Justin Timberlake is a real man. A man’s man. You thought he was a ladies’ man, and he is, yes, but he’s also very much a man’s man. You might think he’s a multimillionaire recording artist and sometime actor who recently performed at the Super Bowl half-time show, but Justin wants you to know that he’s actually just a country boy from old Tennessee, living off the land and incorporating those Southern elements into his music for basically the first time in his career. We know this because he told us so on his recent album, Man of the Woods, which by all accounts was not well-received by critics but obviously peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 anyway.
The album’s initial promo material suggested that Justin likes chopping down trees and using them to build huge fires. Yes, he can do a suit and tie, but he really loves nothing more than donning a nice flannel shirt and a pair of (Justin) Timberlands, strapping on the old acoustic gee-tar and having a rootin'-tootin' midnight summer jam round a campfire in Montana. He’s basically Bear Grylls, but with a smooth falsetto and a straight face while he describes Man of the Woods as "modern Americana with 808s."
Confused? So were we! So we headed down to London’s O2 Arena to ask a bunch of blokes outside his gig what they thought about his rebrand of sorts.
Noisey: Big fan of Justin are we, Damien?
Damien: Not really, I’m taking the missus out tonight. I’m waiting for her just now, we have a young kid so it’s nice to get out every now and then.
Have you listened to his albums much?
Yes I have, but I’m not like a super fan. I haven’t heard his latest one.
It’s a more country-influenced album, blended with newer things like AutoTune and synths.
Yeah, I know. Are you similarly-minded, as a man? Would you say you’re a man of the woods?
Erm, yeah I guess. I like camping..?
Do you reckon you could take him in a fight?
Like a dance fight?
I was thinking more of a fistfight but any kind of fight I guess.
I think he moves too quickly, he probably has some good moves.
Did you know he has his own brand of tequila?
Oh really? Yeah, I think I heard that.
Pretty masculine of him isn’t it. Do you reckon you could out-drink him?
I think I could yeah.
I reckon he probably doesn’t drink that much cos he’s too health conscious.
Would we fight after the tequila or before?
I’m gonna assume this is post-tequila.
Maybe I could take him then, yeah.
Brilliant. Thanks Damien.
MATTHEW AND JAY
Noisey: Hey guys, are you both big fans of Mr Timberlake?
Jay: We like some of his older music. Haven’t heard all of his new stuff, but it’s quite different isn’t it.
A touch more country-influenced, though there's still plenty of electronic programming on it too. He’s had a bit of a rebrand.
Yeah, I’ve heard a couple on the radio but haven’t been mad keen on it to be honest.
I don’t think it’s generally considered his best work.
No, I’m hoping for him to play a lot of the older ones to be honest, yeah.
Yeah, this new album was promoted with a much more 'out in the fields' aesthetic. Are the woods and romanticized notions of moonshine the sorts of stuff you’re into, as blokes?
Jay: Not really no.
Matthew: No, but I don’t think that stops me enjoying that sort of music.
Do you reckon you could drink more shots of tequila than him?
Matthew: Indeed, I could.
Jay: Yeah probably. He looks like he’s quite a lightweight. Can’t imagine he’s a big drinker.
Could you take him in a fight though?
Jay: I probably couldn’t but Matthew probably could.
Matthew: Yeah I reckon I’d have him in a headlock quite easily.
So do you think he’s more manly in his suit and tie or his lumberjack shirts?
Jay: Oh, his suit and tie definitely—we’re more metrosexual these days, aren’t we? It’s maybe a bit dated, that sort of country boy, masculine image.
Noisey: What do you think of Justin’s last album?
Karolas: It was different. There are actually some songs on it that I really like.
A lot of critics thought it was quite weird, this rebrand as a country and western musician.
To be honest I’ve been following him since I was little so I don’t really care what he does, I just admire the way he does it. I go to many concerts and I think he does the best show, so this is the second time I’m seeing him. The way I see his new album is, I kind of get his take, that he just had a child so obviously he wants to show it where he’s from.
Yeah it’s kind of like, he needs to be a provider now.
