Hello, I’m MusiCommentator, and I’m writing this a few days early because I got a SNOW DAY! Sure, this means that I have to shovel every 2 hours, but I also have time to work on an essay with an impending deadline and to write a review for Justin Timberlake’s new album.
Justin Timberlake has become one of those names that is widely accepted by all due to their multitude of talents and charming personality. (see also: Mars, Bruno; Gaga, Lady). For Justin, this is because he can sing and has a decent comedy career, with movies such as “Bad Teacher” and “Trolls” under his belt. This type of multi-faceted career can lead to a large expansion in fans, and that is one of the reasons why Timberlake has stayed so large. Justin first became famous with his former boy band NSYNC. From this, he sprouted a successful solo career by making electronic R&B that was easy to get hooked on. Songs like “Cry Me A River” and “Rock Your Body” set him on the right track, and “SexyBack” and “My Love” solidified his signature style. His last album, “The 20/20 Experience”, continued this style, with songs such as “Suit & Tie” featuring JAY-Z becoming big hits.
At the beginning of 2018, he released a promotional video for his fourth album, which implicitly said that this was going to be his most personal album. Even stranger, it was going to have a country theme. Of course, hype surrounded this album, and it was released at the beginning of February. Being a music enthusiast, I thought it would be best to give this album a review, especially since I have not done an album review since before my mini hiatus. So, let’s see what JT has for us!
This was released as the first single of the album, so one would think that it should reflect one or two of the themes the album. However, this is more of a throwback to his songs like “SexyBack”. That does not make it bad, though. I actually like this song. There are a couple things I find odd about it, though. The lyrics definitely make this a sex song, or at least a sexy song, but that contradicts heavily with the many love songs on the album. I’m perfectly okay with an album branching out into multiple themes and directions. In fact, I usually prefer if an album does that. But, for this being the first song on the album, it is almost like a false lead to what the rest of the album is. I know a lot of people have been talking about the beat on this thing, and I have my own thoughts on that. I do not mind the wobbling bass, but when the string bass comes in, the two instruments clash. After listening to the song a few times, I have become used to this, but when I focus on the two instruments individually, they do not fit. Also, the beat doesn’t make the song sound sexy at all. It has that sexy swagger that was on “SexyBack”, but there’s none of the sex in it. Towards the end, it actually sounds more self-important than anything. The stuttering synths give a cinematic twist to the song, but that does not fit with the theme at all. Still, this isn’t a terrible song. It just has some flaws.
#2: Midnight Summer Jam
This is the first song on the album that has a country theme to it, and this was a good song to start that with. This track is a great country-party song. All of the instruments flow flawlessly with one another to make a catchy beat, and the chorus provides the carefree attitudes southern parties should have. The constant “I glow” chant in the background irritates me by the halfway point, and the length makes this song overstay its welcome, but I like this even more than I liked “Filthy”, so that’s a plus.
Now this song I don’t like as much. The intro samples some meme which is kind of stupid, but explains how the girl in this song is Justin’s “sauce” because “the sauce is forever” (it sounds even stupider when I write it down). The beat lays down some nice fuck-rock, but I question some of the lyrics on this. The first real line that we’re hit with is “Ooh, I love your pink, you like my purple”, and the sexual implications this implies make me cringe. No one would ever say something like that in real life and be able to say it was sexy. In the second chorus, Justin mentions how he worships the “color between those”, which makes it even worse. Also, this song has no verses. It’s basically a repetition of the refrain and chorus a few times with a breakdown in the middle, but this song does not understand that a breakdown is more than just putting a few notes in between the original loop. You want to hear a real breakdown? Look up Bruno Mars’s “24K Magic”. That’s a real breakdown! The one on here is not.
