Hot off his family-man country album Man of the Woods, Justin Timberlake dropped a new single about a one night stand to remind everyone he’s still America’s boyfriend. In the intro of “SoulMate,” produced by Nineteen85 of “One Dance” and “Hotline Bling” fame, JT whispers “Summer Starts Now!” throwing his velvet fedora into the ring to be the song playing during the fireworks-fuelled night you absolutely won’t remember because of all the red, white, and blue slushies you drank that only tasted like blue.
If “SoulMate” seems eerily familiar, that might be because it sounds a lot like “Feels,” last summer’s smash from Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, and Calvin Harris — but without the playful lyrics, tone diversity, ethnic diversity, general relevance, or even smooth booty bouncing beat. “SoulMate's” salsa-inspired beats are a little too robotic to make the song a true booty banger, too tame to be be dropped, and topped with JT’s thinned-out voice completely devoid of emotion. Has Justin Timberlake stopped believing in the magic of his own supernatural sexual appeal to save the women of America? Or has being a husband and father chipped away at a little bit of that “America’s boyfriend” image burned in our hearts from the boy band era?
“SoulMate” somehow also manages to sound like every Justin Timberlake song from the early aughts. The general idea behind the song is that JT could be your soulmate. That’s it. Oh, and “just for the night.” That phrase is about half the song. He uses a lot of classic JT pandering about dreams and miracles and souls while still using the word freak, because he’s old school like that.The lyrics read like he cut up lines from his old songs and put them in a hat, then picked six with his eyes closed.
After Man of the Woods was met with mixed reviews, I can see why Timberlake would want to remind America of the ramen-haired boy they fell in love with back when wearing an all-denim tux to an awards show was okay. Sounds like he is trying to cling desperately to a semblance of relevance in a contemporary music scene that left him behind.