He wants to show his roots.
Are you often a man in the woods?
Well, I’m from a small village in the middle of nowhere so I guess maybe I am.
Have you ever killed any animals with your bare hands?
A fly maybe?
Can you build a fire?
No, I can’t do that.
Noisey: So Marcus, why are you here?
Marcus: Well, my friend’s dad bought the tickets for his little sister but he thought he was buying them for Justin Bieber not Justin Timberlake.
Oh no! The wrong bloody Justin!
Exactly, so he didn’t want them and I said I’d go.
Why not? Have you heard any of his new album?
Not at all—the last song I heard was "Suit & Tie."
That one’s a banger, but his newer stuff is… not the same.
Maybe I’ll go home early today then.
Yikes. Well, the latest album is called Man of the Woods and it’s about how he’s had a kid and gone back to his country boy roots.
Not sounding good.
Ouch. Are you a man of the woods?
Definitely not. I’m not a very outdoorsy person, I can just about put up a tent but if I got dirty I’d wanna go home and get changed.
Did you know he has his own brand of tequila? Do you reckon you could do more shots than him?
In my heyday yeah, but I’m finished, I can’t drink as much as I used to and I reckon he’d drink me under the table. Especially tequila. Two shots and I’m done. Yeah he’d drink me under the table, 100 percent.
Thanks mate. Enjoy.
KYLE, JOSH, AARON, AND JORDAN
Noisey: Hey guys, how much would you say you're all big Justin fans?
Kyle: It’s safe to say we love this guy.
Josh: He’s a big fan of us actually.
Excellent. What do you think of his last album?
Aaron: I like it to be fair. Good one innit?
Kyle: Yeah, it’s good. We saw him in Vegas as well and that was really good.
Oh! Ok… it’s quite different to his other stuff though isn’t?
Kyle: Yeah, very different. I really like it, it feels more homely and grounded.
Uh-huh. Well, he’s got a kid now hasn’t he.
Josh: Yeah, he’s got a family so he’s gone back to his roots, he’s from the country.
Are you also men of the woods?
Kyle: I definitely can build a fire. Love the outdoors.
Jordan: We’d be alright in the woods.
Josh: Yeah, we’d be good.
Did you know he makes his own tequila? Do you reckon you could outdrink him?
Kyle: I dunno. But these two could.
Josh: Yes. Bring it on JT.
JT if you’re reading this, you heard them.
BEN AND JOSÉ
Noisey: Hey you two—do you consider yourselves big fans of JT?
Ben: I’d say so.
José: Yeah I mean, we’re here aren’t we!
What do you think of the last album?
Ben: Mmmmm… questionable. Not his best, definitely not.
Not a fan of his rebrand as a country and western musician?
Ben: For me personally… no. But I think it’s a project and I wouldn’t expect him to continue like that for the next few albums.
That’s a relief. Why do you think he’s taken this particular direction?
José: Cos of his clout as a musician.
Ben: Just because he can.
Yeah, probably true. Are you guys men of the woods too?
Ben: Hahahahaha. You are more than me, José.
José: I’d say I aspire to be a man of the woods.
Ben: At some point in life, yeah.
Have you ever caught a fish?
José: Of course, yes. I’m pretty good I think. Caught a couple of catfish once.
DANIEL AND JACOB
Noisey: Lads. I’m guessing you’re both fans of Tennessee's finest, Justin Timberlake?
Daniel: Yeah, we’re pretty big fans. We’re actually from Denmark and we’re on vacation.
Wow, you’ve come all the way here for this—that’s dedication. What do you think of his last album, Man of the Woods ?
Daniel: I really love it.
So you’re into the whole country and western thing?
Daniel: I think it’s really cool.
Jacob: It didn’t get the best reviews, but it’s a very different album. I think it’s a lot more authentic.
How good are you at putting up tents, then?
Jacob: Yeah I can do that.
And building fires?
Daniel: I was in the Scouts for seven years so definitely, I have all those survival skills.
Good to know. You should always be prepared.
You can find Rosie on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.