Justin Timberlake within the teaser video for Man of the Woods.
RCA / Through youtube.com
“It seems like mountains, bushes, campfires, like Wild West, however now,” Jessica Biel intones, with nice import, over a fast montage of mountains, of bushes, of campfires, and of her husband, Justin Timberlake, whose forthcoming album Man of the Woods is being teased with this video. Timberlake himself proclaims in voiceover that the album is “actually impressed by my son, my spouse, my household, however extra so than any album I’ve ever written, the place I’m from.”
The place’s Timberlake from? Most followers may let you know immediately: not the Wild West, however the South. Particularly, a small city outdoors of Memphis, Tennessee, referred to as Shelby Forest. He spent his adolescent years in Orlando, Florida, starring on the Mickey Mouse Membership earlier than transferring onto teen idolhood as part of NSYNC. Within the years after, particularly as he grew to become extra concerned in Hollywood, he lived in Los Angeles. However over the previous two years, Timberlake’s definition of “residence” has expanded: Now it contains the tiny city of Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, the place he owns 126 acres of land an hour’s drive from Nashville; a $20 million Tribeca penthouse; and a house outdoors of Huge Sky, Montana, in an unique residential group referred to as the Yellowstone Club.
Few locations stay within the public creativeness as signifiers of the West like Montana, a state that boasts unmatched and largely unspoiled magnificence, with simply over 1,000,000 residents unfold over 147,000 sq. miles of land. It’s a spot that unironically embraces the unofficial motto of “the final greatest place.”
However the speedy response to Timberlake’s video was ridicule: Montanans laughed on the notion multimillion-dollar residence at a personal ski resort, crammed with different non-Montanans, would evoke “the Wild West”; others prompt that he’d watched The Revenant or listened to Bon Iver as soon as and co-opted the signifiers. At The Define, Ann-Derrick Gaillot argued that the video signaled Timberlake’s “rebranding as a white man,” laying out the methods wherein Timberlake’s musical model and success could be not possible with out black producers and black affect — and that this present transfer suggests a pivot to “pandering to a whiter America.”
Timberlake’s need to return to “the place he’s from,” and a corresponding fetishization of the West, is under no circumstances novel: It’s the very coronary heart of the Western delusion, with its promise of large open areas the place males may be males. However the comparability to Bon Iver factors out how superficial Timberlake’s declare to that delusion is: Justin Vernon’s woods have been, in reality, those he grew up in; the cabin the place he wrote For Emma, Eternally In the past was his household’s. And the cult of Bon Iver has by no means not been centered in Vernon’s weak, backwoods, falsetto-voiced masculinity.
Against this, Timberlake’s out-of-nowhere embrace of the West comes at a pivotal level for his profession — and for the place of white males within the public consciousness. Over the past 5 years, he’s had a toddler and handed the age of 35; his solely hit was a forgettable paint-by-numbers pop song for the film Trolls. He’s additionally weathered sustained criticism for acts of generalized thoughtlessness: an “I’m sorry you’re mad” apology when his marriage ceremony reception featured a homeless black man for laughs; one other apology for a Twitter gaffe wherein he blew off questions of appropriating black culture.
Twenty years in the past, Timberlake launched his tremendously profitable solo profession with a dance and elegance borrowed closely from black artists — and Michael Jackson particularly. Now, like so many white artists (Miley Cyrus, Macklemore, Iggy Azalea) who’ve constructed their fame on the intersection of hip-hop, R&B, and pop, his picture and music are scrutinized, notably when it comes to racial dynamics and appropriation, in a approach that Paul Simon and Madonna never were.
For Timberlake, who managed to keep away from vital scandal in his early profession (even whereas he grew up a teen star, dated Britney Spears, wore matching denim tuxedos together with her on the crimson carpet, and reworked their breakup into successful track) it’s a brand new actuality. In some ways, he’s an old-school, basic Hollywood star, whose rise was facilitated by his personal limitless religion in his personal charisma and its potential to get him no matter he wished. It received him the lady; it received him the profitable solo profession after his embarrassing boy band gig; it received him Hollywood roles and, when these failed, much more Hollywood roles. It made him a member of the unique “5-Timers Membership” of Saturday Night time Stay hosts. He laughed off getting Punk’d by Ashton Kutcher; he put his dick in a field whereas dressed like a member of Coloration Me Badd. He uncovered Janet Jackson’s breast on nationwide tv — incomes CBS a $550,000 high quality — and but walked away kind of unscathed from a second that successfully ended her profession.
