In the wake of 2004's Super Bowl XXXVIII—the one in which Janet Jackson’s exposed nipple stopped the world dead in its tracks—Justin Timberlake threw Janet Jackson under the bus repeatedly. He showed up at the Grammys a few days later (a ceremony Janet was initially supposed to appear at but was disinvited when the world saw with its own eyes that she had at least one boob), melodramatically calling the supposedly accidental exposure “unintentional” and “completely regrettable.” He added, “I apologize if you guys were offended.” In interviews he described himself as “shocked and appalled” at what happened and said, “I don’t feel like I need publicity like this.”
A few years later, long after Janet’s hit-making days were over, Justin admitted that he “could’ve handled it better,” and then a few more years later: “I wish I had supported Janet more.” Easy to say when your career hasn’t effectively been canceled, as Janet’s was. Never mind it was he who was the active party in the breast reveal that introduced “wardrobe malfunction” into our cultural lexicon.
Being reminded of Justin’s subsequent ascent to the top of the pop food chain (his obscenely successful FutureSex/LoveSounds came out a little over two years after Super Bowl XXXVIII) and Janet’s decline never fails to incense me. I know no one is entitled to superstardom and with one of the most astonishing run of hits in the history of pop music, Janet was and will always be fine, but: It’s so fucking unfair how she was treated in comparison to him. It’s why I wrote thousands of words about it for its tenth anniversary. And that’s why I’m banging my head against the table after reading an item from Us Weekly titled, “Justin Timberlake ‘Is Finalizing’ Deal to Perform at Super Bowl Halftime Show.”
How dare they!
The Us report is scant:
An insider reveals the 36-year-old “is finalizing” his deal, and though reports suggested the dad of 2-year-old son Silas (with wife Jessica Biel) might perform with onetime collaborator Jay-Z, the insider says, “as of right now, it will just be Justin — no surprise performers.”
But still. They’re going to invite this fucker back after everyone possible behind the scenes—the NFL, MTV (which produced the show), CBS—distanced themselves from his last performance because Janet’s breast popped out by Justin’s hand? Fuck all of them.
Hopefully this is just a rumor. To be extra safe, I hope I’m dreaming about this rumor, so that there are layers of remove to protect me. But Justin is working on new music that’s just lurking around the corner like an evil earworm troll and thus could have something to promote come February. I have to stop thinking about this. I have to lay down and try to dream away this nightmare about a rumor.