I don’t know if you’ve heard but Justin Timberlake has a new aesthetic. He’s been super subtle about it so you probably had no idea that JT is now a very outdoorsy manly man of the woods who wears flannel. For all of the people who missed Timberlake’s vague tracklist featuring song titles like Living Off the Land, Breeze Off the Pond and literally FLANNEL, he held a listening party to really drive home his rebrand.
Please, for the love of Beyoncé, PLEASE read Vanity Fair’s full account of Justin Timberlake’s listening party. It’s worth it for the anecdotes about the party’s “pop-up forest” and Justin and Jessica Biel’s “rustic chic” winter wear in ….Manhattan. It gets better. Guests were served “grasshoppers and ants—covered in rose oil and black garlic.” GRASSHOPPERS AND ANTS. What is this, Running Wild with Bear Grylls? A Survivor food challenge? Fear Factor? Justin Timberlake is leaning so hard into this outdoorsy sh-t he served journalists and celebs (he managed to get A-listers like Dustin from Stranger Things and Shoshanna from Girls) f-cking bugs covered in oil and garlic. But, like, fancy bugs.
A lot has been written about Justin’s woodsy era and how it’s an attempt to reclaim his whiteness. Well, you can’t get any whiter than eating gourmet, hipster-approved insects. I agree that Justin Timberlake is trying to capture some sort of Americana, earthy vibe that appeals to a specific demographic but he hasn’t abandoned the R&B and hip-hop influence in his music like, say, Miley Cyrus. In Miley’s “return to her roots” rebrand, she denounced the entire genre that gave her a post-Disney career. That same genre is responsible for Justin Timberlake’s post-boy band come-up. While Miley abandoned her old sound altogether for Malibu, Justin is fronting like he’s going country with a Chris Stapleton feature, a lumberjack beard, plaid shirts and his dumb tracklist but by all accounts – and if Filthy is any indication – the album is classic Timberlake. At his listening party, he quipped, “I’m not going to go all Ray LaMontagne on you guys” (no one was worried about this you tool) and Vanity Fair described the songs as “the upbeat, pop/R&B-hybrid Timberlake-ian jams we have come to expect.”
So, he’s still standing on the shoulders of black producers. In this bait-and-switch approach, Justin gets the best of both worlds. He gets to look like he’s white-ifying his music for middle America while still profiting off of the Pharrells and Timbalands who deliver hit after hit for him. Is that worse than Justin going country or just more annoying?
Justin Timberlake is going to continue being annoying at more events leading up to the release of Man of the Woods, namely a listening party at Paisley Park, Prince’s infamous recording studio and rehearsal space. Lainey had two words for this news when we were emailing: “The nerve.” The f-cking nerve of Justin Timberlake to hold a listening party in Prince’s sacred space sponsored by a credit card company that will serve alcohol. Prince was an anti-corporatist who never allowed booze to be served at public events at Paisley Park. Oh yeah, and there was that time Justin mocked Prince’s height and dissed him in a song. Justin Timberlake came for PRINCE and now he’s performing on his stage. THE NERVE. It’s like JT is trying to piss off anyone who’s paying attention.
Yesterday, Lainey wrote about JT’s bullsh-t interview with Zane Lowe where he dared to speak about Janet Jackson (without the respect to even refer to Janet by name). The only words that should be coming out of JT’s mouth in reference to Janet Jackson should be “I’M SORRY,” or “I F-CKED UP,” or “I’M THE WORST.” As Lainey wrote yesterday, Justin has not said any of those things and he probably never will because he doesn’t have to. Who is holding Justin Timberlake accountable?
We got a reader email (hi Amy!) speculating that JT is planning an elaborate apology to Janet on Super Bowl Sunday. I don’t buy this theory but IF it happens, would the apology be for Janet or would it be to shut up the people who are trying to hold JT accountable? Would it benefit Janet? Would it be sincere? No, it would make Justin Timberlake come off as a humble hero who gave up his moment for Janet Jackson. If we have to sit through days of people praising JT for his selflessness, so help me Blue Ivy. I would rather eat a plate of truffle oil infused, parsley and kale stuffed grasshoppers on a bed of organic blades of grass hand-picked fresh from Montana by Justin *listens to Bon Iver once* Timberlake.