What Happened to the Country Record Justin Timberlake Promised Us?
Take a step back for a minute, forget everything you’ve heard from Timberlake’s current record, Man of the Woods, and let’s take a look back at how we got here.
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In 2013, Justin Timberlake was interviewed on Sirius XM, and dropped the very first hints that his next record would be a country one. He said in as many words, “I still got my eyes set on a Best Country Album. There is time for that.” This quote was like a shot heard ’round the country and music world, causing ears to perk, and eyes to train on what Timberlake might do next. Was he being serious? Would Justin Timberlake really go country?
Then later in 2013, Timberlake spoke to The Tennessean in Nashville, and again dropped the notion he would make a country record—citing his work on Reba McEntire’s song “The Only Promise That Remains” in 2007 as experience and understanding of the genre—and that he would move to Nashville to make it. “I’m not just blowing smoke,” Timberlake said to the newspaper. “I don’t think I would move to Nashville. I KNOW I would move to Nashville. It’s a matter of time.”
And in June of 2015, that’s exactly what Justin Timberlake did. He purchased a 126-acre parcel in philanthropist Aubry Preston’s Lieper’s Fork community just south and east of Nashville for $4 million. This was the first step for Timberlake’s plan to return to his home state of Tennessee, and to make his move to country music.
Six months after the purchase of the Tennessee property, Justin Timberlake appeared on the 2015 CMA Awards with Chris Stapleton, singing “Tennessee Whiskey” with Stapleton, along with one his own song, “Drink You Away” from his previous record The 20/20 Experience. This wasn’t a fluke collaboration. Stapleton and Timberlake were already good friends, and 11 months prior, Timberlake had made his love for Stapleton known to the world by tweeting out, “REAL music fans already know. So, mainstream: @ChrisStapleton. Remember that name.”
With “REAL” in all caps, it appeared Timberlake knew there was a difference between what Stapleton was doing in country, and what everyone else in the “mainstream” was doing. This seemed to allude that whatever type of “country” record Justin Timberlake had his sights set on making, it would probably be more like Stapleton, and less “mainstream.”
And as we all know, the collaboration of Stapleton and Timberlake at the 2015 CMA Awards was arguably one of the biggest, most groundbreaking moments in country music in the last decade. It was the direct catalyst for the incredible sales run Chris Stapleton continues to be on here over two years later, and has completely re-shifted the paradigm in mainstream country.
But the point of that 2015 CMA collaboration was not just for Timberlake to help shine a spotlight on Chris Stapleton’s talents. It was to be the springboard to Justin Timberlake’s own country music pursuits. That is the specific reason he performed “Drink You Away” with Stapleton on the presentation as well.
Only two days after the 2015 CMA Awards on November 4th, representatives for Justin Timberlake were calling around to Nashville’s biggest studios—including the historic Studio ‘A’ (now operated by Dave Cobb)—to book studio time for Timberlake to record his new country project. And then on November 11th—only a week after his CMA appearance with Stapleton—Justin Timberlake released “Drink You Away” to country radio as a single.
And that wasn’t all. On November 17th, 2015—just two weeks removed from that 2015 CMA Awards moment—Timberlake’s primary producer, Timbaland, confirmed in an interview that Timberlake was going country, after being pressed with the question numerous times. And Timbaland revealed that he and Timberlake were so committed to the project, Timbaland had even moved to Nashville to study the music and learn the modes just like Timberlake.
“I gotta break country. I gotta tap into country,” Timbaland said. “I’m already posted up in Nashville. I’ve got a little spot in Nashville, so. That’s something I want to do ’cause I am music. So I can’t, I don’t discriminate no genres. I just like I learn it, I study it, and I love it.
And what type of country was Timbaland looking to study to help Timberlake? According to Timbaland, the type of country he and Timberlake had grown up listening to.
“We are country. He’s from Tennessee, I’m from Virginia,” Timbaland said. “It’s only right that we try to tap into you know, what we was raised, in, you know? And I feel like I was raised, we was raised in the country. I mean, that’s who we are. I mean we love love songs. We heard our parents sing ’em. You know, the old country songs.”
And not only that, Timbaland confirmed that Timberlake and Co. had big plans for their “Drink You Away” single they released to country radio. “‘Drink You Away’ was done on the ’20/20 Experience’ so, it’s now it’s one of the biggest songs, starting to be the biggest songs…” Timbaland said.
Again, forget what you know now about Man of the Woods, and try to understand what was happening with Justin Timberlake in November 2015 when his whole pursuit to make a move to country was being unveiled. It wasn’t just a lark. It wasn’t just a half-baked scheme or something he was doing with one foot in. He was already on record saying he wanted to make a “Best Country Album.” He was touting Chris Stapleton as something the “mainstream” should look out for. He and his producer were talking up their country roots. Both had uprooted and moved to Nashville and begun to study the modes of the music for this big country project. And they even had released a single to country radio as the first salvo towards the format.
…and then all of a sudden, everything stopped.
Even though Timbaland had said in November, 2015 that “Drink You Away” was beginning to be “one of the biggest songs,” almost immediately after the song was released to country radio, any and all support for the single was pulled. The studio requests Timberlake’s people had around Nashville for studio time? They expired without a single note being recorded that made it onto the new record. When Chris Stapleton got together with Timberlake to write songs for Man of the Woods, Stapleton traveled to Los Angeles, not vice versa. In fact despite Timberlake’s $4 million home purchase in Tennessee, it’s questionable how much time Justin spends there. In fact in 2017, he spent $20.2 million on a new apartment in the Tribeca portion of New York.
