It’s fucked up that Justin Timberlake is headlining the Super Bowl halftime show after playing the active role in the Nipplegate scandal that effectively ended Janet Jackson’s commercial viability. It is specifically fucked up because in the aftermath, he weaseled his way out of any accountability only to emerge professionally unscathed. When (eventually confirmed) rumors began circulating about Timberlake’s return to the Super Bowl stage 14 years after Janet Jackson infuriated the country with irrefutable proof that she owns at least one nipple, many on social media, etc., called for Timberlake to invite Jackson to guest alongside him as a sort of mea culpa.
Yesterday, at a press conference, Timberlake announced that wouldn’t be happening. Billboard reports:
When Timberlake was asked if there might be an *NSYNC reunion on the Super Bowl stage, the “Can’t Stop the Feeling” singer shut rumors down point-blank. “Uhh, well, no,” he said with a quick laugh, but an expression that suggested he was not playing any games.
The only special guests, per Timberlake, will be his band:
“To be honest, I had a ton of grand ideas about special guests,” he continued. “We talked about it a lot. There’s a whole list — I think Vegas has a lot of odds on it, I heard. From *NSYNC to Jay [Z] to Chris Stapleton to Janet, but this year I’m just excited — my band, the Tennessee Kids, I feel like they’re my special guests and I’m excited this year to rock the stage. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
This is disappointing, but hardly surprising. It’s impossible to say, too, whom the decision might be coming from: Timberlake or Jackson or some mixture of them and their people (TMZ reported in October that the NFL said Jackson was not banned). If I were Janet, I wouldn’t go anywhere near that urban juggalo after his lack of support that he himself admitted (albeit years later, when it no longer had any bearing on the state of either of their careers).
And as nice of a gesture as it would have been for Timberlake to give Jackson some airtime, a nice gesture is all it would have been. He can’t go back and undo the damage it wreaked on her career, can’t turn flops into hits, can’t erase the horribly traumatic image of one silver-encased nipple from the minds of an entire country that had at that point never once seen a single breast with its own eyes until Jackson’s. Nothing Timberlake could have done in a scenario involving sharing the stage with Jackson at the Super Bowl would have forgiven him in my eyes, but then I’m not really one who’s satisfied with public apologies, much less ones demanded by an angry mob (no matter how much I am aligned with the mob’s ideology) and delivered as obligation.
Now, if Timberlake reveals one (1) of his nuts during his halftime show, well, that’s another story. Then, perhaps, we can begin the healing process.