A little more than two years ago, Justin Timberlake joined Chris Stapleton on stage at the Country Music Association Awards for a performance that became instantly iconic. They collaborated for a electrifying duet of “Tennessee Whiskey” and “Drink You Away,” which propelled Stapleton’s debut album, “Traveller,” to sell 153,000 copies in one week. (It went on to sell more than 2 million copies.)
Now, as Timberlake is set to release his first album in five years, “Man of the Woods,” Stapleton is returning the favor. The two friends reunited for “Say Something,” released on Thursday afternoon, along with a music video.
It’s the first song from Timberlake’s new record that actually looks like it might fit the woodsman vibe projected in the (much mocked) album trailer, where the singer proclaimed, “The outdoors is the inspiration for a lot of these songs. That’s the main idea . . . How can we bring that to life?” Timberlake’s first two songs released in advance, “Filthy” and “Supplies,” have a sleek, electro-pop sound.
At least “Say Something” has a guitar-driven sound that could theoretically fit into the modern country world, as Timberlake and Stapleton play guitar and walk around the famed Bradbury Building in Los Angeles. They collaborate on the bridge: “Sometimes the greatest the way to say something is to say nothing at all.”
If the pop savant and country star seem like an odd matchup, they both live in Tennessee and have actually been close pals for years — Stapleton told Billboard that Timberlake was one of the first people who heard “Traveller,” before it was released.
“We met through mutual friends. When his wife was pregnant, we talked about some things about being a dad,” Stapleton said. “We talk about dad stuff and regular life stuff — and we talk about music a lot, too.”
Timberlake has been a vocal fan of Stapleton as well, and it makes sense that they would collaborate and try to recreate the CMA performance magic that Nashville will never forget. And given that Stapleton lends Timberlake lots of credibility with country fans, many of whom who will be watching Timberlake’s Super Bowl halftime performance next week . . . who knows? Maybe the two could team up for another live performance as well.