What is Justin Timberlake Doing?

Justin Timberlake, in a trailer for his new album, 'Man of the Woods.' (Vevo)

So you might have thought, what with calling his album Man of the Woods and naming his songs as if they were B-sides from a Ferlin Husky session, that Justin Timberlake were about to drop an overalls-and-pickups hey y'all budget-Mumford tender folksy record on what it is to really be a man, man, in like a hybrid Ron Swanson / Bon Iver embrace-your-whiteness reinvention from his MJ-aping era of FutureSex 20/20.

Admit it: you were into the idea. At the very least, you were into the idea of the schadenfreude in seeing Justin headline the Super Bowl halftime show and, instead of bringing out Janet and apologizing to her and letting her have the stage for the full halftime period, bring out a beat-up 1928 Martin guitar and sing songs about choppin' wood out by the shed and hearing a stadium full of NFL fans boo just as hard as they cheer for domestic abusers.

A scene from the trailer for Justin Timberlake's album.
A scene from the trailer for Justin Timberlake's album.

But no — there's a "this is why we can't have nice things" lesson in here somewhere, and it ends with Justin Timberlake's video premiere today of "Filthy." It is not a twang-twang rusted barn song, but a bleep-bloop dancefloor song with a strangely slogging beat that sounds like something Jamie Lidell would have done for Ninja Tune in 2005 but with the most expensive producers in the universe thrown at it. The video is some sort of TED-esque tech presentation with body mapping, robots, vaping, breakdancing, crotch grabs, and oh-so-relevant lyrics about what's real and what's #fakenews.

Um, enjoy?

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Anyway, Justin Timberlake is hinting at one thing and then doing another, which is right out of the playbook of someone else we all know, and I cannot wait for his split-personality album of both folksy ballads and club bangers to be derided as much as Nicki Minaj was when she released the great half-rap half-pop masterpiece Roman Reloaded and took heat for doing two things at once. Just kidding! Everyone will love it because he is a dude with a billion dollars in marketing.

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