New Yorkers are often open-minded about their food options, but many at Justin Timberlake’s American Express-sponsored listening party for his forthcoming “Man of the Woods” album were taken aback when the menu took the album title a bit literally by offering items with ants with black garlic and rose oil and grasshoppers with aebleskiver, a Danish pancake.
The food, from the upscale restaurant Noma helmed by chef Rene Redzepi, was prepared but not served as the hour-plus long album played. The event space, in Manhattan’s Tribeca district, was decorated with bushes and trees as well.
However, despite the singer’s “back to nature” descriptions of the 16-track album, its music is a contemporary and characteristic fusion of R&B and pop, with electronic flourishes and occasional trap beats. (Attendees signed non-disclosure agreements forbidding them from describing the album in detail.) While addressing the crowd before the album played, Timberlake — wearing a wool cap, flannel shirt and Nikes — spoke again of the album’s “personal” nature and the inspiration he received from his family and 2-year-old son Silas, joking that “I’m not going to go all Ray LaMontagne,” referring to the singer-songwriter and labelmate known for his moody, organic sound.
His wife Jessica Biel and various members of Timberlake’s family were present, along with members of the media, music industry, and American Express cardholders who’d won a competition for tickets. As the evening wound down, wait staff could be heard explaining the menu items to attendees, one of them saying patiently, “Yes, ants.”
The album’s first single and lead-off track, “Filthy,” dropped on Jan. 4, and three more songs are scheduled to arrive every week beginning this Friday, leading up to the album’s Feb. 2 arrival and his appearance as the Super Bowl halftime entertainment on Feb. 4.
Another New York listening party is scheduled for Wednesday night, and one will take place at Prince’s Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis during Super Bowl Week.