Saturday, January 13th, 2018

Justin Timberlake – Filthy

I don’t think we like him very much.


Micha Cavaseno: There’s something hilariously tragic about “Filthy” that most listeners haven’t managed to address. Let’s be honest, the weird attempts at dated slang with “Haters gonna say it’s fake” and “Guess I got my swagger back” reveal what we all know, that Timberlake’s eternal penchant for corniness has now actually become out of touch with him using lingo more stale than the dubstep wobble bassline punctuating the production on this record (which is both surprising and kind of predictable given Timbaland and Danja themselves aren’t really doing a great job of keeping up with modern production in pop, R&B or rap). I mean, here he sounds like a bad midway point of recent Jamiroquai, George Michael in the 90s and mid-period Jamie Lidell. But the real problem isn’t that Timberlake turned in a bad song; it’s easily a return to form on his part after pouring way too much energy into cloying showtime energy with “Can’t Stop The Feeling”, but displays the vanity that plagued so much of his 20/20 material. When he testifies to himself in masturbatory fashion “If you know what’s good,” it’s telling because he knows that what he’s wanted to achieve he’s done so to technical mastery. But the problem is what he wants to do is redundant and has no purpose in 2018. Hell, even the digital glitch effects of strain at the end to try and achieve edge feel just a bit too clinical. The irony though is that at this point due to his charming non-personality and exacting nature, Timberlake knows he is the person who always succeeds no matter how much critical disdain or irrelevance he should be plagued with. “Haters gonna say it’s fake!” he taunts at us, who insist that this is not actually worth anyone’s time despite racking up views and securing radio placements without effort just on the merit of being Justin Timberlake. Like anyone who has secured the bag and locked down their careers regardless of things like public opinion or facts, he taunts and belittles our insistence: “So real.”

Edward Okulicz: In a world where we have no shortage of pop stars who take the art of making serious bops very seriously (I’m thinking Bruno Mars and Rihanna might be the exemplars of this), I don’t see why Justin Timberlake needs to make his Event Singles such hookless slogs. This song pours the wine and dims the lights but can’t get aroused. At least when his pop was dirty you could still discern the sparkle underneath. This is not filthy, it’s just a lump of mud.

Julian Baldsing: “Filthy” is a wonderful example of how you can in fact, have too much of a good thing. Every element of the song that works — Justin’s vocal inflections, that dubstep-infused beat — is stretched out to the point of exhaustion with no progression or apparent end goal — just a relentless loop for most of the track’s five minutes, until it dissolves into nothing more than white noise knocking around your head. This track is on its knees and sobbing for a radio edit, somebody please put it out of its misery.

Alfred Soto: In her interviews Madonna came off dorkier than expected, so despite the frenzied manner in which he’s “branded” himself Justin Timberlake’s own latent dorkiness doesn’t surprise me — he did, after all, wear corn rows and a denim ensemble. What does is how poor “Filthy” sounds. It’s filthy like a pair of $80 torn-up jeans sold at Gap. 

Austin Brown: So “Man Of The Woods” actually just means “he who possesses an excess of erections” then? That’s fine, especially with the more Anglo side of the men currently on the charts so soft-dicked right now, but this doesn’t sound like JT’s horny as much as he’s on Viagra, keeping it up just for show and getting little to no pleasure out of it.

Scott Mildenhall: With such a considerable back catalogue already, how wonderful to see some unreleased Lonely Island material getting an airing.

