Facebook Twitter Comments Slate Plus

Justin Timberlake Tries to Bring “SexyBack” Back With His New Single, “Filthy”

Justin Timberlake wears a black turtleneck and glasses on a stage
“Haters gon’ say it’s fake.”
Still via YouTube

If the cornfields-and-horses announcement video for Justin Timberlake’s new album, Man of the Woods, got you excited about the possibility of the singer going country, then I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you that that was a false alarm. After a long hiatus between albums—his last one was released in 2013—Timberlake announced earlier this week that he had a new project on the way and promised to drop four singles ahead of Man of the Woods’ Feb. 2 release date.

At midnight on Friday, he released the first, which is decidedly not a country song. In fact, rather than getting Timberlake in touch with his Tennessee roots, “Filthy,” a funky throwback to the singer’s FutureSex/LoveSounds days, has a video set halfway around the world and ten years ahead of its time:

In the video, Timberlake channels his inner Steve Jobs to present at a “Pan-Asian Deep Learning Conference” in Malaysia the year 2028. But it’s not just any robot that Timberlake is introducing to the audience, but a sexy robot, controlled by Timberlake himself as he insists, over and over, that “haters gon’ say it’s fake.”

How to reconcile this with Man of the Woods’ title or cowboy imagery? The answer may hinge on the fact that Timberlake vanishes in a puff of pixels at the end of the video, while the robot basks in the crowd’s adoration. Anyone else thinking “robot apocalypse concept album”?

One more thing

You depend on Slate for sharp, distinctive coverage of the latest developments in politics and culture. Now we need to ask for your support.

Our work is more urgent than ever and is reaching more readers—but online advertising revenues don’t fully cover our costs, and we don’t have print subscribers to help keep us afloat. So we need your help. If you think Slate’s work matters, become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.

Join Slate Plus