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