Justin Timberlake has unveiled the artwork for his comeback album Man Of The Woods ahead of the release of its lead single ‘Filthy’ this Friday. Along with the album art, Timberlake has also premiered a promo video which – I swear to God – is one of the funniest promo videos of all time. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s first examine the cover of his upcoming album, in which Timberlake stands in a forest trying his hardest to look pensive and sentient. So what is going on here? What has happened to the guy who brought sexy back? Where is the man who built a whole career on looking good in a suit? Where is the dude who yanked off Janet’s breastplate in front of millions of viewers and went on to have huge success while she was punished for the rest of her career?
Well, he’s Bon Iver now. He’s wearing lots of wool and lurking in forests. If you examine the lower half of the cover, you’ll see he’s even wearing flannel. The pop lothario is dead, the wistful singer songwriter lives. Lord help us.
But back to that promo video, that ludicrously earnest clip that introduces Man Of The Woods, an album that will also feature JT’s fave collaborators, Pharrell Williams and Timbaland. The video depicts a straight-faced, dadly Timberlake surrounded by wintry tundras and summer forests. We see him staring at some grass looking exasperated and standing submerged in a river, also looking exasperated. He walks through a cornfield wearing a waistcoat and cradles his child by a bonfire. Interspersed footage of galloping horses tells us this is all very deep, very important, very sincere. Honestly, it’s just hilarious.
In the video, Timberlake describes the album as “very personal”, something that every artist has said about literally all of their albums ever. A female voice offers something a little more original, describing it as “like mountains, trees, campfires, like Wild West… but now.” It is truly hilarious.
We hear some new music in the background, and though it’s early days, it’s fair to say it’s quite dreadful. Wholesome acoustic-tinged pop that thinks it’s purposeful because it’s slow. I am glad to be proved wrong when ‘Filthy’ drops this Friday, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it will be a breathy, plucked guitar track that sounds like a dad trying to mansplain emotions.
Timberlake’s lumberjack era hasn’t even begun, but it’s already a vain, try-hard attempt at capturing substance through meaningless aesthetics. Putting on a winter coat and looking glum by a tree doesn’t make a good pop star, but it does make for a pretty entertaining – if almost unwatchable – fifty-nine seconds. With Timberlake scheduled to perform at the Super Bowl Halftime Show next month, it will be interesting to see how he adapts his new stripped-down, wistful artist shtick for one of the most notoriously commercial and extravagant events of the year. Perhaps he’ll give up the miserable dad look for an afternoon, or maybe we’ll get thirteen minutes of derivative guitar ballads. Fingers crossed for the former.