Justin Timberlake Reflects On Super Bowl Performance With Janet Jackson: “You Can’t Change What’s Happened”

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It’s been 14 years since Super Bowl XXXVIII and Janet Jackson‘s “wardrobe malfunction” — but people haven’t forgotten. The superstar’s halftime show alongside Justin Timberlake back in 2004 (which a reported 143 million people watched) is still one of the most controversial TV moments of all time.

At the very end of their performance, during the final lines of Justin’s “Rock Your Body” where he sings, “Going to have you naked by the end of this song,” he reaches across Janet’s body to remove the part of her costume covering her breast. Because the show was being broadcast live, there was no way to edit out the footage, and the incident is still referred to as “Nipplegate” despite the fact that her nipple was entirely hidden by a jeweled pasty.

Nipplegate had a lot of impact: MTV, who had produced the halftime show, was never invited back; the Federal Communications Commission increased the fine for showing a breast on TV tenfold, up to $325,000; Janet broke the Guinness World Record for “Most Searched in Internet History” and “Most Searched for News Item”; Viacom, CBS, and Clear Channel Communications banned Janet’s music and she was not allowed to attend the Grammy Awards that year.

When it comes to Justin, however, there were few repercussions (he still appeared at the Grammy Awards, where he issued a scripted apology for Nipplegate). This prompted many to view the unfair treatment of Janet as an issue of sexism. Which is exactly why when Justin was invited back to perform at this year’s Super Bowl halftime, people were less than enthused. In fact, online petitions with thousands of signatures have popped up online asking for #JusticeforJanet.

In a recent interview with Zane Lowe at Beats 1 Radio, Justin says that when they started planning his 2018 halftime performance, the topic of Nipplegate, of course, came up but “it wasn’t too much of a conversation.”

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“What do you want me to say, like… We’re not going to do that again,” he says with a laugh.

When Zane asks him how you handle an incident like that as a young performer, Justin admits he “stumbled through it” and “had his wires crossed.”

“It’s just something that you have to look back on and go, like, okay, well, you can’t change what’s happened but, you know, you can move forward and learn from it,” he says.

But to Zane’s question of whether or not Justin and Janet were able to make peace after Nipplegate, Justin answers with no hesitation, “Absolutely.”

Justin does seem aware of people’s criticisms of him regarding what happened at the 2004 halftime show, and he mentions that the public might not know that he and Janet are still on good terms despite the incident. He also says it’s not his “job” to tell them because “you value the relationships that you do have with people.” Whatever that means…

When Janet released Damita Jo in 2004, many critics focused on Nipplegate rather than the music, and her being blacklisted from most TV and radio ultimately diminished any success of her three singles off that album. At the very same Grammy Awards where Janet was banned and Justin apologized, he received the award for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Justin’s Super Bowl halftime performance this year comes alongside his newest album in five years, Man of the Woods, and the announcement of his latest 35-stop North American tour.

So, yeah, #Justice4Janet.