As we all know now, nothing about Justin Timberlake’s new record Man of the Woods is country. The failed country single “Drink You Away” from his album 20/20 Experience is probably more country than anything Man of the Woods can offer. The newer records from Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus that were touted as semi-country are incredibly more country than Man of the Woods. So was the “country” single from Beyonce, “Daddy Lessons.” And none of those things are very country at all. If anything, Man of the Woods feels decidedly the opposite of country, and purposefully so.
So what happened?
It’s less likely that Justin Timberlake and Timbaland were lying, and more likely that the country record Justin Timberlake envisioned never got made. At some point in the process, Timberlake must have had a change of heart. The entire pursuit was scrapped for what became Man of the Woods, which is country in motif and marketing only.
But there still seems to be this underlying effort by Justin to sell Man of the Woods as more “earthy,” or in his more updated assessment, “Americana with 808’s.” Of course it’s none of those things, not even close. Even during his Super Bowl performance, Justin was wearing a shirt with elks on it, pseudo-camo like an outdoorsman, and had a bandana tied around his neck like a cowboy, like he was still trying to see this earthy, country idea through, while performing music that was patently pop.
It can’t be our determination that Justin Timberlake is just utterly clueless of what actual country music is, because nobody could listen to Man of the Woods and think it’s country, or Americana, even in this day and age. But instead it appears Timberlake decided to make just another Timberlake record, and leave some of the “earthy” ideas surrounding it in tact almost as a marketing and packaging scheme—so perhaps he could justify some of the talk of making a country record that preceded the release, and maybe present a wrinkle to the public to create intrigue and talking points so it doesn’t just feel like “another Justin Timberlake record.”
But that’s exactly what Man of the Woods is. It’s strikingly unimaginative, and aggressively unearthy. It sounds like the record Beck was funning on when he released his ridiculous sexy urban concept album Midnight Vultures in 1996. But of course that was 22 years prior to Man of the Woods, which speaks to how basic Man of the Woods is in scope. It’s not that the album is a complete washout. There are a couple of moments, like the song “Flannel” where the record feels very personal to Timberlake. Like Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, you feel like this is a record Timberlake made for his son Silas, whose name roughly translates to the title of the record. But any “earthy” textures come from this strange survivalist theme that pops up a few times on the record, including in one of the singles, “Supplies.”
But in total, Man of the Woods is certainly a washout as a country record, or even as a record that would compel one to listen to it 10 years from now. Like Taylor Swift’s recent Reputation, the album feels like an overplayed hand, too self-absorbed, maybe overthought, and overly-reliant on electronic production.
There’s really no reason to think that Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and others outright lied when they said they would make a country record. It just appears the record they were talking about was not the one that got made. As all popular music continues to lunge towards producer-based electronic sounds, now more than ever it is dependent on country music to be able to offer organic choices in the music marketplace, meaning real songs made by real people and real instruments, sort of like what Justin Timberlake alluded to in his 2014 tweet about Stapleton when he said, “REAL music fans already know.…”
And Justin knows too. He just chose to go in a different direction than what he originally set out to. Did he get spooked when nobody in country radio got excited about the “Drink You Away” single? Did his label get involved and feel a country move was too risky? Did someone convince Timberlake making a country record was a bad idea? Perhaps Timberlake was just the latest casualty of the antiquated and insular Music Row system because he just didn’t want to deal with the drama which is country’s radio system. And maybe his record after Man of the Woods will actually be a country effort, if anyone will take him seriously after the country music seesaw of the last two years.
The fact that Man of the Woods is decidedly not a country record can either be seen as a big letdown, or a blessing in disguise for country music. When an alpha male of Timberlake’s caliber enters your sphere of the music world, it’s ultimately going to result in dramatic reverberations of some kind, positive or negative. Now, we may never know what the Timberlake effect on country music would have been. Because regardless of anyone’s personal take on Man of the Woods, what everyone can agree on—even in this modern music world where genre lines are blurred more than ever—is that Man of the Woods is most assuredly not country.
February 5, 2018 @ 10:09 am
I hear constantly about how this guy has a great voice. I’ve never heard it. There is a lot of “what-whatting,” grunting, and bippity boppity, etc., but not much singing. When he does sing, it sounds weak, flat and effeminate. I think this guy is just a huge fraud created by the entertainment industry. And don’t get me started on his dancing…. Dancing isn’t fit for decent folks, especially that kind of dancing.
February 5, 2018 @ 11:58 am
“Dancing isn’t fit for decent folks…” Are you a time traveler from Puritan New England? Or John Lithgow in Footloose?
February 5, 2018 @ 12:02 pm
Leave room for the Holy Spirit.
February 5, 2018 @ 2:42 pm
Not only does his singing leave much to be desired, but his songs are completely forgettable. Even a casual listener of any genre call tell you that Michael Jackson sang “Thriller”, Ricky Martin sang “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, and MC Hammer sang “U Can’t Touch This”. Outside of NSYNC or being a super-fan, it’s a challenge to remember any Justin Timberlake song off of the top of your head. He does not have a memorable voice, memorable style, or memorable catalog. The lyrics to the songs on Man of the Woods are barely coherent and read as some cryptic mix of aspiring rapper and E. E. Cummings on glue, and the music videos have almost nothing to do with the actual content of the music. He’ll be wheeled back into storage until he gets another bout of indigestion that he mistakes for inspiration and then makes a whole record around it.