#4: Man Of The Woods
When I first heard this song, I was indifferent to it, but hearing it a couple of times made me like it. I still think it’s stupid that his excuse for bragging about his sexual conquests with his lady is “Hey, I’m a southern man, that’s what I do”, but I find the chorus to be the best part of the song, especially when it becomes a little a capella ditty at the end. In the verses, I get a bit of a Jack Johnson vibe from Justin’s voice, and pre-chorus has some good figurative language–expect for the “Your hand slides down the light” part, because I hope he’s not referring to his genitalia as “the light”. But, this song definitely reflects the personal theme the album was marketed with, so I’m glad for that.
#5: Higher, Higher
This song is about Justin finding a good girl and the two start a good relationship. The verses mainly talk about them meeting, and the chorus and bridge talk about them going the long way. While a tad repetitive, I like the “If it’s for you, it can’t be any old thing” bridge, but I do not like his voice on the verses. I know falsetto is kind of his thing, but I do not like it here. The main thing that ticks me off is him saying “fame’s a lie” in the intro, because at his level of fame, it’s stupid for him to be saying something like that. Other than what I’ve said, there is really nothing else to talk about with this song. A bit of a filler track, I guess.
This song brings together an acoustic guitar and electric drums to make an amazing beat, but I have some problems with a few of the lyrics. In this song, he talks about his girl and him going away to live on a paradise of love, and he says he’s “got on rose-colored glasses” like it’s a positive thing. However, when someone says this, it usually means they’re looking at something negative with an optimistic view, so is Justin unintentionally insulting his lady here? Setting aside the fact that “miles on our passes for love” is sappier than maple syrup, the chorus might have the worst line. Justin says “Ain’t got no phone, don’t need it though/’Cause it ain’t got no waves”, but…what does that mean? Does he mean waves are flowing and have curves, like curves on his girl’s body, or is he talking about phone waves, like wi-fi? Not to mention, the post chorus where he says “Now the other wave” just makes it more confusing and does not fit the flow of the song.
The second single of the album, this song departs from the country style to give us some trap-R&B. Unfortunately, JT did not pull it off well. I like the flow of his words on the verses, but they do not have the same emotions as the lyrics. Some of the metaphors he makes are somewhat clever, but the way he sings the chorus is terrible. I don’t need to talk about this song anymore. Let’s move on.
#8: Morning Light (ft. Alicia Keys)
This song isn’t too bad, but it’s not exceptionally good. Out of all the other love songs on this album, this just have nothing to make it stick out. Alicia Keys does a good job singing, as she always does, but there is just nothing that makes this song pop. The sentimental chorus is nice, saying that him laying with her in the morning light is all that he wants to do. Still, it just isn’t anything special.
#9: Say Something (ft. Chris Stapleton)
This was the third and final single off the album, containing the only feature on this album that is an actual country artist. Just by that standard alone, this is the best of the three singles. The guitar-driven beat gives a lot of power to the words, and the chorus on this is amazing. I love the way both Timberlake and Stapleton sound on it. They put their full voices into the lyrics. There is one problem with the song, though: I cannot figure out what it’s about. I’ve listened to this song four or five times now, and I can’t decipher these lyrics. I could assume it’s a love song, since a lot of the songs on this album are, but it might be a song about their stances on fame, like how paparazzi asks celebrities to “say something” about this or that. I just can’t figure it out. Even so, the aesthetic of this song is awesome, so I’ll give it some props.
#10: Hers (Interlude)
I feel like a serial killer wrote this.
For me, this song is the exact opposite of the title track in the respect that I like the song less and less the more I listen to it. I will give credit where it’s due: the chorus on this is spectacular. It’s great to sway to and get lost in. Also like the title track, there is an a capella part that is quite nice. The rest is not very good, in my opinion. The melodies he gives for the verses sound awkward, like he was trying to fit in all the words while on drugs. The worst part is the end. After the song comes to a nice close, it shifts to some moody instrumentals where Jessica Biel says some stuff that sounds like it could be deep but really means nothing. It carries an air of self-importance that this album’s themes should be respected through generations, and that really turns me off. An album will be respected if it’s good in its own rights, not if it sounds like it’s deep. If you’re ever going to listen to this song, skip the last minute and a half.
