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Track Review

Justin Timberlake has never been one to shy away from expressing himself. It's been nearly six years since the former 'N Sync singer's last solo album. Now, this Grammy-winning pop icon claims he has his “swagger back” as he gets ready to drop his fourth album, Man of the Woods, in early February.

And while that title perhaps implies a more acoustic or natural sound, J.T.’s first new single from that album, “Filthy,” suggests otherwise. The song combines a pop, electro-funk and rock vibe as it gives listeners a potentially “filthy” preview of what's yet come.

This Ain’t the Clean Version

Let's get things started here with the song's video. We're immediately introduced to an eager, expectant audience in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the Pan-Asian Deep Learning Conference. The conference here is fictional and futuristic, set in 2028, we're told.

With an entire audience awaiting a techy entrepreneur's next amazing invention, Justin walks out onto the stage¬—obviously imitating Steve Jobs—to introduce something that, he says, “haters gon’ say” is fake but is actually “so real.”

And what could be more futuristic than a gleaming steel robot that can do it all? Of course, that's only when it has someone to control it. And in this case, the controller is Timberlake himself as the robot sings what he sings and moves how he moves. (We see the singer behind a curtain for the most of the show, as the robot takes center stage and mimics its creator's every move.)

This 'bot is no average Joe. It can kick a soccer ball, lift heavy boxes, pour water and even breakdance. And at first, this is all we see—the possibilities of the future. But not for long.

As Justin begins to croon “put your filthy hands all over me/… no, this ain’t the clean version,” women clad in short dresses seductively saunter onstage to meet the robot. All the while, Justin asks, “And what you gonna do with all that meat,” an apparent reference to a woman’s body, which he then says approvingly is "cookin’ up a mean servin’.”

But it doesn’t stop there.

Soon, the robot begins smoking a hookah as we hear, “Fire up, everybody smokin’.” The party in the song's lyrics, we hear, continues with “your friends/My friends/And they ain’t leavin’ till 6:00 in the morning.” Then this suggestive question is asked: “Baby, don’t you mind if I do…/Exactly what you like times two?”

From there, things move from being suggestive to being, well, explicitly obvious. When we hear the lines, “And what you gonna do with all that beast?/When I leave the cage open,” Justin grabs his crotch, with the robot following suit, giving everyone in the audience something to gasp about.

As we hear “break it down,” the robot begins to light up from the inside. A new group of women now joins the robot on stage, wearing lingerie-like outfits and thongs that cover next to nothing. They play the part of women who are smitten by the 'bot as it grabs them in various places, then spreads the legs of one woman and pantomimes having sex with her¬—all to more delighted gasps from the audience.

A Self-Explanatory Title

As he did with his 2006 album FutureSex/LoveSounds, Justin has once again teamed up with producers Timbaland and Nate “Danja” Hills to create his sound for “Filthy.” Standing in as the robot himself during the making of the video, Justin is responsible for the choreography that went into making it move.

And he’s also responsible for a lot more. Like, say, the graphic nature of the video that objectifies women—even if through a robot. Or the numerous sexual references that may not seem as harsh when you listen to the song in isolation, but which are visually amplified in the video.

Then again, this really is nothing new for him. Many of Timberlake's previous singles, as well as their accompanying videos, are filled with sexually explicit content. (One in particular could be categorized as pornographic.) Then there was the infamous Super Bowl halftime show back in 2004. (With another to come this year, though one suspects J.T.'s likely to be on his best behavior this time around.)

Timberlake may have had some relatively tamer singles recently, such as the infectious hit from Trolls in 2016, "Can't Stop the Feeling." But he shows us exactly what it means to have his swagger back here.

And it's "Filthy."

Positive Elements

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Reached No. 9.

Record Label





February 2, 2018

On Video

Year Published



Kristin Smith

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