February 5, 2018 @ 5:20 pm
”’Not only does his singing leave much to be desired, but his songs are completely forgettable…’
This , in one sentence , is the issue . Forgettable songs, melodies ,lyrics and ‘themes’ that do not resonate with anyone . JT’s material can be likened to …well molehills made from smaller molehills …..and that is SO unfortunate . Because I think we’d have to grant that he can entertain ….at least far better than most pop and /or rap guys . But like Shania Twain and many many others , he needs to concede that HE IS AN AWFUL WRITER and bring some GREAT writers on board . People who know melody and how to write a hook AND perhaps even find a producer who can get the most from his voice ( although he seems disinterested in singing if you go by his half-time show )
JT probably could still bring something of value to the table if he got out of his own way , found some new and inspiring writers to work with and tried ” keeping it real ” …not all trendy and hip and strawgraspingly boring and desperate . But he may have to sacrifice his teen idol image to do it . And it doesn’t appear he’s ready to do that .
Ghost of Country Past
February 5, 2018 @ 8:19 pm
Forgettable isn’t a phrase I’d use. I don’t know how old y’all are but Cry Me a River has people singing along the second you belt out a line. We can all debate the merits of his work but forgettable isn’t the word I’d use.
February 6, 2018 @ 12:04 am
Fair enough , Ghost …….perhaps that particular song resonates with a particular demographic
But saying that …there are so many pop entertainers whose songs are so much more memorable and well-written that they cross age demographics , genres and musical eras . ( Michael Jackson , Bruno, Prince , Adele , Queen , Stones ,Beatles , and on and on and on.
February 5, 2018 @ 9:38 pm
You are overlooking Dick In A Box. I think that fits into your casual listener paradigm.
February 5, 2018 @ 10:22 pm
Dick In A Box is brilliant and in all seriousness was a big turning point for Timberlake’s post N Sync career.
February 7, 2018 @ 5:47 pm
“cryptic mix of aspiring rapper and E. E. Cummings on glue”
February 6, 2018 @ 5:40 am
He’s the male version of Ellen DeGeneres, what with all the goofy singing, dancing and mugging. That’s not necessarily a bad thing … if you like Ellen and think the world needs a male version of Ellen.
I do not. One version of Ellen DeGeneres is enough for me.
Fat Freddy's Cat
February 5, 2018 @ 10:10 am
I haven’t heard Man Of The Woods and probably won’t since I’ve never been into Timberlake. The one problem I have with the album is its title: when I read or hear it I automatically think of the Jethro Tull album Songs From The Wood. Which, natch, gives away my age.
February 5, 2018 @ 10:19 am
With the tree trunk turntable on the back cover.
G Harp and a Larrivee
February 5, 2018 @ 10:14 am
I thought his halftime show was pretty mediocre. Yeah – he can dance – we already knew that. Musically, the best part was the Prince hologram duet. In other words, not his own music. YMMV…
February 5, 2018 @ 10:44 am
That wasn’t a hologram. They settled for a projection.
February 5, 2018 @ 4:26 pm
I wasn’t sure his mic was even on for most of it. P!nk’s anthem was a much more impressive performance than anything Timberlake did.
February 5, 2018 @ 5:22 pm
He was noticeably lip syncing the Trolls song, at least ….I’m surprised reviews have not mentioned that .
February 5, 2018 @ 11:04 pm
Every artist to perform the halftime show has either out right lip synched or sang along a track.
I read today that the only band to ever play their instruments live was The Rolling Stones.
I remember reading Petty admitted to singing to a track. You have to. The room is too big.
February 6, 2018 @ 8:50 am
I’m pretty sure Springsteen sang his live 6 or 7 years ago.
February 6, 2018 @ 8:51 am
February 7, 2018 @ 5:50 pm
Prince played and sang live.
February 5, 2018 @ 10:19 am
Good work trig
February 5, 2018 @ 10:24 am
I think the reason for the switch might be in the production credits. Timbaland was barely on this album only getting credit for 4 tracks and 2 of those were Stapleton co-writes. It was more of a Neptunes production and it sounds like it. I honestly don’t think Pharrell Williams and The Neptunes knew what to do with the Americana influences Timberlake wanted to bring to the record.
February 5, 2018 @ 5:34 pm
According to interviews, Timberlake had three sets of producers in pairs, all working on the songs autonomously from each others, and whomever came up with the best track got the credit.
February 6, 2018 @ 5:09 am
And for perspective on that, Wayne Hancock goes in a studio and records and produces an album of great material full of melodys, stories, ripping , shredding picking and some of the most authentic sounding country music, and completes it in less than a week.
February 5, 2018 @ 10:39 am
Part of me is curious as to what a JT country record would sound like, but part of me is almost relieved, in a way, that he didn’t go fully country with this one. He’s a pop artist and will always be one. Not that I would’ve doubted his efforts, because he flirts with several different styles and he mostly goes about it the right way. He’s a very talented musician and performer. But let’s be real; we’ve all seen what usually happens to a pop or rock artist’s career when they try to crossover into the country realm. I promise this isn’t a jab at country music, and anyone who knows me would know that, but when someone who isn’t a country artist to begin with attempts to cross over into that realm, it damn near kills their career. We’ve already seen it with Steven Tyler. It’s basically like being on Dancing With the Stars. Of course there are exceptions, such as Aaron Lewis and of course Buddy Holly’s guitar player, Mr. Waylon Jennings.
