Do not be fooled by JT’s new outdoorsy image. The smell of aged leather, woodsmoke and school orienteering trips might ooze flagrantly out of the soul marvel’s new look, but he’s still the funky pop magician we know and love. There’s definitely a nod to new Nashville here – however, we’re talking more Mumford & Sons if they started songwriting for Justin Bieber than the grit and guts of Waylon Jennings or the current king of classic country, Sturgill Simpson.
Things start pretty safely: opener ‘Filthy’ could be the Justin of old, a Prince-esque shuffle in which he suggestively asks, “What you gonna do with all that meat?” There’s no break from the sauce on, er, ‘Sauce’, a hyper-sexual hoedown that’s home to the deeply rude line, “I love your pink / You like my purple”. We do hope his mother isn’t listening.
It’s on the title track that the first country twang rears its head, drumming up memories of Kesha’s excellent 2017 comeback album ‘Rainbow’. Then there’s the bango-lite pickin’ of ‘Livin’ Off The Land’, fireside acoustic noodling on Chris Stapleton duet ‘Say Something’ and ‘Flannel’, an overly earnest – and slightly hilarious – Americana-inspired ode to a nice plaid shirt. There’s further deviation from JT’s trademark sound on ‘Supplies’, an attempt at a Migos-style trap banger, but the old Timberlake shines through at all turns – and you know what? We still think he’s ace.