Justin Timberlake is facing backlash after a documentary renewed the focus on the infamous wardrobe malfunction that occurred while he performed at the 2004 Superbowl halftime show with Janet Jackson.
A new documentary by the New York Times goes behind the scenes of the event with a new perspective on what actually went down on that February evening.
At the time, Timberlake was experiencing one of the heights of his career. His 90s band NSYNC had shot him into global stardom, he’d just released his Grammy Award winning album Justified and he’d earned the right of passage to the ultimate singer’s hall of fame: performing at the annual Superbowl Halftime show.
Alongside the already iconic Janet Jackson, the performance was undoubtedly Timberlake’s biggest moment in music to date. As their performance came to a close, with Justin singing the final lines of Rock Your Body (“better have you naked by the end of this song”) he pulled his hand across Jackson’s body and tore at the right hand side of her corset.
The entire cup came away with the movement which exposed Jackson’s breast and nipple covering. She immediately looked down in shock while Timberlake stood holding the ripped piece of costume. The stadium went dark—and for one of the singers, their life was never the same. It’s obvious which one we’re talking about.
In New York Times documentary Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson, we’re given a clearer picture of the detrimental impact that infamous moment had on Jackson’s career.
Up until that moment, she’d enjoyed whirlwind career success with songs like All For You (2001) and Miss You So Much (1990) winning her prestigious awards and earning her global popularity.
But after the Superbowl malfunction, The Times reveals how a toxic, misogynistic culture meant Jackson was vilified, undoubtedly impacting her career for the rest of her life. Timberlake however? He essentially got off scot-free.
The proof is in the pudding. Timberlake became one of the biggest names in music throughout the noughties—his album FutureSex/LoveSounds was one of the biggest releases of the decade. He also moved into a successful acting career, starring in blockbuster movies including The Social Network and Friends With Benefits.
But what happened to Jackson, you ask? Well, the fact that’s even a question is your answer.
The singer kept a low profile in the wake of the wardrobe mishap. Her music career never again reaching the same level of success she’d once had, and suffice to say she never returned to the Superbowl stage. Meanwhile Timberlake was invited to perform again in 2018.
The new 10-episode docu-series also delves into the origins of that fateful performance’s choreography. It suggests that only three people really knew what happened in the lead-up to the malfunction: Timberlake, Jackson and her costume designer.
It then explores whether the malfunction was planned for and consented to by all parties (popular opinion suggests it wasn’t).
As Jackson’s brother Tito frankly puts it: “Janet’s breast didn’t just jump out.”
Earlier this year, Timberlake faced more controversy when The Times released Framing Britney Spears which explored the shocking realities of the pop-singer’s 13-year conservatorship and how her romantic relationships (including Timberlake’s) had impacted her mental health.
Timberlake issued an apology to both Britney and Jackson following the outcry at the time, writing in a statement: “I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right.
“I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.”
Malfunction: The Dressing Down Of Janet Jackson is not currently available to stream in Australia directly—we’ll update with any new streaming info as it’s announced.