Timberlake? More like TimberFAKE
by Ethan Lim
In an effort to reclaim the top charts and overcome recent controversies, Justin Timberlake’s “Man of the Woods” strives to accomplish what his lackluster Super Bowl halftime show could not. After a poor Super Bowl performance that contained a strange ode to Prince and Janet Jackson (which he was slammed for by critics), Timberlake does his best to overcome doubters with his soothing voice and unique rhythms. The whopping 16 track album, which dropped on Feb. 2, contains collaborations with Alicia Keys in the song “Morning Light” and Chris Stapleton in “Say Something.” However, the public should not overlook the overused sexually charged cliche and simplistic lyricism that occurs throughout the album. A grievous decision that may end up hurting Timberlake’s return to the charts after five years since his last album drop.
Songs like “Filthy” and “Sauce” seem to fit the “Timberlake Recipe” for success. Play a Michael Jackson-esque rhythm in the background, sing in a soothing, yet raspy voice, and make all of the songs allude to sex. This method for creating “great” music might have worked in the early 2010s, but in 2018, the music connoisseur of pop culture expect more than shallow references to sex and drugs.
Now, not every track in “Man of the Woods” is about women, hookups, and one night stands. There are songs like “Say Something,” which is Timberlake’s collaboration with country singer Chris Stapleton, that touches on the escalating reliance on celebrities to release statements on social media about recent controversies. The song touches on how Timberlake feels that celebrities are expected to say the right thing at the right time after specific tragedies. He raises a good point that the public should not be so reliant on what celebrities have to say. “Say Something” is one of the few songs in “Man of the Woods” that actually contains substance, which makes his other tracks look like garbage.
The inhibiting factors of Timberlake’s success are not just limited to sexual cliches. The lyricisim itself is so bad that it’s almost hilarious when reading it aloud. Take the following lines from “Filthy”:
“I said, put your filthy hands all over me
And no, this ain't the clean version
And what you gonna do with all that meat?
Cookin' up a mean servin'”
What? If Timberlake was trying to be clever, he clearly failed in his attempt. Using “meat” and “cookin’” together to create some sort of “hot” word play just comes off as cringey. Basic words mixed with a basic topic may fool the sheep of the music world, but listeners should be aware of what they are listening to. Timberlake could have much greater success if only he worked on his lyricism the past few years. He may keep the majority of his hardcore fans, but many admirers may walk away from his music because of the quality of “Man of the Woods.”
Timberlake may have had successes in the early 2000s, but this is not the early 2000s. He needs to revitalize his approach to music with better lyrics and more meaningful songs. Ten tracks of meaningful songs beats 16 tracks of garbage. “Man of the Woods” is not all bad, it still has millions of streams on Spotify along with a tour and countless of followers. But Timberlake’s recent album is definitely not his magnum opus; and he will need to step up his game in albums to follow to recover from a flop.