Justin Timberlake’s fifth studio album is an ode to his wife, his son and his hometown. While many people believed the title of the album, Man of the Woods, meant Timberlake was making a country album, . He clarified the album title by explaining that his son Silas’ name translates to “of the woods”.
Overall, Man of the Woods is a decent album. It mixes hip-hop, blues and country, but it focuses on what Timberlake is known for: pop. The album opens with the first single, “Filthy,” a song that oozes cool and infects listeners with the urge to dance. Though the song received mixed reviews, it definitely sets the mood for the album.
Showing off married life, Timberlake often features snippets of the voice of his wife, Jessica Biel, throughout the album. He even includes a full minute-long interlude with her describing what the feeling of wearing his shirt is like. Though a bit odd in the grand scheme of things, the snippets add a bit of a retrospective quality to the album.
There are no bad songs on the album, but some certainly stand out. “Supplies” is probably the most out-of-place song on the album, however, possibly one of the best. Produced by The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo), the hip-hop beats shine through.
Contrasting the hip-hop sounds of “Supplies,” Timberlake delved into a more roots-influenced, blues sound with “Say Something (feat. Chris Stapleton).” Timberlake and Stapleton effortlessly blend their different voices to create an authentic sound that contrasts yet compliments the more electronic influences on majority of the album.
Closing off the album, Timberlake brings things full circle with an ode to Silas. Titled “Young Man,” the pop pioneer angles the song almost as a letter to his son and the adventures of growing up. It’s a touching end to an album that focuses so much on what Timberlake cherishes the most: his family and where he’s from.
The album attempts to have an overall theme, but it lacks direction. Some songs — “Man of the Woods,” “Morning Light (feat. Alicia Keys)” and “Young Man” — fit the familial aspect, while others — “Supplies,” “Waves” and “Sauce” — don’t. The lack of direction makes the album seem more like a collection of songs than an album with a certain theme. There’s no distinct difference between shuffling the songs and listening from track one to the end. The 16-track album could easily be three or four tracks shorter, and still get the job done.
Justin Timberlake definitely didn’t surpass the greatness of The 20/20 Experience, but he did create an album that reminds listeners why he’s so successful in the music industry. While the album features more similar vibes to FutureSex/LoveSounds, than anything country, it still stands as a solid pop album. Man of the Woods is a successful testament to breaching other music genres without ruining the integrity of a song. Though somewhat flawed, Timberlake succeeded in creating an album that people of all ages can dance and sing along to.