What *Really* Happened With Janet Jackson & Justin Timberlake’s Super Bowl Performance?

It's the most controversial performance to date.
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Every year, the Super Bowl sees some of the music industry’s finest take the stage at the acclaimed half-time show. We’ve seen the likes of Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, and more, all give performances of a life-time. 

Oh yeah… and people play sports too, we guess.

WATCH: The Weeknd’s Full Super Bowl LV Halftime Show

For the non NFL lovers, the half-time show (along with the commercials) are the big draw card of the Super Bowl. Every annum, fans desperately wait to find out who will be taking the stage (Harry Styles, we’re manifesting it for you).

And while, typically, the performances are met with a lot of acclaim, including Twitter fans edits featuring captions such as “Beyoncé outsold”, one year ended in a swarm of controversy for the selected performers… well, one of them.

We are, of course, talking about Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s now infamous Super Bowl performance.

Each time a championship game rolls around, this story is plucked back from the shelf, dusted off and examined closer, with an increasing amount of nuance each time.

So, what exactly happened? 

It was the Super Bowl performance that saw Justin Timberlake rip off a part of Janet Jackson’s outfit and expose her breast. (Credit: Getty)

In 2004, musicians Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake performed at the Super Bowl half-time show.

During the performance, the pair sang JT’s smash hit Rock Your Body.

At the end of the number, as Justin sang the line, “I’ll have you naked by the end of this song”, he ripped a part of Janet’s top and exposed her nipple to the crowd and the viewers at home.

Believe us when we say that you have never seen a camera pan so fast.

The incident was later classed as a wardrobe malfunction, but no amount of PR was enough to withhold the backlash the singers received. No, sorry, that Janet received. Justin barely got a slap on the wrist and he went on to headline his own Super Bowl halftime show in 2017.

Meanwhile, Janet was forced to release a written statement and a video apology; she was not allowed to attend the GRAMMY awards the following month – bearing in mind that not only was Justin allowed to attend, he was asked to perform there.

She was also blacklisted from multiple radio stations which made it impossible to promote her music, causing her eighth Studio album Damita Jo to be one of her worst selling albums.

In 2021, Justin took to Instagram to speak out about his part in both the Super Bowl scandal, as well as his relationship with Britney Spears, saying he was sorry for the times he had “contributed to the problem”.

“Where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right,” he added.

After the performance, Janet’s career took a dive while Justin’s only grew. (Credit: Getty)

“I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others benefitted from a system that condones misogyny and racism.”

He went on to specifically mention Janet and Britney, emphasising that he respects these women as individuals, before going on to cite the flawed music industry.

“It sets men, especially white men, up for success,” he wrote.

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