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Justin Timberlake has a new album coming out.
USA TODAY

So much for going country. 

On Tuesday, Justin Timberlake announced Man of the Woods — his first album in five years — with a mawkish, down-home trailer of him frolicking through fields in flannel shirts and cradling his son around a raging campfire. The over-earnest clip had many people on Twitter speculating that this was the Tennessee native’s attempt to reinvent himself as a folk troubadour in the mold of Bon Iver, and cross over to the country charts as Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga awkwardly tried last year. 

That could still be his intention, although we won’t know for sure until Man is released in full Feb. 2 (two days before Timberlake headlines the Super Bowl halftime show). But his futuristic first single Filthy, which dropped early Friday morning, suggests his sights are far above the Mason-Dixon line. 

More: Twitter doesn’t know what to make of the new, woodsier Justin Timberlake

Co-written and produced by Timbaland and Danja, with additional writing credits from James Fauntleroy and Lawrence Dopson, Filthy is a bedroom-ready slow jam as its title suggests, punctuated by squalling, metallic synth warps and a thick, gloppy bass line. Bursts of thrashing guitars and drums sporadically infiltrate the nearly five-minute track, which could easily be confused for an outtake from Timberlake’s sprawling and similarly sultry 2013 effort The 20/20 Experience

Filthy‘s accompanying music video casts the pop/R&B crooner as a Steve Jobs-esque tech giant unveiling his latest breakthrough: a dancing robot. At first awestruck, the assembled crowd is left bewildered as the android’s moves become increasingly suggestive with female dancers, reflecting the song’s come-hither chorus of, “Go on and put your filthy hands all over me / No, this ain’t the clean version.” Corny? Yes, but it works. 

Overall, Filthy is an audacious introduction to Timberlake’s next era, although we have a feeling that its jarring tempo changes and unclassifiable sound will impede its chances at top-40 radio. If anything, Filthy feels more like a teaser than a proper single, and has us wondering what other curveballs he might throw our way on Man in the Woods

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