February 5, 2018 @ 10:40 am
*Bass player. Had to correct myself there.
February 5, 2018 @ 11:37 am
Don’t forget that heavy metal dude named Cody Jinks. He’s doing okay with his country crossover.
February 5, 2018 @ 11:47 am
Yeah you’re right. And his new album will be pure thrash metal!
February 5, 2018 @ 11:49 am
Very true. Stoked for “Lifers.”
February 5, 2018 @ 12:34 pm
I’d say he’s doing more than okay, especially if his new album coming out has anything to say about it. He’s outselling a lot of the mainstream bros and has amassed a huge following (still growing) and he’s doing it all without a record label behind him.
February 5, 2018 @ 4:50 pm
Yes, obviously he’s doing more than ok. I was speaking in jest.
February 5, 2018 @ 2:16 pm
I think he means people who were mainstream stars in other genres
February 5, 2018 @ 10:57 am
This is pretty much where I stand on this. Plenty of artist have tried to cross over when it felt like their careers were slowing down only to be shown they don’t have the chops to make it on Country radio or gain a very big following with the “SCM” types. I imagine the assessment was correct to pull out of the entire project. I wouldn’t want to see Timbaland be the one to produce a country record anyway, if Timberlake was to try his hand at this I’d like to see him go to Cobb, Sturgill etc. and have them make something of the album.
If we do get a Country album from him some day I will be interested in how it turns out. He’s got the chops but I don’t know if he can write anything that will be worth more than 1 spin in the Country genre.
February 5, 2018 @ 12:46 pm
I would LOVE a Dave Cobb produced JT album. That’s something I could easily get behind.
February 5, 2018 @ 10:43 am
I demand 2 articles ago … NO MORE TIMBERLAKE!
I don’t hate the dude … he’s like that water chestnut you get in your Chinese takeout – annoying, no value, but in the end harmless (crunch, crunch).
His halftime show was more like an exercise video – steps, walking, jumps, stretching. And with all that activity, I was bored out of my mind, wishing for the days of the Black Eyed Peas (at least they had Slash).
Fat Freddy's Cat
February 5, 2018 @ 10:46 am
I was bored too; I kept waiting for something interesting to happen and it just never did.
February 5, 2018 @ 11:06 am
I have a feeling this might be the last of the Timberlake themed articles. But yeah, what is the point of water chestnuts?
As for the show, I wasn’t sure it just wasn’t for me or not very good. I didn’t know any of the songs, except the last one sounded familiars. My daughters liked it OK, but weren’t overly bowled over about it. At some point, I started feeling “please don’t bring Stapleton on stage. He does NOT need to be part of this.”
February 5, 2018 @ 12:57 pm
The two things of importantance that did occur – Rock Your Body in the set list and Prince’s image- went over my head during the performance.
Using Rock Your Body last night was arrogant (that’s the song that they were performing when JT exposed the 40 year old tit). Many writers are claiming that was a selfish attempt to reclaim the song.
I didn’t initially get the outrage of the use of Prince’s image deregulated from a hologram to projection. But, there was a piece in the NYT that obliterated JT for it … NYT obliterate JT
“… and to those loath to see another black body handed over to a performer who had so famously mishandled one in the past.”
Once again, I missed all of his during the time because I was bored.
February 5, 2018 @ 10:43 am
I really like Justin but this one doesn’t intrigue me at all. “Say Something” is just okay to me and I wanted to love It because I love both these guys. The chorus is good but then it peters out, IMO. He does have a good voice and I think he’s immensely talented but the reviews have not been good from this.
February 5, 2018 @ 10:48 am
I really don’t know why you were so focused on this in the first place. Let this be a lesson I guess. Don’t put all this time into something until it’s in front of you. Just sounds like you spent tons of time chasing rumers and speculating about what this could have been. Honestly who cares, he is a pop star. I mean it is your blog and everything so you do what you want but I don’t think that was what your blog was supposed to be about. I mean three articles on this JT album (that I know of) that never really was country and no review on the new Eleven Hundred Springs album. Doesn’t make sense to me.
February 5, 2018 @ 11:13 am
Hey, man. This happens sometimes. Trigger’s gonna write about what he’s motivated to write about at the time. Remember all those Taylor Swift articles? I’ve come to accept that his chosen mission and what I want out of this site as a music fan is not a perfect match. Good thing he’ a prolific sumbitch.
February 5, 2018 @ 11:23 am
Yeah sometimes I feel like these are like articles just to get more clicks… This years articles seem very tabloid driven so far. In Real news looks like Larry Joe Taylor Fest 2018 is going to have one of the Best Festival Lineups of all time this year….
February 5, 2018 @ 12:45 pm
It seems Trigger was pretty set on the whole idea, without any confirmation that it was happening at all. I don’t think anyone else has noticed that the country album has been shelved.
February 5, 2018 @ 2:09 pm
I’m pretty impressed by the article — well-written and informative. The content matter is always subjective to the writer, but I’m sure Trigger appreciates suggestions as well as compliments. One thing we can all agree on…Timberlake = not country.
