Pop superstar Justin Timberlake released his new album, Man of the Woods, on Feb. 2. Across the 16 tracks, he gets in touch with his Memphis roots, resulting in a rugged record with some country music influence. Timberlake's R&B finds a home in some innovative jams while getting caught up in other curious concoctions. Now in the middle of the Woods, Justin gets creative on his latest outing.
Following the polished The 20/20 Experience albums in 2013, Timberlake regrouped with the reformed Neptunes (Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams) and Timbaland for the aptly-titled Man of the Woods. Justin and Timbaland revive the electro slap of 2006's FutureSex/LoveSounds with a whole lot of Southern swagger on "Filthy," the album's best track. Navigating the muddied beats, Timberlake brings sexy back and then some, demanding, "Put your filthy hands all over me." Bless this mess of a banger. "Midnight Summer Jam" plays out like a hootenanny gone from zero to one hundred with Timberlake running the show. It's the lit house on the prairie.
Among the mid-tempo tracks, "Higher, Higher" stands above the rest. Timberlake's soulful sounds are lifted to new heights with the bluesy production. "But you're special / On another level," he sings to his loved one. Justin's new direction hits its sweet spot here. Country singer-songwriter and past CMA Awards duet partner Chris Stapleton joins Timberlake on "Say Something," a stirring call to action. Two worlds of music reunite for a knockout collaboration. The album's closer, "Young Man," is a precious ode to Justin's baby son Silas, who also speaks on the tune. "Right now you're a young man but you're going to have to stand for something," Timberlake advises. Daddy J.T. comes through with a gospel-tinged lullaby.
Near the end of the album, the big city seems to peek through the trees on "Montana," Timberlake's sleek "Havana"-like jam. Later Justin plays a smooth operator on "Breeze Off the Pond," a disco-fied departure that pulls together scenic imagery into a loving message.
Timberlake covers new ground on Man on the Woods and emerges from the experience as an artist striving to push pop boundaries.