Broadcast on this very day in 2004, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake closed – what was otherwise an epic Super Bowl showing – with a five second incident that literally changed the face of television forever. Not only television, but the career of the show’s leading lady.
While Timberlake arose from the media ashes unscathed and enjoying even higher successes some ten years later, the misadventure led Jackson, a pop icon whose catalog and stage presence combined have arguably yet been matched, down a road to blacklist of almost unrecoverable heights.
By now, you know the story of “Nipple-gate,” as it was affectionately coined, in its totality. So, instead of focusing on the enormity of its backlash – a backlash, mind you, that’s still seeing its repercussion directly or indirectly impacting decisions made today regarding live television – let’s focus on words from the horses’ mouths.
As we prepare for Katy Perry‘s sure-to-be-epic Super Bowl showing, let’s rewind to 2004 to hear Janet and Justin’s thoughts on “Nipple-gate” and the event that birthed the phrase “wardrobe malfunction”:
Given the inescapable media frenzy that ensued after Jackson’s breast-rearing routine, there were a number of questions that need to be answered:
- Was it rehearsed?
- Was it planned?
- Who authorized it?
First up to answer that question was Justin (start at 2:30):
Janet later took to Oprah to discuss her apology and the Justin’s quote above (start at 4 min mark):
With an arsenal of calls of racism, sexism, and even ageism, Jan-fans still cry foul when reflecting on Super Bowl 2004. Truthfully, we can’t blame them. For, the idea that a single, 5 second occurrence could permanently damage the then-30 year career of one of music history’s brightest stars is beyond us. Next, how she could take the fall by her lonesome, is even further beyond that.
Even more interesting, we can’t help but wonder how different things would be had “Nipple-gate” occurred during the social media era. For, considering the commendable sales of ‘Damita Jo’ – the album and era that accompanied her industry-wide blacklisting post-Super Bowl – the steam of streaming and social media shares alone would’ve been enough to combat (to great degree) the sting of radio abandonment.
Whatever the deal, the deed is done.
But, we’re more than certain that Justin – who is a mega-seller and ratings winner in his own right – will be invited to play the Super Bowl before his 40th birthday (remember where you heard it first). If and when he does, he will not be able to escape the wrath of “Black Twitter” and the social media generation who knew Super Bowl 2004 all too well, but, unfortunately, we’re real enough to know their complaints will fall on deaf ears.
Because “mainstream America” will be more than ready to welcome him back into their living rooms. Janet, on the other hand…we could only hope.