Justin Timberlake, Man of the Woods | Critics Weigh In
The critics have weighed in on ‘Man of the Woods,’ the fifth studio album by pop star Justin Timberlake. Ultimately, the results are mixed at best.
After more than a four-year hiatus, Justin Timberlake returned with his fifth studio album, Man of the Woods. Describing the project, Timberlake asserted, “I think the album has a wide range of sonics to it, but, I guess I would describe it as modern Americana with 808s.” Interesting. Upon reviewing Man of the Woods, The Musical Hype awarded the project three out of five stars. We weren’t ‘blown away by it,’ but essentially acknowledged that the effort had its fair share of moments. We summed up our review as follows.
So, how does the first new Justin Timberlake in more than four years stack up? Man of the Woods has its fair share of moments. It’s enjoyable and generally inoffensive. That said, it’s a bit ‘all over the place,’ particularly in regards to its vision. […] Most of this album doesn’t feel like an Americana album. More often than not, this is more pop-soul from JT, and there’s nothing wrong with that – generally. Still, for a sixteen-track album, it’s difficult pinpointing surefire hits, particularly compared to his past work.
How did those professional critics, aggregated in Metacritic, feel about Man of the Woods? While the score may continue to change, as of yet, Timberlake has earned a mixed score of 53 overall. With 22 reviews in, three (14%) were positive, three (also 14%) were negative, while the remaining 16 (72%) were mixed or average.
Justin Timberlake had three positive reviewers in his corner: Entertainment Weekly (75), Rolling Stone (70), and The A.V. Club (67). The headline by Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly) is sensible: Justin Timberlake gets (halfway) back to his roots on Man of the Woods. Awarding a grade of a “B,” Greenblatt writes, “What’s strangest, maybe, is that almost nothing on Woods nods to the evolution of pop music in the five years since he last released a record. Once an artist who reshaped the contours of the Hot 100, Timberlake now seems content to ride out his own scenic route, as blithe and unknowable as he’s ever been.”
Justin Timberlake had three critics who “weren’t feeling” the project in the least. The chief among skeptics were Pitchfork (38), The 405 (35), and PopMatters (30). Evan Sawdey covered the project for PopMatters, delivering the headline, Justin Timberlake Exits His Imperial Period with a Thud on ‘Man of the Woods’. Sawdey awarded the project three out of ten stars (roughly one and ½ stars on the more universal five-star scale), summing up his as follows:
But a handful of decent songs do not a classic album make, much less a good one. While Timberlake can’t be faulted for wanting to try something genuinely new this far into his career, the laziness of the productions and overall misguided lyrics make for an awkward fit […]. Had Timberlake released this during his Imperial Period, it would’ve been an outright hit, and the haters could be dismissed for calling it fake. Instead, Man of the Woods will soon be referred to as what it truly is: Timberlake’s worst album to date. [Source: PopMatters]
The bulk of the reviews for Man of the Woods have been mixed. If The Musical Hype score were figured in – get with the program Metacritic – our three-star review would be included in this group. Five others assigned a score that converts to 60: musicOMH.com, The Independent (UK), The Telegraph (UK), The Guardian, and New Musical Express (NME). Neil McCormick, music critic for The Telegraph writes:
Man of the Woods pitches unevenly between town and country, with folky campfire songs about the joys of nature arranged around electronic rhythms and electro funk. The two strains don’t really get along. When it’s bad, it’s cringe-inducing. But when it’s good, it’s world-beating. [Source: The Telegraph]
Other mixed reviews were less kind. With the exception of Pretty Much Amazing (58), AllMusic, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Exclaim, Slant Magazine, Boston Globe, and The New York Times all awarded metascores of 50. NOW Magazine, The Observer UK, and Sputnikmusic weren’t as kind, awarding a mere 40 to the effort. Reviewer Rowan5215 of Sputnikmusic writes:
[…] Man of the Woods is an astoundingly poor, inconsistent, and sloppily constructed outing from an artist whose defining feature has been his ability to cleanly reinvent his image. I guess the “Filthy” video was the outlet for all that creativity this time around, ‘cos there’s certainly none of it on the goddamn album. […] It’s just worrying how easy it is to believe the guy’s lost his touch instead. If moving out to the woods did this to one of pop music’s greatest talents, maybe deforestation’s not such a bad thing. [Source: Sputnikmusic]
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