Justin Timberlake does his best Steve Jobs cosplay and works the crowd at a keynote address with a dancing robot in the video for his new single, titled “Filthy,” and we’re all scratching our heads. In the video, which takes at the “Pan-Asian Deep Learning Conference” in the year 2028, Justin Timberlake takes the stage in a pair of wire framed glasses and a mock turtleneck (a futuristic update to the uniform of a black turtleneck and jeans that Steve Jobs wore for years at his Apple keynote speeches). The musical maestro introduces a new robot invention to the unsuspecting intellectual audience, which completes a handful of increasingly impressive tasks from stacking blocks and pouring a glass of water to kicking a soccer ball into the crowd, until commanding the room with choreography that JT is identically miming offstage. The Black Mirror fans watching the video might’ve feared that the robot was gearing up to attack, but JT’s artificially intelligent invention appears to be somewhat benevolent.
But what happened to Man of the Woods? Wasn’t this new album supposed to be about reconnecting to nature, family and camping? Wasn’t this going to be Justin Timberlake’s Joanne moment, where he goes back to his southern roots and produces an album that makes up for work that’s flopped in recent years just in time for a Super Bowl halftime performance? The beard, the double jackets, the horses in the woods—none of those images from the album’s promotional materials signaled that artificial intelligence and cyber dancing would be a major focus of JT’s newest song.
At least the track sounds further from last summer’s (unfortunately Academy Award nominated) “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” from the Trolls soundtrack. The production on “Filthy” is more reminiscent of a FutureSex/LoveSounds b-side, probably because he worked with producer Timberland, as he did on his Grammynominated sophomore album. So far, only three other single titles have been announced—”Midnight Summer Jam,” “Sauce” and “Man of the Woods”—and considering the album promotional video and the video for “Filthy” had just about nothing to do with one another, who can say what those album tracks could possibly be about.