DNVB / Media / eCommerce: (1) Justin Timberlake is one of the most talented musicians on earth and he wants to perform well into his 40’s. (2) The music industry continues to evolve and only the savviest artists are appropriately navigating streaming’s economic limitations.
Consider these two assessments when framing what Man of The Woods is all about.
Timberlake is a savvy businessman. So when the initial imagery for his Man of The Woods album released, it was easy to joke a bit about how blatant the merchandising promotion appeared to be. The irony of my earlier tweet was that Timberlake’s evolution is unquestioned. He’s also capable of playing a longer game than most other artists because of his previous, outsized successes.
Timberlake and Bruno Mars have identical skill sets. One figured out how to evolve and the other one is making native ads for Filson.
— Web Smith (@web) January 4, 2018
Here’s the Timberlake career arc in a nutshell. Mr. Biel has been that rare and consistent success over three decades of changing music, his outlandish pop-fashion, and mostly-poor haircare decisions. He’s traversed the impossible terrain of American musical evolution:
- Mickey Mouse Club Member (Ages 12-15)
- N’SYNC lead (Ages 15-22)
- Hip hop-infused pop star (Ages 22-33)
- Jay-Z approved R&B artist (Ages 33-36)
- The beginning of his latest phase (Ages 37-on)
To better understand Timberlake’s newfound interest in American heritage brands, consider that he is proudly from Tennessee and he was always inspired by the music of the region.
Consider these two quotes from Refinery29‘s Album Review:
There was much debate about how Mumford & Sons/O Brother Where Art Thou? this album would get after Timberlake debuted its teaser trailer, but when the first two singles (“Filthy” and “Supplies”) were the straight-ahead dance pop we expected, it was assumed that Timberlake didn’t go full Montana — or even Tennessee. But there are strong country moments here, daringly on songs not involving Stapleton, who plays guitar on multiple songs.
The key to understanding why this feels like cultural tourism may come in Timberlake’s interview with Zane Lowe for Beats 1. He told Lowe that all of his records before were “aspiration,” either to a lifestyle or for him to “pay homage to my influences.” When you dabble in country or Americana but don’t have influences in mind to pay homage to, things are going to get weird.
When I was an elementary school kid in Houston, I lived down the street from a music hall owned by Kris Kristofferson, a place where he’d perform with musicians like Shel Silverstein. I also had the opportunity to watch several of Kristofferson’s colleagues in their later years: Merle, Waylon, and so on. It’s squarely here that Timberlake is drawing aspiration for the next decade of his career with the help of Chris Stapleton, wool, and a beard.
Few can take issue with his staying power. And staying power means that you have to be willing to adapt to remain at the forefront of your craft. Timberlake is the master of this. So now that we’ve established the musician’s newfound musical aspiration, let’s look at the merchandising deals that were organized by Bravado, Universal Music Group’s merchandising arm.
(1) The Super Bowl / Nike / SNKRS deal explained.