Justin Timberlake’s latest album, Man Of The Woods, was rated the worst pop album of 2018.

You probably grabbed a bag of pop corn, sat down in your favorite chair (probably wasting time at work, I see you) and clicked this story expecting to read a couple of paragraphs torching Man Of The Woods. The general consensus on the Internet is that it’s a non-cohesive pile of garbage. They’re wrong. THE ENTIRE GODDAMN INTERNET IS WRONG.

I won’t sugarcoat it: Woods is my least favorite JT album ever, but does it deserve the hate it’s getting? Before you answer yes, let me tell you the correct answer is no.

The Problems

Let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we? Leading up to JT’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, the pop star had never faced more backlash than ever. Some of it had to do with him getting asked back to perform and not Janet Jackson. It left a bad taste in my mouth, too, and there’s no formidable answer why she wasn’t included. Of course every reporter asked JT about it, and he always gave a PC answer that didn’t really appease the public. I think he might’ve had more respect from the GP if he came clean and said something to the effect of, ’cause we hate each other now,’ but that would’ve produced a different set of problems for him. There was no winning there unless he brought her on stage, but hey… at least we got the selfie kid.

Then there was the confusing messaging of Man Of The Woods. JT lead us to believe the album would fall in line with the trend sweeping the streams: pop meets country meets IDK but I hope this makes money.

In the promotional images leading up to MOTW, Justin was chilling in the Tennessee countryside wearing flannel jackets and wife beaters. It couldn’t be further from his “Suit & Tie” days, and that was on purpose. Guess what? People prefer Justin Timberlake in dress clothes. Then he dropped “Filthy,” a funkalicious, beat-heavy, Prince-esque banger that saw the singer crooning about raw meat and threatening that he got his swagger bag. He even bragged that the song wasn’t the clean version, but it was. It was clean. There wasn’t a single word to bleep out for younger audiences. And the video didn’t make much sense either. Ditto for the “Supplies” clip… what the hell happened and why were children screaming at me in the end? This was all very confusing, and people gave up because you have 2.5 seconds to convince the Internet to like your **** or they’ll bounce forever. Is anyone still reading?

Also, Trolls track “Can’t Stop The Feeling” was literally everywhere for an entire year and there wasn’t enough of a break in between that earworm and Woods. You can be loved on the WWW, just in doses, then go away for awhile K?

Oh, and Britney fans… let go of the animosity about him using Britney to elevate his fame. It’s not a good look (my address is unlisted so don’t come for me).

Man Of The Woods was rated the worst pop album by Metacritic with a score of 55. The website aggregates reviews of media products like songs, movies and games.

Slant’s Woods review is making the rounds again: “The majority of the highlights on Man of the Woods, from the faux-Stevie Wonder groove of ‘Higher, Higher’ to the smooth dance-floor glide of ‘Breeze Off the Pond,’ could have appeared on any Timberlake album, give or take a few pointedly rural references to roadside billboards and canoes. The songs that hew more closely to the Americana vibe, meanwhile, are mostly embarrassing.”

The country-laced album does indeed have its fair share of embarrassing lyrics, but some of the best pop songs in history on paper are awful. Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe?” Britney’s “Oops… I Did It Again?” Ariana Grande’s “Break Free?” What the hell?! But they work incredibly well when you don’t dissect them like that frog from ninth grade biology class. Man Of The Woods had songs that weren’t exceptionally well-written, but the melodies and production from JT’s go-tos created a delicious compilation that packed a punch. “Sauce” is a perfect instance where the songwriting is atrocious on its own (“I love your pink, you like my purple / You must be God herself, can I come worship?”), but there’s no denying it’ll embed itself into your brain thanks to Timbaland and Danja’s drizzly production and JT’s tinny vocals weaving in and out of an infectious guitar melody.

The Remedy

I think if JT trimmed the fat and tossed out a couple of the songs, Woods wouldn’t appear so flimsy to those that gave it those 2.5 seconds. A 10-track album would’ve sufficed (bye bye “Hers” Interlude, “Flannel,” “Livin Off The Land” and the Alicia Keys collab, “Morning Light”).

He also should have lead with “Montana” or “Wave” or “Breeze Off The Pond” instead of the 808-heavy club banger because those songs gel with a country aesthetic the most and might have convinced people on the fence to stay tuned. “Filthy” is the worst single JT’s ever released. The songs I just mentioned… they’re fantastic, well-written gems that won’t get much attention because streaming culture is all about singles. And Drake.

A couple of other tracks worth revisiting is “Young Man,” JT’s album closer and song dedicated to his son, Silas, “Wave” and sugary love song, “The Hard Stuff.”

Man Of The Woods might not be JT’s best effort to date, but it doesn’t deserve the criticism it receives, and certainly not a score of 55. There are gleaming pop songs on it that more than make up for some of the wobbly publicity and tracks that should’ve been left on the cutting room floor. If you’re reading this, I presume I’ve convinced you to give Woods another chance. Or at the very least… I helped you kill 15 minutes because you don’t know what else to do this time of year.

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