Earlier this week, Justin Timberlake begun the unveiling of a fifth solo album in an Instagram post and a trailer that featured a lot of trees, horses roaming free and other natural settings. Fittingly, it was called Man of the Woods. Many on the internet thought this was funny because Timberlake once played Bon Iver in an SNL sketch while others though this pivot toward the “sounds of Southern and country rock” would be not unlike the latest efforts from singers like Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, both of whom have made acoustic pop albums in the past year in bids for critical and popular authenticity.
The music video for the record’s first single, the Timbaland-produced “Filthy,” features Timberlake digitally controlling a robot that busts some moves in front of a crowd of Asian businessmen and takes place ten years in the future. Filmed by Mark Romanek, who directed the Carey Mulligan-starring sci-fi Never Let Me Go back in 2010, the video is set at the fictional “Pan-Asian Deep Learning Conference” where Timberlake appears dressed as Steve Jobs’ sexier brother and presents the conference with his latest invention: a robotic exoskeleton with a club lights and an austere-looking face that performs “Filthy”: a wobby-bass thumper that succinctly cuts the distance between his earlier work with Timbaland on FutureSex/LoveSounds and whatever it is Flume’s been up to lately, before crashing into a power-chord chugging guitar solo. After the robot satisfies the crowd, Timberlake is ominously zapped away in what feels like a Black Mirror spoof of some kind. For what it’s worth, Timberlake does use the song to explore how haters are going to say that it is fake despite the fact that it is all real.
Man of the Woods is out February 2nd, two days before Timberlake is due to perform at the Super Bowl Halftime show in Minneapolis. Back in the album trailer, Pharrell is seen pontificating that something he is listening to is a smash. Fingers crossed.