Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods is definitely a stellar pop album. But listening to the music, folks can taste the dirt from his musically rich home state of Tennessee. There’s also Kentucky blues, some Oklahoma grit and Alabama soul.
Fans have already been caught up in the rhythm of his Chris Stapleton collaboration, “Say Something.” Stapleton also co-wrote the Alicia Keys duet “Morning Light,” and he played the opening guitar part on the Man of the Woods lead single “Filthy.”
But the song with the biggest country crossover potential is “The Hard Stuff.” Co-written with Stapleton, Eric Hudson, Elliott Ives and Robin Tadross, it’s a sweet love song about commitment with syncopated melodies and acoustic fingerpicking that would fit on any album by Thomas Rhett, Sam Hunt or Zac Brown Band.
Backstage at the 60th annual Grammy Awards, Stapleton described working with Timberlake as a “fluid process.”
“That was one of those things where there wasn’t necessarily a plan,” Stapleton said. “I have a blast with him. He’s a great creative force and one of those guys that if you get the chance to work with him, you should.”
Toby Keith gets a songwriter credit on the super funky “Sauce,” which samples Keith’s 2005 No. 1 “As Good As I Once Was.” In an Amazon interview, Timberlake described “Sauce” as the glue that binds “Filthy” and the title track. The dialogue at the beginning was lifted from an Instagram video starring a Best Buy employee who explains the difference between juice and sauce. He says, “Juice is temporary. Anyone can obtain the juice. You can say that just ’cause you got a nice car, ’Awe, man, you got the juice,’ it’s something that kind of comes and goes. Sauce … sauce is forever.”
“That kid has a lot of swagger, too,” Timberlake says. “When he’s explaining it, you’re like I believe that, and it actually makes a lot of sense … There’s a whole thing where he goes into where juice has an expiration date, but you can leave sauce, like barbecue sauce, in the refrigerator forever.”
The guitar parts on “Sauce” were inspired by Brittany Howard’s guitar on Alabama Shakes’ “I Don’t Want to Fight No More.”
“I was mixing the record,” Timberlake said, “and felt like I needed something rhythmic but that had a little bit of edge to it but was still fun like, ’How do I bridge ’Filthy’ and ’Man of the Woods?'”
Timberlake will headline Sunday’s (Feb. 4) halftime show at Super Bowl LII.