Since Justin Timberlake announced his personal new album that would incorporate his Tennessee upbringing and his family life, people have had plenty of fun speculating on what it might sound like. There have been the Bon Iver comparisons, bolstered by the singer’s past SNL impression and the vaguely familiar sounds coming from the teaser. There have been thoughts that this album will be his long-speculated country album, which is evidenced by an announced appearance from Christ Stapleton and the frickin’ titled being Man Of The Woods. And in the press materials, the T-Lake camp called American rock and roll an album touchstone.
So when the album’s first single came out last night, the funk-overdrive jam “Filthy,” none of these expectations really came to fruition. If anything, expectations of a wide-ranging album came into play. And now that Timberlake has offered up the tracklist for Man Of The Woods, the whole thing is starting to feel like a bizarre parody.
There are plenty of things that jump out here. For one, there’s the song “Flannel,” which might be the most on-the-nose moniker you could offer on a “back to your roots” album. If that isn’t enough, tracks like “Breeze Off The Pond,” “Livin’ Off The Land,” “The Hard Stuff,” and “Montana” also provide not-so-subtle signifiers. Timberlake is basically a bad idea away from calling a song “Chopping Wood To Stay Warm” or “John Deere Blues.”
Of course the previously announced Alicia Keys and Stapleton collaborations are confirmed here, and there are plenty of titles that could be more of the danceable-anthems in the vein of “Filthy,” particularly “Midnight Summer Jam” and “Higher, Higher.” It’s even easy to imagine that the album could be split down the middle in the vein of Taylor Swift’s Reputation, with his more traditional pop at the front and his rootsy sound coming in the back half. Come February 2nd, a lot of these questions will be answered, and we’ll find out if this is indeed as funny as it seems.