February 5, 2018 @ 5:47 pm
Because I am a one-man operation and cannot cover every single album/artist/song/issue, I tend to focus on certain subjects so that I can become informed and an expert on it, and speak upon it with authority. That is why I cover Sturgill Simpson so often, because I wrote the first ever article about the guy, conducted his first interview, and will cover him throughout his career, whatever he does. That’s why I cover the issue of the lack of representation of women on the radio so often. I wrote 17 articles on the “I Saw The Light” movie, which was arguably just as much of a washout as this Justin Timberlake record.
The other reason I focus in on certain subjects is because I believe they are very important, and need to be addressed in an in-depth manner. As I tried to establish in this article, the Justin Timberlake country record was no “rumor.” Timbaland confirmed it, Justin might as well have confirmed it, he released a single to country radio, bought a place in Nashville, and started the process to book studio time. Justin Timberlake WAS going to record a country record in Nashville, and I think the record he wanted to make would have been much closer to Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller” that what “Man of the Woods” turned out to be.
In hindsight, sure I could have covered this issue a little bit less. But if “Man of the Woods” would have been a shit kicker recorded in Studio ‘A’ with Nashville session musicians and turned the music world upside down, all that coverage would have been downright required.
February 6, 2018 @ 9:07 am
My comment may have been misinterpreted. I was complimenting you on noticing something which many others in the media hadn’t, particularly as the album hadn’t been ‘confirmed’ (meaning release date, etc, which would have given the concept more awareness). This is why this is a good site. You pick up on what’s going on and bring it to wider attention.
February 5, 2018 @ 1:00 pm
Although I think Trig does have a little man crush on JT, I feel all the articles posted by him were newsworthy. C’mon. Just think if this did come to fruition! Trig would be neglected his journalistic duties if he didn’t report on it!
February 5, 2018 @ 1:38 pm
Okay then maybe it is worth one article mentioning that it could be a country album when the say something track came out. You could rate the say something track and talk about it possibly of it being a country album coming in the future. But there where so many articles for no reason at all it turns out.
There is no reason he would release a country album either cause of this thing called money. The record company and him stand to make way more money with a pop album and I could have told you that it wouldn’t be country from the beginning. IT’s called common sense. All this was a waste of time. I think trigger has such talent and I just think it is a waste writing about stuff like this.
February 5, 2018 @ 5:50 pm
I think at some point we will get a deeper explanation of why there was a switch with this record, and it very well could be a record label involved, either with Timberlake’s label, or the powers that be on Music Row being unwilling to accept Timberlake into the format. There is a reason Timberlake bailed on his country record idea. We just don’t know why yet.
February 5, 2018 @ 8:15 pm
Let me clear that up for you. He considered the fans. JT has a timorous frame. He wouldn’t been able to handle the stage dive into the audience. As well, most likely he has gone to some of the country shows and got a good look at the audience he would be courting, and thought better of it. You see when he performed in 2015 with Chris Stapleton, the audience had to pay a lot more for their seats. There weren’t any brawls, no beer bottles were thrown at his head and guns weren’t anywhere.
February 5, 2018 @ 10:51 am
I would still listen to every song on this album a hundred times before I would listen to “Body Like a Back Road” once.
The Goddess Of Country Rock
February 5, 2018 @ 11:04 am
There are MANY, MANY reasons I can’t stand Justin Timberlake, but I don’t want to put y’all to sleep, so I’ll just talk about four things.
1. With a few exceptions here and there, most of his Brawny Man Wannabe Halftime Show seems to have been met with a giant, resounding “MEH.” This makes me very happy.
2. As much as I love Chris Stapleton, and I really do, I HATE that Justin is the one I have to thank for truly bringing him to America’s attention. UGH. -_-
3. Reverting back to my 10 year old *NSYNC fan girl in 1999 for a second: JC SHOULD HAVE HAD THE BIG SOLO CAREER, DAMN IT.
Okay, I’m back. 🙂
4. I noticed that he has a song on his new album called “Montana”, but it’s not called “Meet Me in Montana”, and features no Marie Osmond duet, so I’m not interested.
(I’m just kidding about that last one…but only a little bit.)
So…yeah, I think country music fans dodged a GIGANTIC bullet on this front. I have NO faith any country album (or even “country” album) would have been any good AT ALL, whether he’s a Chris Stapleton fan or not.
But of course, I may have spoke too soon. Oh well.
February 5, 2018 @ 11:09 am
Man of the Woods is still more country than Sam Hunt
Saving Bro Country Music
February 5, 2018 @ 11:28 am
I don’t think “Justin Timberlake is making a country album” was a realistic concept.
For starters, he’s still young enough to care about charts and hits. Beyond the fact that country would place a lower ceiling on his commercial success, it would also require him (as Drink You Away proved) to “work the system.” Justin Timberlake was not going to spend two years kissing up to country radio professionals.
The other reason why it was unrealistic is actually the same reason you were so intrigued by a Justin Timberlake country album: he probably would have wanted it to be reasonably authentic and traditional. If so, he would further limit his commercial ceiling.
People tell this fake narrative about Taylor Swift “taking a risk” by declaring 1989 to be a pop album, as if her pre-existing fans LOVED her specifically for her traditional country sound. Taylor Swift’s transformation was more about branding (and allocation of radio promo dollars), not her fundamental sound.
Timberlake, on the other hand, is an R&B-leaning pop artist. A traditional country sound WOULD be a legitimate musical departure for him — and a legitimate risk.
— All of this explains why I never really bought into a Justin Timberlake “country album” – at least right now.
