In 2013, following his marriage to actress Jessica Biel, Justin Timberlake wrote his massive double-disc comeback record The 20/20 Experience and went on the most lucrative tour of his career. Their son was born in 2015, and one year later, Timberlake wrote “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” a feel-good song for the animated children’s film Trolls that felt much akin to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”
Timberlake’s dance-happy single might’ve been released back in May 2016, but its permeated the radio still to this day. Thus, you could imagine my surprise hearing “Filthy,” the opener and first single of Timberlake’s upcoming record Man of the Woods, for the confusing sonic vomit that it is.
Originally, described as “the sounds of traditional American rock with the modern influences of collaborators the Neptunes, Timbaland, Chris Stapleton, and Alicia Keys” in a press release, “Filthy” is anything but, sounding more apt to be the soundtrack to the end of the world rave scene from The Matrix: Reloaded than it does inspired by camping trips and nature walks with the family.
According to W Magazine, the video that teased the record details the following events: “JT sports a beard, models a leather jacket over a denim jacket, wades in a river, runs through a field, records in a studio with Pharrell, kisses Jessica, looks at some horses, walks across a log arms akimbo, wears a multicolored blanket in the snow, and some woman doing voiceover compares the experience to ‘like Wild West…but now.'”
It seems insane to me that such a description could result in “Filthy,” a song that somehow turned Timberlake’s “personal” record “inspired by my son, my wife, my family, but more so than any other album I’ve ever written, where I’m from,” into:
All my haters gon’ say it’s fake
I guess I got my swagger back
I said, put your filthy hands all over me
And no, this ain’t the clean version
No question, I want it
Fire up, everybody smokin’
Your friends, my friends
And they ain’t leavin’ till six in the morning
What could have possibly led Timberlake to this seemingly opposite idea? Is this what the pop-veteran believes that his audience wants? What thirty-six year-old man sitting in the woods with his wife and toddler is artistically writing songs with the lyrics “what you gonna do with all that meat?/cookin’ up a mean servin’?” Am I to believe that he jumped up in what he thought was a stroke of genius and said “Jessica honey, I’ve got it! I’ll say ‘what you gonna do with all that meat?/cookin’ up a mean servin’?”
So far, this is what I’m lead to believe. That Man of the Woods, the family-inspired “personal” record, begins with a song as odd and underwhelming as “Filthy.” Sure, we still have the rest of the record to hear come February 2nd, two days before his Super Bowl Halftime Show, but it’s suffice to say that I, as of tonight, am 100% baffled.
What do you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.