The year 2018 has barely begun, and already, Justin Timberlake has returned with news of an album called Man of the Woods. The title, along with the folksy promotional media surrounding it, suggested a potentially more stripped-down and earthy sound from an artist who operates traditionally within R&B and electronic music.
If the album's first single, "Filthy," and its accompanying video are any indication though, we're in for a collection of funky dystopian bops.
"Filthy," as produced by trusted Timberlake collaborators Timbaland and Danja (who helped craft his landmark second LP, FutureSex/LoveSounds), is rhythmic and robotic. The video, directed by Mark Romanek — the visionary behind celebrated clips for Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, Taylor Swift, and more — serves as a showcase for an actual, well CGI, robot to put some moves down over the song.
The setting is the "Pan-Asian Deep Learning Conference" in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 20 years in the future, and Timberlake plays half-Steve Jobs type and half-marionettist, unveiling his latest creation to spectators as he controls the automaton offstage with his own dancing.
For a first taste of an album titled Man of the Woods, "Filthy" is remarkably mechanical. But that could just be a red herring, or a hint at the theoretical Bon Iver-style folktronica that awaits.
We'll find out when Man of the Woods drops on February 2. In the meantime, here's the tracklist, revealed by JT himself.