In the fall of 2002, Justin Timberlake launched his solo career. He needed it to work or he would have to grow old singing Girl, this and Girl, that with a gang of just okay singers. So he released “Cry Me a River,” an anthem for the cuckolded that would get coverage in all the gossip magazines, as his second single. Before we even had time to speculate about who would dare cheat on America’s Boy Next Door, Justin released a video featuring an actress who looks exactly like Britney Spears, his former girlfriend, just to make sure we knew exactly who to shame.

In a Barbara Walters interview around this time, he said he would always love Britney and she could always turn to him if she ever needed anything, and then proceeded to suggest that Britney went back on her vow to stay a virgin until marriage and shared an unreleased song with the lyrics:

Thought our love was so strong, I guess I was dead wrong, but to look at it positively, Hey, girl, at least you gave me another song about a horrible woman.

Insert every eye-roll gif you can find here. Sure, he has the right to write about his life. Where it gets gross is the malicious revenge fantasy, coupled with pretending to be an innocent abused puppy. This was never about catharsis. This was about sacrificing Britney’s reputation for a hit.

A little over a year later, he would use a tweaked version of this get-more-famous-with-the-help-of-a-celebrity-woman-and-drop-her-when-she’s-no-longer-useful model. Remember how Justin got an opening act gig on Janet Jackson’s tour, allegedly dated her behind the scenes for publicity, and then let America tear her apart after he ripped her top off during the Super Bowl Halftime Show? You probably forgot Justin was even there because he left her high and dry in the aftermath to preserve his career, and got away with it too because the patriarchy is a mighty force.

So why am I bringing this all up 14 years later? Because Justin is bringing it up 14 years later. In a new Vanity Fair cover story, he said this:

In the past, suffering helped me to compose. ‘Cry Me a River’ was written in a moment of pain, and the whole world knew.

Suffering? Really?

ross friends down hands gif

Yes, breakups suck, Justin, but have at least a modicum of chill. And why did the whole world know? Because you made sure we did by bringing it up in every interview, in several songs, and in a music video.

Justin’s brand is getting away with sh*t. Let us count the ways:

He got away with:

  • slut-shaming Britney, while playing the victim.
  • what he did to Janet.
  • getting way too much praise for being a mediocre actor and “comedian.”
  • going #1 with his insufferable new single, which is a blatant rip-off of Pharrell’s “Happy.”
  • profiting off of black culture and then preaching All Lives Matter BS.

You get the picture.

After much struggle, Britney has moved on. Janet has moved on. Now it’s Justin’s turn.

let it go gif


To learn more about how troubling Nipplegate really was, read this:

Nipplegate Revisited: Why America Owes Janet Jackson a Huge Apology

When Will Justin Timberlake Stop Bringing Up Britney’s Cheating for Sympathy? (Never) 17 August,2016Emmanuel Hapsis

  • Lizlemon

    This might be the dumbest thing I ever read. What he said was pretty harmless. The real question is when will the media stop using Britney and Justin’s relationship from 15+ yrs ago as click bait and stop making something out of nothing.

    • Fix

      The media will stop, once he stops slut shaming Britney Spears. Its been 15 years and he keeps on slut shaming her up until today. He deserve the media attention. The negative press.

  • Monica

    This might be the greatest thing I’ve ever read. I don’t know how Lizlemon got here, but I don’t see any click bait. If anyone is teasing a story to make money, it’s JT, who is bringing up Britney to promote his next movie.

  • toepwm

    “profiting off of black culture and then preaching All Lives Matter BS.” reminder that Obama gave cultural appropriation a presidential pardon at the DNC :^)

  • Sinque

    I agree with everything except “just OK” singers. JC Chasez had an amazing voice.

  • Fix


  • Cece Packham

    Wow, someone is jealous. Could the author be anymore obvious in his hate for Justin?
    Meanwhile, like almost all good musicians, Justin Timberlake writes about his life experiences whether it be joy or pain or anything in between. He make extraordinary music. He is hilarious, and IMO an outstanding actor. He’s an all around artist… the real deal. And he is a humanitarian.
    So go ahead and whine about it, but while you do Justin’s star will continue to shine bright.
    Side note: maybe Britney was a slut.


Emmanuel Hapsis

Emmanuel Hapsis is the creator and editor of KQED Pop and also the host of The Cooler. He studied creative writing at University of Maryland and went on to receive his MFA in the field from California College of the Arts. In his free time, he sings his heart out at karaoke.

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