I did, however, expect him to perhaps release a pop album with some tasteful country or Americana influences — or at least real instruments. Basically, use “country” the way other pop artists use EDM or hip-hop.
I figured the sound would be in the vein of “Say Something.” Which, interestingly, does appear to have the best chance at success — not just in general, but at POP radio.
— What I can’t explain is why he marked this particularly album the way he did. It’s pretty lose-lose in the sense that people were going to be:
— Potentially disinterested in Timberlake doing a “woods” album.
— Expecting an Americana album and then disappointed when they didn’t get it.
Plus, it also forced him to use some “outdoorsy” lyrics and instruments on records for which they are not at all a fit. It leads to disjointed, unenjoyable music.
February 5, 2018 @ 11:28 am
What’s also bizzare is he’s promoting his band as the Tennessee Kids and using the #CountryBoy in all his tweets. So if he knows Man of the Woods isn’t country, then is it something more sinister .. his intentions? Does he think he could change the format?
February 5, 2018 @ 11:36 am
Obviously the primary consideration nowadays for a pop star going “country” is simply to say “I’m country”. After all, that is the only link that I am seeing from many of these chameleons with no substance.
February 5, 2018 @ 12:04 pm
The Chainsmokers are more country that this dink.
February 5, 2018 @ 4:56 pm
But far less talented. JT can sing and dance, but the Chainsmokers are nothing more than two douches with laptops.
February 5, 2018 @ 5:47 pm
At least they don’t try to exploit the origins they abandoned.
Timberlake is a pure performer. He’s really good at it. Totally appropriate he appeared with a projection, because in the end, Timberlake is just a projection, too.
Country music is real. Even the glitzy Nudie suits were a kind of gag.
February 5, 2018 @ 12:25 pm
I agree. I also think that Beyoncé’s “Daddy things” is more “country” than anything Justin Timberlake’ has made so far. Much more than “Drink you away”. We don’t know why Timberlake never fulfilled his promise but why did he talked about that, then? Facts are more important than words. Beyoncé never proclaimed she would make something country, but what she did with only one song was more convincing than any other Timberlake’s attempt. Let’s what happens in the future!
February 5, 2018 @ 12:31 pm
In all honesty, who cares ???? After seeing/ hearing that garbage at half time, how could anyone be waiting to hear his take on country.
February 5, 2018 @ 12:46 pm
Justin this & Justin that.
Again: he was not country, he is not country & he never ever will be country.
Well…since his career will fade (after the shitty halftime performance) he will think about a “country” album. Country music…the last resort for aging/fading stars.
Or he can teach a Zumba beginner class. Yesterday the choreography looked a lot like “sweatin’ to the oldies”.
February 5, 2018 @ 1:31 pm
Here’s the last time Justin did country:
He left that for the Mickey Mouse Club, Britney, NSYNC, etc.
February 5, 2018 @ 1:33 pm
Why is all this supposed to be relevant to country music again?
February 5, 2018 @ 2:01 pm
While I do think this album was slightly overhyped, JT does generally deliver on his production value. Granted, this album is by no means country, but should still be judged based on musicality and sound quality, not just the content of the songs. I was really hoping for some deeper Nashville roots, (or at least a second Stapleton feature!), but in reality you can’t expect much country to really come from JT — it’s just not his style. I agree that it was slightly disappointing because of his hinting over the years, but maybe he’ll come around at some point. As for now, country is surely still not in his library.
P.S. I love the comparison to Taylor Swift’s Reputation. Both major label-backed releases that promoted the possibility of genre-jumping, but then ended up as nothing but the same.
– Rhythm & Boots NYC
February 5, 2018 @ 2:16 pm
When JT goes on a late night talk show or whatever, and sings somebody else’s song, he reveals that he does have a really good voice. But that voice never shows up on his own songs. And it’s not a voice that translates well to country music. It’s high register and falsetto-infused.
Let’s bury this non-story out back.
February 5, 2018 @ 2:26 pm
A better question is why has SCM been putting out op-ed and news articles about Justin Timberlake for the last three years? Look what it accomplished.
February 5, 2018 @ 6:05 pm
Who knows what it accomplished? Perhaps Timberlake or his peeps were reading these articles and/or the comments, and it was one of the reasons they decided to bail on the original country project.
February 5, 2018 @ 9:47 pm
Ah, yes. That must be it. I’m sure Timberlake spends lots of free time browsing this site and decided this group and their fearless leader would be too much for him to handle had he followed through with a country album. Country music has been saved after all. 🙏🏻😇 Nice work, everyone. Carry on.
February 6, 2018 @ 4:27 am
February 5, 2018 @ 2:29 pm
“Justin Timberlake should make a country record. And now.”
Fast forward three years – Well folks, he didn’t. Can we move on now? Why does anyone care?
February 5, 2018 @ 2:49 pm
I suspect that a major reason that some people cared is because Timberlake is a big enough star that him deciding to record a traditional-leaning Country album may be impactful enough to shift the sound at mainstream Country radio and encourage other artists to shift back to a more traditional sound.
Now, do I think that was ever realistic? No, but I suspect that is why some people cared.
For me, all I know is Timberlake continues to be as vanilla as possible as an artist. His Superbowl performance was a perfect indication of this fact. Nothing was terrible about his performance last night, but holy hell was it boring. The same likely would have been true of any supposed Country record he once planned to make or will ever make.