Tim de Reuse: The mainstream use of the word “filthy” as a term to describe wobbly, bitcrushed, distorted FM synths really took off alongside Skrillex and his ilk around the last turn of the decade. To audiences who’d never heard the words “dubstep” or “complextro” before, those grungy, complex timbres were flashy and new and carried an immediate sensory appeal, and “Filthy” adorned the titles of a myriad YouTube tutorials teaching bedroom producers how to climb on the bandwagon. Now, in the year 2018, as Brostep drifts towards cultural heat death, our friend Justin attempts to revive the word “Filthy” using the most anemic, unpleasant FM wobble I’ve ever heard outside of a long-forgotten Soundcloud page. I can’t help but feel like this song’s total failure to achieve any kind of sonic cohesion is due to a fundamental misunderstanding of why those filthy synths were popular in the first place; this metallic, cold mess with no distortion and no rough edges is thoughtlessly plopped into a middling funk instrumental and neither half seems to have any idea what it’s supposed to do with the other one. That, along with the disorienting stereo effects on the main vocal, make it seem like an awkward, well-intentioned but poorly-executed remix of an otherwise unremarkable Justin Timberlake song. But then he chirps out a line like “Whatchoo gonna do with all that meat?” and reality hits — oh, mother of god, he’s serious, isn’t he?

Will Adams: “You know this ain’t the cleeeeeean version!” he whoops on a song that only needs to be edited for length to suit radio. Filthy this is not, and the fact that it isn’t the authenticity-baiting Americana record everyone feared it would be doesn’t make it any less of a chore. That rebranding is probably going to happen anyway, given that “Filthy” leads off Man of the Woods and the album version ends with an interlude of an anonymous female spirit guide telling him to find her through the trees. “Filthy” might just set the opening scene, then, before Timberlake’s beleaguered club promoter/techbro gets sick of phony city life and decides to go on a camping trip. Compelling stuff.

Katherine St Asaph: Timberlake’s very own “Look What You Made Me Do”: event-single-by-fiat with corresponding overblown event videos (first a Hatchet job, then a hacker job); presumably sexy but less time spent on the sexy than the “haters” in the media, dubious racial politics (I started hearing “Nasty” in this, then I couldn’t stop); years of super-bug-resilient cred (two terrible records didn’t keep Justin Timberlake from being sampled on the SZA record last year), squandered on one song; general bigness and wrongness. Except Taylor hadn’t burned through five better versions of her single, or sold it as infinitely mockable ad copy from “Amish Paradise.”

Stephen Eisermann: I’m all for keeping things spicy in a relationship, but having your partner ask what you’re going to do with all that “meat,” in the most unsexy singing voice, backed by the most unsexy wub wubs, is entirely unpleasant. This is ‘yikes’ level of cringe, but it seems like JT is transitioning into white, suburban father pretty easily. 

Alex Ostroff: In retrospect, the very things that garnered FutureSex/LoveSounds praise as forward-thinking, innovative or artistic were signs of the tedious excess yet to come. ‘Filthy’ takes everything bad about Timberlake and exaggerates anything that was once charming about him, mixing it all together into an overlong slog that risks polluting my enjoyment of his once impeccable Justified-era singles. That said, I managed to forget about the existence of 20/20 for the past five years, so there’s always hope. (And, just for the sake of being petty, Britney’s ‘Freakshow‘ is over ten years old and incorporated ‘dubstep’ wub-wub-wubs infinitely better.)

Reader average: [5.09] (10 votes)

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13 Responses to “Justin Timberlake – Filthy”

  1. I respect the fakeout though. We were waiting for a rootsy, real music stab at classic rockism respect and we got THIS?

  2. I…cannot stop coming back to Scott’s blurb.

  3. Damn, apparently should have blurbed this – I really, really like this song. Bummed nobody gave it better than a 5

  4. Garbage human releases garbage song.

  5. writers divided on whether timberlake gets too many erections or can’t get any

  6. “Garbage human”? I didn’t know Harvey Weinstein was releasing music.

  7. unfamiliar with why JT might be called a “garbage human” and hope he hasn’t committed any personal awfulnesses, but

  8. will retroactively restore at least 1 point if the radio edit goes “you know this IS the cleeeeeeeeeeeean version” with nothing else changed

  9. (kind of like how the remix to “Till the World Ends” goes “th-th-this is the remix”)

  10. i believe the joke is that there is no clean version

  11. wow this second single is a landfill though

  12. the album as a whole is giving me food poisoning

  13. it is Very Bad