The first-listen reviews from music critics are all over the map.

Justin Timberlake’s new album Man of the Woods hit the net ahead of schedule.

This was to be expected. Pictures of the the physical copy of the record started surfacing online today (Jan. 31), which means it was only a matter of time before the digital versions hit the net. And no, I can’t point you in the right direction. Labels hate that sort of thing.

It’s also JT’s 37th birthday. So, happy bday? 

The first-listen reviews from music critics are all over the map. Here’s a roundup of some of those thus far:

Justin Timberlake: “Stop Telling Me I’m Making A Country Album”

The New York Times says the “lyrics are cheesy, or simply empty — that’s harmless when the production sparkles, but they glow with a radioactive tint.”

Us Weekly says Woods is “neither Americana nor a reinvention” and gave it 2.5 stars (out of 4). says the record is unimpressive and “a bit redundant.”

EW was a bit indifferent. They gave it a B and said as a whole, Woods was “a grab bag of styles and sonic mood boards.”

The Guardian had one of the most thorough reviews, though. They comment on the genre-bending lines JT blurred together. Some of the songs they describe as “fantastic,” others as “awkward.”

“But for all its flaws, it’s hard not to be impressed by Man of the Woods,” they write. You can hear the effort that went into making it: Timberlake could more easily have churned out an identikit pop album using the same writing and production teams that every identikit pop album calls on, and relied on his celebrity to make it a massive hit. The good bits are great, the bad bits best avoided.” They gave it a rating of 3/5.

Justin Timberlake has had an incredibly difficult time figuring out his spot in the ever-changing musical landscape, but I assume he expected the criticism. At this point, JT isn’t making a record that “fits in.” He’s doing what he wants and hoping it resonates, and that kind of calculated risk is what makes this really exciting. It’s still too premature for me to judge the LP as a whole, but as his albums always are – I expect this to be a grower. Meaning, the review highlights you just read are the appetizer. Let it digest…

Man of the Woods officially drops Feb. 2.

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