February 5, 2018 @ 3:03 pm
Be grateful. It’s almost impossible to imagine he could make a good country album.
February 5, 2018 @ 3:15 pm
Are they considering ‘Say Something’ as a country song? If yes then it will debut at #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart this week as it has debuted in the top ten on the Hot 100 chart ahead of Bebe Rexha.
If no how can that be reconciled with Rexha/FGL.
February 5, 2018 @ 5:56 pm
What Billboard’s chart managers will say is “Say Something” hasn’t been released to country radio. If they do, then we have a number of issues on our hands.
February 5, 2018 @ 6:10 pm
I agree that will be what is said but what about all the album cuts which debut on that chart not to mention the songs from contestants on shows like ‘The Voice’? Virtually all of these are not worked to radio but they appear on that chart.
February 5, 2018 @ 8:41 pm
No dice for ‘Say Something’ but ‘Broken Halos’ is up to #9 on the new airplay chart which is a new career high for Stapleton on that chart.
February 5, 2018 @ 4:10 pm
I really wanted a Timberlake county album. I’m a fan of the guy cause my mom listened to him when I was a kid and I like him too, and he’s funny. But I feel like he got kinda nervous with the thought of releasing a completely country album, or maybe his label or managers did, so he went at it kind of halfway, and it resulted in a not so good album. He should have stuck to his usual routine or went in with the country angle all the way, because now people are just laughing at him.
February 5, 2018 @ 4:37 pm
Global pop wouldn’t care if American county went extinct. Only approved things get to be sustainable.
February 5, 2018 @ 5:27 pm
Excellent read that mirrored my thoughts on the album… not sure what’s more weird… his and his dancers 1997 Eddie Bauer collection or the fact that Toby Keith has a writing credit on the album.
February 5, 2018 @ 5:32 pm
This reminds me of what happened with Sheryl Crow although she actually managed to release her country album. Her music was clearly closer to country in the first place compared to JT’s but she’s been very open about how she’s had to backtrack on her complete transition to country because of how the industry works (specifically radio) and has went back to releasing rock/americana. Timberlake probably intended to make a country album but couldn’t be bothered dealing with the mess that is the country music industry.
February 5, 2018 @ 6:00 pm
I really have no evidence to back this up aside from the timeline, which puts Timberlake as busy as a bee in Nashville in November of 2015, and then falling completely off the face of the Earth, but I think “couldn’t be bothered dealing with the mess that is the country music industry” is exactly what spooked Timberlake, and he decided to bug out. I think he was trying to line up studio time, producers, sessions players, while trying to launch a single to country radio, and figured out real quickly what an insular and backwards reality Music Row lives in. Since Timberlake is Timberlake, even if he did make a traditional country record, radio would need to participate somewhat, and there was no guarantee of that for him or his label.
February 5, 2018 @ 6:23 pm
I wonder if he realizes that people like him are the ones that created the mess?
February 5, 2018 @ 6:15 pm
Justin Timberlake’s never been on my radar. He has a weak voice, looks kinda dorky, and his style of music just isn’t in my wheelhouse. The fact he can dance doesn’t sweeten the pot. Not sure why he is even being mentioned on this site. Isn’t he kinda irrelevant within this context? Just my opinion…
February 5, 2018 @ 7:13 pm
I’ve always liked JT. I grabbed his album when i saw it in walmart the other day thinking this was the new country record, the background of the woods caught my eye when i was walking by the CD rack. When i saw the label saying “Rock/Pop”, I put it back…really disappointed. Country marketing but no country music….what were they thinking..
February 5, 2018 @ 8:44 pm
This was clearly a long- planned devious ploy designed to elicit free press coverage from esteemed country music journalists who had previously denied Justin covarage in their publications due to strict musical genre-based readership and advertising concerns.
February 5, 2018 @ 9:21 pm
“What happened to the country album Justin timberlake promised us” – Who gives a shit? I’m sure it would be nothing short of an abomination. F this guy and all his bullshit, he should stick to pop and doing Saturday night live, at least he’s good at that shit.
February 5, 2018 @ 10:52 pm
Well written article, Trigger. I don’t know much about Mr. Timberlake, but you have provided a lot of information and I read much of your content because you write well and are generally balanced (apart from the enjoyable rant interludes). Seems the guy is happily married with a child and enjoying family life. He needs to make some money to pay for his multi million dollar properties and still afford to put his kid through college like the rest of us…based upon the comments that he seems to just be “going through the motions” on this record, maybe he is. He made a pop album to make money. He’s not hungry or inspired and as Albert noted, he doesn’t have good song writers. Forget the trouble of breaking into a new (country) genre. Just make a record that the record company will market to death and the minions will purchase and then cash the paychecks. Can’t really blame the guy. If Stapleton is hanging out and collaborating, you have to assume Timberlake is probably a nice, genuine guy. His music and art are horrible and forgettable and will eventually fade into oblivion. But the corporate machine that is the music business knows how to sell hay to cows in a grass pasture. Hell, I’m in Tokyo working and stopped by Tower records since they have a gigantic six story one here and daydream about when we had record stores in the US of A. The advertising for that Timberlake album was incredible. The guy is going to move units with that marketing inertia…so now I’m going to go board a plane for nine hours, put on the Bose, put my boots up and turn up the Jeremy Pinnell, Turnpike Troubadours, Sunny Sweeney and other great stuff you recommended…and I’ll forget about that orange earthyless marketing blob in Tower Records and the country record that never was!
