Earlier this week, Justin Timberlake released a trailer for his upcoming album Man of the Woods, which seem to cast him as a rugged wilderness man, especially if your idea of a rugged wilderness man is a less cerebral and more smug, but just as earnest, Bon Iver.
Last night, Timberlake released his first taste of Woods material—“Filthy” the electronic first single with its accompanying Steve Jobs/A.I.-themed video is decidedly... not of the woods. If given the choice of Timberlake trolls, though, I’d much rather have one like this than... Trolls.
The most impressive thing about the grinding “Filthy” is that sonically it’s not an obvious hit—it’s as much of a swerve as “SexyBack” (which, like “Filthy,” was produced with Timbaland and Danja) but even less potentially crowd pleasing. It’s spare and cacophonous initially as Timberlake rat-a-tats out the verses in a timbre that seems to be aiming for something between a James Brown provocation and a classic rock yelp. And then it subtly, deliciously smooths out into a groove for the hook (whose melody sounds, however inadvertently, partially copped from the New Kids on the Block’s 1991 hit “Call It What You Want”). Immediately, Timberlake sounds way more invested in his own song than he did in anything on the 20/20 Experience albums or, and he certainly isn’t pandering to the mushy ears of Middle America like he was with “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”
This isn’t awful and I kind of want to listen to it again to unpack it some more. What a year 2018 has been so far!!