I did not really get much out of this song. The funky beat on it is good–shoutout to The Neptunes. There was one line that went “When I need a compass…You’re the one that I come get”, which I thought was clever. And there was him comparing himself to a light again, but that was about it. There was nothing else to this song that I took away from it.
#13: Breeze Off The Pond
This is one of the better love songs of this album. On this track, Justin talks about how his love with his girl is strong and won’t be blown away. This is exemplified by the “strong as oak” line, and he uses the analogy of a “breeze off the pond” to tell his girl that no matter what others say, their love will not falter. The beat is relaxed on this song, and Justin has some good lines in the verses. The one thing that is not as good as the rest is the line in the refrain basically saying that he will not hide his love and he will buy billboard space to prove it. The whole song uses nature-based metaphors, and his renting-out-signs-on-the-highway analogy just does not fit in with the rest of the song.
#14: Livin’ Off The Land
Yeah, this track sucks. The only thing I like about it is the drum pattern. The rest is garbage. For example, there are synths which come in the pre-chorus that sound like someone put melodies to television fuzz. Its main problem is that it feels preachy. The song gives us a story of a man who is in hard debt, and he has tried a lot to get out, but nothing works. Now, what does Justin tell this made up man to do? Why, live off the land, of course! He doesn’t explain how one goes about doing that, or even what it means in this context. Just live of the land. The outro states that if you open yourself up, you’ll find what you need. You know what I need? A better song! If a song is trying to give me financial advice, then I want it to be good financial advice. Excuse me while I take a few minutes to listen to Jay-Z’s “The Story of OJ” again. I’ll be back with the next song shortly.
#15: Hard Stuff
Out of all the songs on this album, this song has the best message. Justin says that he wants his girl to reveal her whole, inner self so their relationship can grow, and that’s a good sentiment. Yeah, not really much else to say. I like this song. Move on.
#16: Young Man
This song is about Justin talking to his son, Silas, giving him life lessons to better his life. The problem is that it feels hectic. It goes from point to point like a checklist, and a lot of them do not correlate with the previous ones stated. This would not be a problem if more than half of the points did not feel like he was just trying to find something to rhyme with the last line. Also, he mentions that his son could “get a sister” at one point because his wife looks so beautiful, which is just wrong to tell your child. Overall, there was a good message, but bad execution.
This album had a lyrical deficiency. There are plenty of lines in here that I could pick out and critique, like him saying he flew out to hear a girl’s “sounds” on “Supplies” and us having to believe him when he says he catches his dinner on “Waves”. From such a large artist, there should not be so many lines that I can find and make fun of so easily. The production on this album is quite nice, mainly because it is carried by The Neptunes, but a lot of the songs also carry around a surprising amount of false self-importance. I feel like I’ve said that too much, but there are so many songs that contain this problem. If an album has to sound conscious to be conscious, than it is probably not conscious at all. This album was ambitious in the way that it tried to combine modern pop with old country, but Justin’s writing on this makes the project fall downhill.
Picking a favorite from this album was tough, because all the songs I did like ranked close to one another, but I ended up picking “Say Something”. This was the song that I said had lyrics I could not figure out, but the beat and aesthetic really carry this song a long way. That does not reflect very positively on the rest of the album. My least favorite song, though, was “Livin’ Off The Land”. You’re a famous superstar, JT, so if you’re going to give us financial advice, have it be real and make sense!
Overall, I would give this album a 4.5 out of 10. Do you agree?
Thank you for reading my “Man Of The Woods” review. If you liked this review, make sure to follow my website, Twitter, and Instagram, like this post, and be sure to check in to read my future reviews. Also, if you have a song or album you would like to see reviewed, tell me in the comments. Until then, keep listening to good music! I know I will.