In 2012, he launched a sprawling two-part album, the primary half of which had a mean track size topping seven minutes. Not since Bruce Springsteen launched two albums on the identical day, or Garth Brooks adopted an alter ego named Chris Gaines, has a white male artist been that assured of his personal reputation.
The album cowl for Man of the Woods.
However the place does Justin Timberlake match right this moment? He’s now not the moody Timberlake of “Cry Me a River” or the womanizing commitmentphobe of “My Love”; the upbeat swing of The 20/20 Expertise seems like a remnant of the Obama years. When it was introduced that Timberlake would carry out on the halftime of the 2018 Tremendous Bowl, the response was a lot much less pushed by anticipation of his efficiency than by these nonetheless ready for #JusticeforJanet, or at the least an apology for the best way Timberlake abdicated accountability for his position in “Nipplegate.”
When rumors of Timberlake’s buy of a house within the Yellowstone Membership first started circulating in 2015, Us Weekly reported that the household’s transfer was motivated by a need to guard their new child son, Silas, from the surveillance and scrutiny of Hollywood. One “insider” informed Us that Biel, who grew up in Boulder, Colorado, is “happiest when she’s within the mountains.” No point out, nevertheless, of Timberlake himself, who has spent the final two years selling Trolls, filming a supporting position in Woody Allen’s Surprise Wheel, opening the Academy Awards with a rendition of “Can’t Cease the Feeling,” and acting at a handful of festivals.
On Jan. 2, he dropped the teaser trailer for Man of the Woods,” complete with Bon Iver–model symbology, and revealed the album’s cowl, which literalizes his transformation from a person in a black and white swimsuit to a person “of the woods.” On Friday, he launched the album’s tracklist, that includes the track titles “Flannel,” “Montana,” “Livin’ Off the Land,” and “The Exhausting Stuff.”
@jtimberlake / Twitter / Through Twitter: @jtimberlake
Flannel! Significantly! A part of why the Western motifs of Man of the Woods really feel so performative, so memeworthy, so laughable is that it doesn’t really feel like a development, or like one thing Timberlake’s been working towards, or a return to his roots. As a substitute, it’s the picture equal of a visit to a dude ranch: an unintentional projection of his biggest vulnerabilities, and a need to immerse himself in a easy, elemental, legendary, masculine world that doesn’t ask arduous questions or demand nuanced solutions.
The West is Timberlake’s personal world — and, he appears to recommend, a gateway to his “genuine” internal self — nevertheless it’s additionally a discussion board wherein he will get to resolve which questions are requested, and which of them he’d prefer to reply. There’s no paparazzi, in spite of everything, at Yellowstone Membership; a part of the explanation celebs flock to it’s as a result of its exclusivity (membership is capped at 864 households) implies that you don’t should take your bodyguards on the ski raise. And as a number of individuals who’ve visited have informed me, when Timberlake is in any of the membership’s tony public areas, friends are quietly requested to not “request selfies with Mr. Timberlake.”
Timberlake is absolutely answerable for which photos come out of his life in Montana, a stark distinction to New York, or Los Angeles, and even Tennessee, the place documentation of his life and that of his household are at a premium. In Montana, he doesn’t should endure the feminizing dynamics of celeb tradition typically and paparazzi surveillance particularly. In Montana, his life is his.
RCA / Through youtube.com
The teaser trailer condenses this concept to its most simple type. Only a minute lengthy, it nonetheless options 49 pictures, alternating swiftly between photos of the pure panorama (sky, water, crops, horses, hearth, mountains) and Timberlake: Timberlake enveloped by water, Timberlake kneeling in a snow-dusted area of cheatgrass, Timberlake strolling by rows of corn.
