By Sydney Liptak.
Whether it’s an N’sync classic or a more recent solo song, a majority of people can admit that they can’t resist tapping their feet to the beat or wanting to get up and dance when they hear the smooth sounds of Justin Timberlake’s voice. Fresh off his Superbowl halftime performance and following the commercial success of his single for the film Trolls, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Timberlake needed a follow up that had its own sound yet could still hold its own against his former work. Man of the Woods presents an overall unique sound for Timberlake, showing a valid effort as an artist to be versatile in the styles he could carry out.
The album opens with the repetitive but catchy tune “Filthy,” which does a successful job of actually remaining a fairly clean song. The beat has a distinctive technology sound surrounding it, and it reminds me of a modern take on the electric beats of classic 80s hits.
Off to a decent start, the album then moves to “Midnight Summer Jam,” a tune that fits the title appropriately and could eventually become a song of the summer. It stands strong as one of the best songs on the album, sampling a variety of different styles and giving off a distinct Michael Jackson-tone around the halfway mark. It also features a catchy repeating beat, a folk-sounding harmonica feature, and singing that alternates between full vocals and a rap where he speaks his words more than singing them.
One of the only other notable tracks on the album is the title single, “Man of the Woods,” taking on a bubbling beat and a vibe that infiltrates your ears and takes you right back to all of the classic Justin Timberlake hits you know and love. The sound reminds me visually of what it would sound like when the DVD logo would float around a black television screen and hit the walls, bouncing off in another direction. The song even features a bit of a barbershop sound in the background near the end, adding a whole different layer to the song. The next few songs on the album show more attempts to present a new sound to audiences, however, the middle songs on the sixteen-track album began to melt together and became hard to distinguish from one another.
I had to resist the urge to skip songs, that is until I reached “Say Something,” the ninth song on the album and an effective break in the listing that offered a different sound and really stuck out compared to some of the previous songs. It had less of a harsh beat behind it and seemed to be Timberlake’s own take on a ballad of sorts. To me, the end of this song as well as the ending of the thirteenth tune, “Breeze Off the Pond,” are perfect examples of what has vocally set Timberlake apart time and time again from other popular artists. In both songs, the beat drops out a bit, and he leaves the sound to be handled by a chorus of people in “Say Something” and then up to himself to handle just raw vocals in “Breeze Off the Pond.” It’s effective in really making listeners feel the music, to say the least.
The rest of the album, unfortunately, falls a bit short of expectations and does not live up to the successes of his previous works. However, this album is a breakthrough for Timberlake regardless, due to its valid attempt at pushing the boundaries and stereotypes behind what his sound and capabilities as an artist are. Man of the Woods is his first album in five years, most recently releasing The 20/20 Experience in 2013. Despite the songs that all sound very similar and meld together, the album has managed to be a commercial success thus far and did reach the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 200 list in early February, following its initial February 2nd release.
Overall, I felt that the album would have been much stronger as a whole if a few songs were cut, as I felt like as the album went on, it started to feel as if it was forcefully stretched on for sixteen songs. Man of the Woods pushes the envelope artistically, and I do appreciate Timberlake’s attempts to try new styles and sounds for himself, as I feel that if any successful artist remains the same for too long, their success will stay in one place and not follow them as time goes on and the world continues to advance and change daily.
Sydney Liptak is a senior at North Royalton High School and is involved in an award-winning color guard, STAND, student council, and bowling. Outside of school, she loves her job at Royalton Woods Assisted Living home. In her free time, she enjoys collecting records, CDs, and band t-shirts, and spending time with family and friends. She is excited to attend college next year to explore all of her interests and eventually turn one into a career.