When Justin Timberlake revealed to Apple Music’s Beats 1 host Zane Lowe that he “absolutely” made peace with Janet Jackson following the controversy that erupted from the 2004 Super Bowl, all I could hear was one of my favorite Negro colloquialisms: “Bitch, you lying.”
Although I am not privy to whatever conversation Timberlake might have had with Jackson about the matter in more recent years, I distinctively recall what happened two years after “nipple-gate” took place.
Speaking with MTV News’ John Norris in 2006, Timberlake said: “If you consider it 50-50, then I probably got 10 percent of the blame. I think America is harsher on women. I think America is unfairly harsh on ethnic people.”
Timberlake, who more recently has been serving bugs at listening parties for his new L(umberjack)&B-filled forthcoming album, went on to say this: “I’m a part of a community that consider themselves artists. And if there’s something that I could have done in her defense, that was more, that I could have realized, then I would have.”
Shortly after Timberlake’s 2006 interview, Janet Jackson told Oprah Winfrey that while Timberlake had reached out to her, they still hadn’t spoken.
“Friendship is very important to me, and certain things you just don’t do to friends,” Jackson said. “In my own time, I’ll give him a call.”
Jackson went on to acknowledge that she was upset about “certain things” Timberlake had said in the wake of the controversy, and when asked by Winfrey if she felt that “he left [her] out there hanging,” she answered, “To a certain degree.”
If her interview sparked a subsequent conversation between the two and a formal act of contrition from Timberlake, that is wonderful. After all, Jackson would deserve it, given that she bore far more of the brunt of that silly controversy than he ever did. Unfortunately, based on what Timberlake said here, there’s very little reason to believe that such is the case.
As Timberlake told Lowe about this purported incident in which he “made peace”: “To be honest, it wasn’t too much of a conversation. It’s just one of those things where you go, like, ‘Yeah, what do you want me to say? We’re not going to do that again!’”
What makes this all the more irritating is the face he made as he vomited out that drivel. It was a smug, goofy-looking grin. It doesn’t at all suggest any real remorse. All it does is remind me that he once threw the legendary Ms. Britney Spears under the boss, too.
Timberlake went on to say, “You can’t change what’s happened, but you can move forward and learn from it.”
Yes, you can, but the banality of this statement suggests that he hasn’t learned a damn thing. Timberlake has long maintained a certain sort of duality in that he talks a lot, yet manages not to ever really say much. Like the aforementioned statement, or the claim that he “stumbled” through the events after the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.
While he stumbled, Janet Jackson was effectively blacklisted. A storied career was promptly swept under the rug. Meanwhile, he went on to become a much bigger star despite never giving us an album as good as Confessions. Yeah, I said it. And while Justified has aged well, FutureSex/LoveSounds has not. And yes, I wrote about enjoying “Filthy” more than most of y’all, but that doesn’t mean I can’t think Timberlake has my queen Janet fucked up all the same.
If Justin Timberlake has truly made peace with Janet Jackson, why couldn’t he have taken a moment to acknowledge how he failed her? And that she did him a favor by giving him—then a boy band member trying to cement his status as a solo star largely based on the discarded tracks from her big brother—a spot during her Super Bowl halftime show? And that, sadly, something went awry and he left her hanging? Instead, he leaned into his privilege as a white man and let the black woman take the heat for America’s fake-ass puritanism.
All I got from Timberlake’s comments to Lowe is that he remains the same self-absorbed, selfish somebody he was well over a decade ago. He is once again recalling past events in his image—one that makes him come across as far less guilty than he is. So I have a hard time believing that Jackson has made peace with all that happened. And until Randy Jackson—the only Jackson family member who seems allowed to speak for her—says otherwise, I’ll maintain the following stance: Bitch, you lying.
And unless Timberlake is going to say, “I’m still sorry, Janet,” I would much rather never, ever hear him speak her name again because it’ll only further ruin him for me.