Cry Me a River, Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake took to Instagram on Friday to apologize to both Britney Spears and Janet Jackson more than 15 years after he derailed their careers. He wrote this apology in response to public backlash to his negative portrayal in the new FX documentary, Framing Britney Spears. The docuseries episode inspired many to re-evaluate his role in both Jackson and Spears’ career demise. And just as Timberlake took to his Notes app to issue a mea culpa, I am taking to the internet to write him an open letter:
When I was 6, I saw you accidentally reveal Janet Jackson’s breast in front of millions of people at the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show. Janet — sister of Michael, your supposed “greatest influence” — received all the flack for her “wardrobe malfunction,” including an initial $550,000 fine from the FCC, and you barely took any responsibility. You watched her get blacklisted from the industry for the greater part of a decade, while your career thrived and you received countless Grammys, an Oscar nomination, and even the 2013 Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.
In 2002, you also aired out your dirty laundry with Spears by confirming on the Hot97 Star and Buc Wild Morning Show that you had sex with the singer, despite her efforts to keep your relationship details private. The same year, you indirectly asserted that Spears cheated on you by casting a Spears lookalike in your first music video as a solo singer, “Cry Me a River.” You weaponized your former relationship for media attention, in turn destroying Spears’ credibility and image. In 2007, at the height of her breakdown, you had the audacity to call her out during your BRIT Award acceptance speech, saying, “Stop drinking. You know who you are — I’m speaking to you. Stop drinking, you’re going to get sloppy. OK [magazine] is going to say something bad about you.”
However, instead of providing meaningful reparations for your harmful actions, you opened your Notes app to issue an apology devoid of meaning. (Do we even know if it was you who opened the damn app?) Anyway, your apology spends more time belaboring how you benefit from misogynistic and racist systems as a white man than it does taking full accountability for your actions. More specifically, your apology fails to take into account how exactly you influenced and benefited from the decimation of Jackson and Spears’ careers.
I see right through it. I see right through you. Your actions speak louder than your words. If you truly want to make amends, put your money where your mouth is to right your wrongs, and assist the #FreeBritney movement by speaking out about the injustice of her conservatorship, goddamnit. Those are just a couple of ways you can “do better,” Justin Timberlake.
In the meantime, do yourself a favor and stream Janet Jackson’s “Damita Jo.”