the album with an open mind, I enjoyed the majority of it with the first listen. Had Timberlake cut some of the weaker material and added just one R&B slow cut, I’d have give it a higher rating. While it’s nowhere as good as his previous work, it isn’t a misfire either.
Final Grade: C+