2018: The year of new beginnings. Every year, we’re given a chance to start again… to create a new life for ourselves, if you will. On February 2, 2018, Justin Timberlake decided that was exactly what he was going to do. His classic hits like ‘SexyBack’ and ‘Cry me a River’ are no more; instead, the pop sensation is going back to his roots. Born and raised in Tennessee, he told The Hollywood Reporter that his new album, Man of the Woods, “sounds more like where [he’s] come from than any other music [he’s] ever made.” But many had trouble connecting his past (mainly composed of R&B and pop) to what he’s creating for the world today. Critics have questioned the direction that the artist, a family-oriented and a well-known guy, has decided to take. Some have gone as far as to question whether or not he’s eradicating his title as a modern music icon.
In a blistering review, the New York Times wrote:
“We are now approaching the 12th year of the national delusion that Justin Timberlake remains an essential pop star,”
USA Today noted Justin’s ability to master ‘sexy’ lyrics. But they question his penmanship in this new genre: “Gone is the former teenage heartthrob who convinced thousands of fans that he was bringing ‘sexy back.’ Now we’re getting lyrics like the song Sauce‘s, egregiously bad I like your pink, you love my purple,” Maeve McDermott noted in the newspaper. The attempt at evolution isn’t a huge hit with the fans and definitely doesn’t match up to lyrics the pop star used to include in almost every song of his.
Esquire’s review of the album doesn’t get much kinder to the singer as he says it’s “the most baffling” composition of music:
“It’s disappointing. It’s kind of embarrassing. I want to say it’s well-intentioned, but it comes across like Timberlake just didn’t read the room on this one.”
The reviews writer, Matt Miller, added: “Specifically, ‘Flannel’ is so poorly-timed that you can’t help but think it was intentional pandering to red states or worse. But isn’t that the most perfectly 2018 thing to happen to Justin Timberlake?” For the LA Times, the “faux-folksy” Man Of The Woods managed to reduce Justin to a “song-and-dance sham.”
Combining all these comments together, you can see the music critics are not pleased with the drop of Justin’s new album. One can appreciate him trying to reach out, touch back into his roots, and bring something new to his fans, but Man of the Woods was a crash and burn attempt. He’s being slammed with negative feedback and it’s obvious that he needs to take a step back and really look at the decisions he’s making with his music before he takes a leap
To continue with critic feedback, critics, such as the ones I mentioned above, believe he “might be in need of a new brand manager.” Vulture‘s Craig Jenkins, who found that Justin sounded “bored” on his own new album, also found the album to be a let-down, and wrote: “At its worst, Man of the Woods is like eavesdropping on conversations between the kinds of couples who go out in matching outfits.” It’s a fair argument that everyone’s making since it’s nothing like what the pop star is known for and really isn’t pleasing many of his fans. It’s also interesting since the first song he released was “Filthy”, and that seemed to be a hit with his listeners. The second song he put out was “Say Something” and again, that was a hit with the fans, even though it was different from his usual style.
Overall, the main message seems to be that you can definitely change up your music, but there are inherent risks to this. Evolution seems to be encouraged in this century, but with the limitations that the change isn’t too abrupt or too obvious and definitely stand to hold some of the target audience behind the movement. Being who you are in music is the way to make good music. Still, to lose sight of what’s wanted in today’s society is how you lose your job. I’m not a music critic, but I believe different music is always respected, it’s my personal favorite. Artists that give it their one hundred will always be respected. To many, however, it feels like Justin just threw this together. My advice to the heart-throb artist: Be who you are, but don’t abandon the beats and phrasing that brought you celebrity and mass appeal. It’s an important part of who you are. Don’t forget that.