"You have to be comfortable with yourself because that's all there is — there's you and nature," a voice says at the beginning of Justin Timberlake's "Livin' Off The Land" as a pan flute plays. More nature-based sentiments from others follow before Timberlake's voice kicks in on the 14th track of Man Of The Woods. While you could think that the singer recruited some famous friends to record that opening, these wise, earthy words come from a somewhat unexpected — yet totally obvious once you realize — place. The voices on "Livin' Off The Land" belong to the cast of History Channel's Mountain Men, and these reality TV stars are certainly true men of the woods.
Subtle isn't necessarily a word you'd use to describe Man Of The Woods, as made clear by the teaser video for Timberlake's new album. With song titles like "Flannel," "Montana," and "Breeze Off The Pond" — not to mention the song "Man Of The Woods" — Timberlake wants listeners to get his connection to the wilderness. So it's slightly hilarious that a very famous pop singer like Timberlake pulled insights about nature from a pretty contradictory place — reality TV. Because while the stars of Mountain Men really do have that rugged lifestyle that the singer is attempting to portray with Man Of The Woods, reality TV is about as far from natural as you can get.
As Rolling Stone confirmed, the quotes in the beginning of "Livin' Off The Land" come from a commercial for Mountain Men. And even if you aren't familiar with the wilderness-based reality show, there was a major clue since one of the quotes is, "I'll be a mountain man until the day I die." Mountain Men premiered in 2012, just one year before Timberlake released his album The 20/20 Experience, and has aired six seasons. The History Channel show follows men who live in remote areas throughout North America who have a tough way of life as they battle the elements. As the show's website states, "Freedom always comes at a price, and once a man chooses this life, there's no going back."
Interestingly enough, there is a photo gallery called "Living Off The Land" on the History Channel website. This photo gallery features the three main stars of Mountain Men — Eustace Conway, Marty Meierotto, and Tom Oar. Conway lives in North Carolina, Meierotto lives in Alaska, and Oar lives in Montana. But no matter where these mountain men call home, they all (ahem) live off the land. So is this where Timberlake got the name of his song from?
As has become standard with Timberlake's new album, reactions to "Livin' Off The Land" have been mixed. One Twitter user recognized immediately that it was the cast of Mountain Men being sampled. But she was displeased with how the tone of the song shifted. To highlight her outrage, she went so far as to use #JusticeForMountainMen.
Another person on Twitter said that "Livin' Off The Land" sounded like a theme song to a TV show. It's unclear if the Twitter user knew about the Mountain Men connection or not, but, with reality TV show quotes at the beginning, that assessment is ludicrously accurate.
But others praised the song, particularly how the two preceding songs — "Montana" and "Breeze Off The Pond" — flow into it.
While it's unclear how the Mountain Men who are sampled on "Livin' Off The Land" feel about Timberlake's brand of woodsiness, they do believe in actually living off the land (and living off the money they make from being on reality TV). Timberlake's version of living off the land may entail credit card payments as he sings about, but the Mountain Men live off the grid. Yet as they star on TV, they also perfectly encapsulate the type of Mountain Man that Timberlake is on his new album — one who likes nature, but who also heavily relies on the fame that comes with television. After all, Timberlake's not performing at Super Bowl LII because he loves the woods.