By Daylon Bonner, Staff Writer
Justin Timberlake returned this year with his anticipated fifth album “Man of the Woods.” It was produced by the Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo). While Timbaland is also a great producer on the album, it is nice to see Timberlake working with the Neptunes again.
After doing some background research on the album, it was discovered that the album is named for his son Silas whose name means “man of the forest.” Given this fact, the album is underwhelming. The gesture of making an album inspired by familial experiences is genuine. However, the execution of the concept could have been better realized.
The album starts off with the lead single from the album, “Filthy.” For those who are fan of “Future Sex/Love Sounds,” this track is a welcome-return for Timberlake as it, for all intents and purposes, is an updated version of “Sexy Back.” The song on its own is fine. However, using it as the opening track of the album, given the supposed goal of the album, may not have been ideal.
The album then proceeds to “Midnight Summer Jam” which is one of the better tracks on the album. While the lyrics are not great, and it may run a minute too long, the track is still memorable. The title track follows, and, while unsure of what to expect from the track, what was received was surprising. Instead of a piece on which the album can rest, the listener receives a standard apology/promise to be better.
“Higher Higher” is the next, and possibly best, song on the album. The production is great and makes for a worthwhile listening experience. “Wave,” the following track, has the same level of production and well thought out lyrics, and yet builds to an underwhelming and unnecessarily repeating chorus.
Alicia Keys comes in with the first feature on the track “Morning Light” and hearing her sing is always welcome. Unfortunately, the collaboration between her and Timberlake produced an unmemorable song. Chris Stapleton, on the other hand, may have single-handedly saved his track. “Say Something” does not bring much out of Timberlake. However, Stapleton makes a nice contrast, leading to a much livelier track than if the production had Justin alone on it.
The next two songs “Flannel” and “Montana” are similar. Both contain nice sentiments: “Flannel” saying he will be there for his wife, and “Montana” stating his admiration for the escapism and tranquility he finds in secluded home in Montana, but lack-luster production ruins them. “Living Off the Land” is fine. It is not a particularly good or bad song. It just does not leave much of an impact one way or another. Although, an unintentional moment of hilarity occurred when Justin said, “get lit.”
Whether Timberlake wants this to be the case or not, many of his songs come with a gloss that says, “I am way more awesome than you are. Deal with it.” This gloss makes his attempts at worrying about not seeing the rough edges of a relationship even more patronizing. His case for the worries do not sound believable. His case isn’t helped by boring production and him not sounding that into the song in the first place.
The final track, “Young Man,” is all about Timberlake doling out advice to his young son and like several of the tracks on the album, it is built off a well-meaning sentiment. The portion that takes it from generic to solid is the audio from both his wife and his son.
The album is a listen-at-one’s-own-convenience record. There are some bad tracks and some that are solid. If someone just wants to add a few tracks to a Spotify playlist, consider “Midnight Summer Jam,” “Higher Higher,” “Say Something,” and “Breeze Off the Pond.” The album is available for listen on Spotify, iTunes, CD and Vinyl now.