February 6, 2018 @ 12:12 am
Something we should probably keep in mind in the JT GOES COUNTRY discussion is this . How does JT define ‘ country music “? It should not be at all surprising that JT would be more aligned with the Florida Georgia ,Keith Urban , Thomas Rhett definitions than any REAL country kind of record .
But saying that …. I really am not interested in ANYONE who jumps on the country music bandwagon from a pop genre . There are far too many other deserving long-time dedicated practitioners of the real thing that need to be acknowledged and recognized for that .
February 6, 2018 @ 4:14 am
Your last sentence is all that needs to be said.
February 6, 2018 @ 5:19 am
More like Mouseka male.
February 6, 2018 @ 5:57 am
Who would ever label Justin Timberlake an “alpha male?” I saw an interview with Lance Bass where he said that everyone involved with Nsync just assumed that Timberlake was gay. If Justin Timberlake is today’s exemplar of an alpha male, we’re more decayed than I thought.
February 6, 2018 @ 5:34 am
I believe it’s this Timbaland fella that helped ruin a Chris Cornell solo album – of course Cornell deserved most of the blame… Euphoria Morning was unbelievable then years later, a pop album. I’m in the camp that doesn’t think Timberlake has ever done anything noteworthy enough to believe he could make a good country album. He could maybe make a popular one though.
February 6, 2018 @ 6:15 am
“It feels like Wild West, but now”.
What a shit show.
February 6, 2018 @ 8:33 am
JT new album is getting very mixed reviews just like his super bowl performance. I did not like either one. JT should have had other performers with him like in past super bowls but he wanted it all about him. It didn’t work. Also JT moved to Hollywood when he was very young to work for Disney. Remember Brittany? He lives part time in LA with his actress wife. JT is not country but I don’t care. JT has always been pop and R&B.
February 6, 2018 @ 10:45 am
Shouldn’t we be asking why Chris Stapleton was so involved in making a pop album and why isn’t he facing the same scrutiny as Maren Morris for going pop/EDM?
It all comes down to money. Justin likes selling a lot of albums in the US and abroad and going full country wasn’t going to do it for him. Business trumped pet project.
Saving Bro Country Music
February 6, 2018 @ 11:47 am
“Say Something” is not at all the same type of pop record as “The Middle.”
Chris Stapleton’s own albums, meanwhile, have nothing like “Rich” or “80s Mercedes” on them.
There’s a huge difference between the two.
That said, I find your broader point somewhat curious in that the correct narrative – from my eyes – is that Maren Morris hasn’t been getting nearly enough criticism for her sound. She’s a critical darling.
And outside of this site and a few other places, she’s considered “one of the good ones” when it comes to the state of mainstream country (at least in comparison to someone like Kelsea Ballerini).
February 7, 2018 @ 10:10 am
Why should Maren be criticized for her sound? Rich and 80’s Mercedes are on her debut album out there for the world to see. That’s her sound. She didn’t make a full on country/America album with a cowboy hat on her head only to go pop when it suited her.
February 7, 2018 @ 1:04 pm
She didn’t make a full on country/America album with a cowboy hat on her head only to go pop when it suited her.
If Stapleton released a song like Say Something on one of HIS albums or played such a song live at a concert I was at, that would be disappointing. The fact that he contributed to one song on Timberlake’s album bothers me about as much as Bob Dylan doing that Victoria’s Secret commercial some years back. That is, hardly at all.
February 7, 2018 @ 2:10 pm
That’s your prerogative but to call Maren out is bullshit.
Saving Bro Country Music
February 9, 2018 @ 12:03 pm
Not even sure what you’re responding to.
You asked why Chris Stapleton isn’t receiving the same scrutiny as Maren Morris.
My point was that I have no idea what you’re talking about, because Maren Morris has consistently gotten a pass for her pop-leaning music.
If you are hearing scrutiny over “The Middle,” that only proves my point. People have convinced themselves she’s some sort of legit, admirable “country” artist — even though her debut album had multiple pop songs on it.
Lord Honky Of Crackersley
February 6, 2018 @ 11:18 am
😂😂😂😂 Trigger called Justin Timberlake an alpha male.
February 6, 2018 @ 5:40 pm
NPR Music Critic Ann Powers had this to say during a discussion of Justin’s Super Bowl performance, touching on Justin’s new album:
“There is what I think is a buried masterpiece — maybe masterpiece is strong — but Justin Timberlake could have made a great country album. It’s kind of on there; he collaborates with Chris Stapleton, the current country leading man, and there are several songs that sound so much like the best of mainstream country. But he refused that role, and I think that was a huge mistake on his part.”
February 11, 2018 @ 8:01 pm
“We are country. He’s from Tennessee, I’m from Virginia,” Timbaland said. “It’s only right that we try to tap into you know, what we was raised, in, you know? And I feel like I was raised, we was raised in the country.”
LOL, this guy sounds like he has an IQ of MAYBE 90. Being from the South doesn’t make one “country” at all. Timbaland is from Norfolk/VA Beach = not the country. Timberlake is from suburban Memphis (until age ~14 when he moved to Disney World, then boybandland, then Hollywood) = not the country.
February 11, 2018 @ 8:15 pm
I was thinking recently that Prince’s “Alphabet Street” would probably be considered semi-country today. He does say “Tennessee” in there!