There’s a fast shot of Timberlake nuzzling with Biel, whose bronzed face and quasi-cowboy hat connote the identical form of uncooked elemental-ness conveyed by the remainder of the video. Identical for one of many longest pictures in the whole video: Timberlake, shirtless, holding a small little one (presumably his son) near his chest in entrance of a hearth.
You may break down every of the pictures within the teaser even additional, however the overarching message is extremely easy: The West is a spot of authenticity, or regeneration, of fatherhood, of returning to the fundamentals, of freedom, of management — all of which is to say, of unfettered manhood.
RCA / Through youtube.com
Timberlake isn’t the primary pop star of his era to deploy the backwoods masculinity pivot. In 2012, John Mayer retreated to a Montana ranch on the Yellowstone River, promoting his houses in New York and Los Angeles. Mayer, like Timberlake, had discovered himself in an assortment of mini-scandals, additionally associated to thoughtlessness when it got here to feedback on race (most infamously, “My dick is sort of like a white supremacist”). Mayer, too, stated he wished to extract himself from the paparazzi complicated. On the identical time, he underwent surgical procedure on his vocal chords, which required months of vocal relaxation. He wanted to actually cease talking, and Montana was the right place to close the fuck up.
When Mayer re-emerged, the press narrative centered on the ways in which Montana had granted him distance from his reputation as an asshole. In an in depth interview with CBS Sunday in 2013, Mayer walks the host round his ranch within the winter, stating the assorted options of the Yellowstone River, earlier than settling into a comfy, intimate tell-all. “It’s very liberating whenever you understand that it’s not possible to make everybody such as you,” Mayer stated, the snowy expanse of his ranch seen by the window behind him.
John Mayer factors out panorama options round his Montana ranch.
CBS / Through youtube.com
“Huge Sky Nation is a perfect escape for a rock star attempting to heal,” the narrator explains. Mayer was therapeutic his vocal chords, however the bigger implication is that town — and fame — had made him into somebody he wasn’t. “There’s all these struggles and stressors and conflicts day by day [in the city] that you just don’t even discover,” he told the Unbiased. “However waking up glad and going to mattress glad, with contiguous happiness all through the day, may be very uncommon. You suppose: ‘I’m positive they’re saying my identify someplace. Someplace, some hideously underpaid blogger is typing my identify, and so they’re both saying I’m nice or I suck, however I don’t hear it and I don’t see it.’ It’s essentially the most exceptional feeling I’ve ever had in my life – to be actually content material, and to have that contentment not up for grabs by different folks.”
What liberated Mayer — what made him return to himself, and his music, and the essence of what made him “a great man/with a great coronary heart,” because the lead single from this 2012 album Born and Raised, “Shadow Days,” claimed — was distance, literal and figurative, from what different folks considered him. A spot like Montana, the place the voices are so far-off he doesn’t should take heed to them.
The video for “Shadow Days” makes the journey literal: Mayer begins within the metropolis, will get in his automobile, and drives West: first to Monument Valley, one of the crucial iconic markers of Westernness, after which up by Idaho and into Montana, stopping at varied locations to be alone, pluck at his guitar, and sing into the gap. As soon as out of town, he begins interacting with regular folks — he goes to a guitar store in a small city, performs round, shakes some fingers, slaps some backs — and buys some oil to repair his automobile himself.
Mayer buys the automobile oil himself within the video for “Shadow Days.”
Columbia/Sony Music / Through youtube.com
These won’t be the normal markers of woods masculinity, however for somebody like Mayer — greatest identified for womanizing and/or writing delicate songs like “Your Physique Is a Wonderland” and “Daughters” — it’s meant to indicate a change. Identical for the quilt artwork for Mayer’s second post-Montana album, Paradise Valley, which locations Mayer, wearing a long coat that approximates a cowboy’s duster, staring into area, cowboy-ish hat on his head, whereas a black lab appears to be like up attentively. (Like Timberlake, Mayer additionally, at one level, dons a Pendleton Blanket amid the Montana snow).