Unless Justin Timberlake’s performance at the Super Bowl LII Pepsi Halftime show consists majorly of the pop star apologizing to Janet Jackson onstage as JC Chasez sings in the background about his baggy jeans and thug appeal, it will all be for naught.
Though rumors of Timberlake being the next halftime show performer had been floating in the zeitgeist for weeks, the NFL is only now offering confirmation. For those of us whose contempt of this choice had been slow cooking since then, it’s time to serve the prepared vitriol.
“What I really want to do is take the opportunity to put together a performance that feels like it unifies. I feel like that would be the ultimate accomplishment, and then the icing on the cake is at some point, within that 12 minutes, that everybody is shaking their booty.”
This is not a unifying choice. If anything, it’s yet another reminder that White men never face repercussions for their actions. That is not the case for Black people and certainly not Black women. Although Janet Jackson’s legacy was long cemented before the 2004 Super Bowl and the ridiculous “Nipplegate” controversy, it was undoubtedly tainted. In the wake of newer artists and declining record sales fast tracked by the advent of file sharing services, she wasn’t selling the way she used to, but she remained a force in pop music all the same. She still created hit songs. She still sold out arenas across the world. She still was an active part of the conversation.
But Damita Jo was doomed for failure in the wake of the controversy. I will never forgive folks for not making the immaculate Kanye West-produced single “I Want You” the hit it should have been. In the manner in which a star of her level faded can in no way be largely pointed to that. She was pushed out of the mainstream and if not for the likes of Tyler Perry, Black radio, and her most dedicated supporters, who knows how much worse the decade that followed might have been.
It literally took until the release of 2015’s Unbreakable, which reunited her with longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, for the public at large to embrace her in a manner she was accustomed to before Super Bowl 2004.
Meanwhile, Timberlake’s celebrity only intensified.
In a 2006 interview with MTV News, Timberlake acknowledged the disparity, noting:
“If you consider it 50-50, then I probably got 10 percent of the blame. I think America is harsher on women. I think America is unfairly harsh on ethnic people.”
In hindsight, he claims “he could have handled [the aftermath] better.” That same year, Jackson spoke with Oprah, and on Timberlake, said, “Friendship is very important to me, and certain things you just don’t do to friends. In my own time, I’ll give him a call.”
I’m not sure if Jackson ever called him, but if she did, I hope she used the phrase “you’se a bitch” at least four times.
Timberlake addressed the “wardrobe malfunction” with Tirico, saying:
“That won’t happen this time. There was a little bit of that. But…no, Mike, that’s not going to happen.”
Sit on a pointy rock, jackass.
The NFL released a statement denying that Jackson has been banned:
“There’s no ban. We are not going to comment on any speculation regarding potential guests. There may be no guests. Along with Pepsi, we’re excited to have Justin Timberlake. Like the elite NFL players who can run, catch, and block, Justin can do it all — sing, dance, act and entertain. He’s the ultimate global superstar who we know will put on an entertaining and unifying show that will appeal to the massive worldwide audience.”
They can sit on that same pointy rock — twice actually.
I’ve seen some note that despite whatever criticism people may have, they’re going to watch the show anyway. That’s cute for them to offer such useless commentary, but a few things: it’s the Super Bowl, so by default, they’re going to get the ratings they want. Secondly, you don’t know everyone is going to watch it, and even if they are coerced to by sheer social pressures, they can role their eyes and hate for the entire 12-minutes in the name of Janet Damita Jo Jackson. A source close to Jackson did reveal to ET this week that the singer is open to performing alongside Timberlake, but only if he asked.
“If Justin or his team did reach out, Janet would perform with him again in a minute,” the source told the entertainment outlet.
From Timberlake’s own musings, they may have something to work with. When asked about his performance in comparison to his predecessor, Lady Gaga, the man that never deserved Britney Spears claimed, “I don’t know, man. I’m 36 now. I don’t know how much of that I can do anymore.”
Jennifer Lopez is more than a decade his senior and shows far more energy onstage than Timberlake does. They should have booked her for the show. Too bad that is not the case.
For a league that blacklisted a Black man for peacefully exercising his right to protest police brutality and racial injustice, has owners that coddle with the current demagogue in the White Supremacist House, and overall express far greater concern in policing the bodies of Black players than advocating on behalf of the women many of them of every hue beat, it’s unsurprising that they select the White boy who left a Black woman hanging in a mistake they were both responsible for.
How fitting a decision in Trump’s America. Enjoy the show.