Justin Timberlake on Janet Jackson Super Bowl aftermath: 'I stumbled through it'

By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Timberlake was a guest performer in Janet's Super Bowl half-time show

Pop star Justin Timberlake says he has "made peace" with Janet Jackson, 14 years after his role in her infamous "wardrobe malfunction".

In case you've forgotten, Timberlake ripped a panel off Jackson's bodice during the 2004 Super Bowl, revealing her right breast to 114m TV viewers.

Although both artists apologised, it was Jackson who got fined and blacklisted by US radio and MTV.

"I stumbled through it," Timberlake told Zane Lowe about the aftermath.

"To be quite honest, I had my wires crossed.

"It's just something that you have to look back on and go, 'OK, you can't change what's happened, but you can move forward and learn from it.'"

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The star was speaking to Beats 1 radio ahead of his performance at this year's Super Bowl half-time show, on Sunday 4 February.

Lowe asked whether he and Jackson had taken time to "resolve the situation" and "make peace" after the wardrobe malfunction.

"Absolutely," he replied. "I don't know that a lot of people know that.

"I don't think it's my job to do that [discuss behind-the-scenes conversations] because you value the relationships that you do have with people."

'Hot and steamy'

Timberlake previously received criticism for a perceived lack of support for Jackson.

In a TV interview immediately after their performance, he appeared to suggest the nudity was planned.

"It was fun. It was quick, slick, to the point," he told Access Hollywood.

"You guys were getting pretty hot and steamy up there," the show's host, Pat O'Brien, pointed out.

"Hey man, we love giving you all something to talk about," Timberlake laughed.

Jackson, however, issued a more fulsome apology, in which she explained that Timberlake was only supposed to reveal her red lace bra.

"It was not my intention that it go as far as it did," she said. "I apologise to anyone offended."

Both singers seem shocked as soon as they realise Jackson's bejewelled breast has been exposed.

Although the television cameras quickly cut away, subsequent photographs show Jackson covering her breast with a look of horror.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The duo were clearly shocked, despite claims the incident had been planned

A few days later, Timberlake reflected this side of the performance in a more sober interview with US radio station KCBS.

"I immediately looked at her, they brought a towel up onstage, I immediately covered her up.

"I was completely embarrassed, just walked off the stage as quick as I could."

In the aftermath of "nipplegate", many people noted double standards in the treatment of the two performers.

While Jackson's videos were blacklisted by MTV (who produced the Super Bowl show) Timberlake continued to enjoy their support.

And, after CBS rescinded Jackson's invitation to present at that year's Grammy Awards, Timberlake was allowed to attend, and won the awards for best male pop vocal performance and best pop vocal album.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Justin made a public apology at the Grammy Awards, a week after the incident

In 2006, Oprah Winfrey asked Jackson if Timberlake had "left you out there hanging" (what an unfortunate choice of words).

"To a certain degree, yeah," she replied.

"We haven't spoken. But I consider him a friend, and I'm very loyal," she added. "He has reached out to speak with me... and in my own time, I'll give him a call."

Around the same time, Timberlake seemed to accept he had let her down.

"If there was something I could have done in her defence that was more than I realised then, I would have," he told MTV.

"I probably got 10 percent of the blame, and that says something about society.

"I think that America's harsher on women… And I think that America is, you know, unfairly harsh on ethnic people."

Despite his apologies, many fans reacted badly when he was announced as the half-time performer for this year's Super Bowl.

The news spawned a #JusticeforJanet hashtag on Twitter, with demands that she be invited to perform alongside him.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Billboard magazine also ran a prominent column demanding that Timberlake make amends.

"Inviting Jackson to perform with him would be an incredible showing of solidarity," wrote Alexa Shouneyia.

"Timberlake standing at Jackson's side and sharing the spotlight with her projects the sentiment that while he may not be able to help his privilege, he can share it with Jackson, and give her the same opportunity to shine."

Timberlake hasn't responded to those demands. But he acknowledged to Zane Lowe that the 2004 incident had been raised during discussions with the NFL over his return to the Super Bowl stage.

"It's just one of those things were you go, like, 'Yeah, what do you want me to say?'" he said.

"We're not going to do that again."

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