After a month of brooding woodsy imagery, Justin Timberlake dropped his fifth studio album, Man of the Woods, on Friday — and the critics went at it.
The response isn't entirely surprising: The "JT is country now" promo campaign for the album was met with raised eyebrows right from the start. (As put by The Outline, he's been criticized for "rebranding" himself as a white man after creating a career by appropriating black culture.) And he's faced backlash for showing up the Golden Globes wearing a "Times Up" pin while also starring in a Woody Allen film.
Here, 10 of the meanest things critics have said about Man of the Woods, and the man that once gave us FutureSex/LoveSounds.
1. "We are now approaching the 12th year of the national delusion that The New York Timesremains an essential pop star." —
2."...listeners are subjected to unholy mashups of twangy guitars and hip-hop beats, like Wave’s unlistenable attempt at a hoedown stomp, made worse by lyrics that show Timberlake’s slipping grasp on sexy talk, like 'Sauce'’s egregiously bad 'I like your pink, you love my purple.'" —USA Today
3. "It’s disappointing. It’s kind of embarrassing. I want to say it’s well-intentioned, but it comes across like Timberlake just didn’t read the room on this one. Specifically, 'Flannel' is so poorly-timed that you can’t help but think it was intentional pandering to red states or worse. But isn’t that the most perfectly 2018 thing to happen to Justin Timberlake?" —Esquire
4. "When you dabble in country or Americana but don't have influences in mind to pay homage to, things are going to get weird." —Refinery29
5. "There’s definitely a nod to new Nashville here — however, we’re talking more Mumford & Sons if they started songwriting for Justin Bieber than the grit and guts of Waylon Jennings or the current king of classic country, Sturgill Simpson." —NME
6. "Nostalgia, though, is a form of homesickness, and on Man of the Woods the once-future-minded Timberlake seems to be yearning not only for his home but the good old days, when a man could wrap a woman in his flannel jacket and claim her as "his," a pop star’s album could do blockbuster, The Ringerwithout really trying, and we didn’t have to reckon with all these annoying and complicated conversations." —
7. "Timberlake may have yanked back the reins on the interminable song lengths of The 20/20 Experience, but many of these tracks still manage to overstay their welcome by a minute or two. They don’t have the hooks or the dynamism to justify their continued existence: phrases get recycled, breakdowns feel like intrusions from completely different songs, grooves are sought but remain undiscovered. 'Midnight Summer Jam' is a sub-
8. "Justin Timberlake needs a new brand manager." —The Philadelphia Inquirer
9. "You can imagine him working from an iPhone note of ungodly 3 a.m. ideas: '(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay' + 'Wait (The Whisper Song)' (resulting in 'Man of the Woods') or Boyz II Men covering Fleet Foxes doing 'I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In)' (it’s real, and it’s called 'Flannel')." —The Atlantic
10. "At its worst, Man of the Woods is like eavesdropping on conversations between the kinds of couples who go out in matching outfits." —Vulture
Timberlake will headline Sunday's Super Bowl Halftime Show, 14 years after the infamous #nipplegate where he revealed Janet Jackson's nipple during a performance of "Rock Your Body."
Meanwhile, Mindy Kaling is speaking for all of us: