With Justin Timberlake headlining the 2018 Super Bowl Halftime Show, we’re taking a look back at Nipplegate. Here’s everything you need to know about JT and Janet Jackson’s infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction.’
Justin Timberlake, 37, will be heading back to the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 to headline during halftime, but it isn’t the first time he’s taken that specific stage. In 2004, he was brought on by Janet Jackson, 51, as a guest, and what went down will live in infamy forever. It’s been 14 years since the “wardrobe malfunction” took place, so it’s OK if you’re a little rusty on the deets. Here’s exactly what happened, and why it’s still infuriating people all these years later:
On Feb. 1, 2004, Janet headlined the show, and performed a medley of her hits, “All For You,” “Rhythm Nation,” and part of “The Knowledge.” Then, JT came on stage as a surprise guest for a duet of his track, “Rock Your Body,” which they both danced suggestively to. When Justin got to the final lyric, “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” he reached over to the singer’s chest, pulled off part of her costume, and revealed her jewelry-covered nipple in one fell swoop. The camera cut away, and the lights went down. You can watch the entire performance below, but the incident happens just after the 12 minute mark.
Nipplegate, as it has come to be called, is the reason why all live performances since then have been filmed with a five-second broadcast delay. The FCC also received more than 500,000 complaints and fined CBS $550,000. A federal appeals court eventually threw out the fine, but the case wasn’t officially resolved until 2012.
The NFL, CBS, and MTV, which produced the halftime show, all apologized for the incident. “The tearing of Janet Jackson’s costume was unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional and was inconsistent with assurances we had about the content of the performance. MTV regrets this incident occurred and we apologize to anyone who was offended by it,” the company stated. MTV then later put the blame completely on Janet when Tom Freston, the company’s chief executive at the time, told Reuters that she “engineered” the stunt.
The weekend after the 2004 halftime show, they were both slated to appear at the Grammy Awards, and while the “Man of the Woods” singer’s performance occurred as planned, CBS allegedly uninvited Janet. The “Nasty” singer’s music and videos also went on to be banned by MTV, VH1, and various radio stations.
Justin & Janet’s Responses
Justin and Janet both issued their own apologies the following day. “I am sorry if anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance at the Super Bowl. It was not intentional and is regrettable,” JT said. “The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my halftime show performance was made after final rehearsals,” Janet wrote in a statement. “MTV was completely unaware of it. It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. I apologize to anyone offended — including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL.”
The “Can’t Stop The Feeling” star backpedaled a few days later, suggesting that he was an innocent victim — essentially letting Janet shoulder the blame. “The fact of the matter is, I’ve had a good year, a really good year, especially with my music, even me personally. I don’t feel like I need publicity like this,” he told KCBS. “And I wouldn’t want to be involved with a stunt, especially of this magnitude. 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.”
Why It Matters Today
Justin being tapped to come back to the Super Bowl is just one of many examples of how Nipplegate unevenly impacted his and Janet’s careers. People are outraged by how Janet received the brunt of the blame, and her career suffered the consequences, all while the “Sexy Back” singer went unscathed. After the former ‘NSYNC member was announced to be this year’s headliner, a petition was started to stop the performance and the hashtag #JusticeForJanet began trending. Fans have since suggested that Justin should bring Janet out as a special guest, but it doesn’t look like that will happen. “To be honest, I had a ton of grand ideas about special guests,” he said in a press conference. “From *NSYNC to Jay [Z] to Chris Stapleton to Janet, but this year I’m just excited — my band, the Tennessee Kids, I feel like they’re my special guests and I’m excited this year to rock the stage. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.” Janet deserved so much better.
The only way I'm going to be into Justin Timberlake's Super Bowl performance is if he walks out, grabs his mic and says, "I'd like to publicly apologize to Janet Jackson — and now, here she is to do the halftime show without me!" and then disappears via a trapdoor in the floor.
— noah michelson (@noahmichelson) February 2, 2018
— Bridget (@BeeBink) February 2, 2018
.I admit it, I like the music Justin Timberlake makes. I like the rhythm and the beat. But I don't buy him or watch him. I will be boycotting the #SuperBowl half time because Janet Jackson. That double standard was white male privilege in a nutshell and is not ok.
— Ann Archy 🍩 (@AnnRCY) February 2, 2018
HollywoodLifers, how do you feel about Justin performing at the 2018 Super Bowl?