Column 11 – Part 2

Superbowl 2004? continued……

What did I think of Timberlake’s performance?

That was just it, he was Michael Jackson, and not original. His performance was ok at best.

The song and his first single, “Like I Love you” wasn’t overly inventive and his performance had thematic elements and choreography stolen, not expanded on, from Michael.

I passed his debut off as just another recording artist. He didn’t seem to have his own voice, and that seemed to be the popular consensus over the next week in the media. Timberlake’s album came out soon after to harsh reviews of “Timberlake is a good study of Bobby Brown and Michael Jackson, but not an innovator.”

A couple of months passed, and I forgot how important I thought that moment was, and started to have more down to earth expectations for his music and individual style.

Fast Forward to a different state of mind

Now November, I was working my first job and due to the long commute, I listened to the radio a ton. “Cry me a River”, the second single from Justified, was released, and although not a real catchy tune, it was really soulful. Different with a strong, slow beat and a high vocal range that only Timberlake could pull off, it seemed to get a ton of buzz. Plus, the fact that it was about his breakup with Britney made the song that much better.

Soon after, the radios lit up with ‘Work It”, a song he did with red hot Nelly. Catchy with a perfect meld of lyrics and melodic chorus, it was song that you turn up to make the time fly.

Over the next year and a half to two years it seemed like Mr. Timberlake was everywhere. He had a couple more singles off the album that were cool, “Rock your Body” and “Senorita” that further distanced him from his days as a teen heartthrob and carving out a niche for his brand of Rhythm and Blues layered with Funk.

It was becoming apparent that like Michael, one of Timberlake’s greatest strengths was that his music crossed over into so many genres. He performed on BET, (Black Entertainment Television) he was on the mainstream pop stations, as well as the alternative ones, and he seemed to be growing steadily in popularity as a solo artist.

On top of all that, not related to his music, Timberlake has always seemed like a really cool guy that wasn’t too over inflated. From Kentucky, it seemed like he was living the American Dream. Good looking, rich, and at one time dating (arguable) the hottest woman on the planet, Britney Spears, he had it all! He even dipped in the dramatic waters with a sense of comedic delivery as a dancing omelet on SNL and a funny spoof skit of the Matrix with Sean William Scott on the MTV movie awards.

He seemed like he came to his stardom deservingly, through hard work and talent with a hearty helping of charisma. But I confused thatncharisma with artistic integrity and always putting his work before anything else.

And then it hit me.

That is when I realized what was upsetting me about the Superbowl.

I had not seen the incident in real time, but had been taping the game because I had work to do and the Superbowl is an all day event. When I saw it later, it didn’t seem like the big deal everyone was making it out to be at first. Then I started to really think about who it impacted, and listened to the backlash as it unraveled, and I realized how big of a deal this was.

But I am not a parent, so it didn’t directly affect me and it didn’t offend me.

What I do care about is the fact that Timberlake was just starting to become this great innovative solo artist for me.

I will read articles in passing about Timberlake when I browse through the newsstands. He says he only now realizes why people were labeling N’Sync as this candy pop band and that he knows that the songs he wrote on Justified are so much above and beyond that.

He isn’t the only one who thinks so. At an award show late last year, Eminem and 50 Cent stood up and gave him applause on his walk up to the stage. Earlier this year, he won a Grammy and gave a stellar and engaging performance of Senorita on the piano in what is becoming his trademark style of a pastel suit and canvas shoes.

This is the same artist who pulled off a piece of Janet Jackson’s brassiere and later passed it off as a “wardrobe malfunction”. Maybe it was all Jackson’s doing you say, that they had rehearsed something similar the day before, but she changed her outfit to surprise him on the day of. “Have you naked by the end of this song” doesn’t seem to fit with a simple display of a bra, there is more skin on NYPD Blue.

Oh, he knew, and he liked it. He liked the idea of being involved in such a large stunt with such a large name that he was drawn to. I do believe that in most cases, all publicity is good, no matter type it is. But not this time, it wasn’t just a regular display, and it wasn’t on a regular day.

Considering all the details

Let’s play the devil’s advocate. Maybe he was feeling some unwarranted pressure from the kiss between his ex-girlfriend Britney and Madonna back in September. Maybe his obvious outspoken respect and attraction for Janet Jackson, which was apparent at the Icon awards last year, took over. Maybe it was that continuing heat between the pair that resulted in a real accident onstage during the Super Bowl.

But I doubt it.

The Superbowl is the unofficial holiday of America. Not many other days of the year can give you that much exposure. An excuse for families to spend all day together and eat more than they would on an off day, some 120 million people were watching, including many children.

I do not think that all children have seen a naked breast, and if they have, they haven’t seen one many times.

I don’t think MTV is at fault. They probably knew and didn’t stop her, because MTV fosters those sort of ideas. But, it was her unprompted idea, and you know that she didn’t care. She just kept saying, “I apologize for those of you who were offended” instead of “I am sorry because I was naïve enough to think that the American public actually believes this was an accident.” Or “Sorry, I don’t care how my actions may affect anyone else.”

As I look down at my own chest, covered in hair, I know that if I shift wrong, I can pull some hair out, and cause “discomfort”. I cannot imagine gluing on a nipple “decoration” or “enhancer”, let alone attach a die cast metal, quarter inch thick object, with six to eight half inch spikes to my chest, underneath my clothes, unless I had some intentions of showing it off.

I read a couple of weeks ago in Rolling Stones that Timberlake said, “I’ve had a good year, a really good year, I don’t need publicity like this.” But that wasn’t what I heard come out of his mouth immediately after the event. I heard something similar to what Jackson said, apologizing to those who were offended. Maybe he meant sorry for choosing on national television what should be offensive to every person on the planet.

I thought Justin was better than that; it’s my naïve conservative upbringing shining through. At some point all musicians will cross the line in the name of pushing their own careers and reputations plummet from there. I just didn’t think it would be before his career really began.

Look at his mentor Michael Jackson. Michael is an innovator as well as a button pusher in his risks. I mean, he even pissed off Steven Spielberg. That’s pretty good. He may be getting torn apart with these molestation allegations, but it isn’t like he hasn’t given the media reason over the years to blow things out of proportion.

Justin may not be as bad, and he may not be going down the same road, but this may be his first step. They both knew to shock the most people that the Superbowl was the ideal event. Maybe they wanted to sell more albums, but I doubt it was that basic. I think it was just to shock and nothing more, for the thrill. Sad really, to need the attention.

Solely my opinion and my closing

Maybe every American is already desensitized, and maybe children have already seen something similar. Maybe we are more uptight than Europe with their free display of the human body in mainstream media. We may be hypocritical in letting massive amounts of increasingly depictive violence on TV slide, but being hyper sensitive to nudity.

But I am still going to say for the sake of a budding career, a bad reflection on his N’Sync band mates, and disrespect to those parents out there that didn’t want to expose their children to a plastic black woman…

What Timberlake did was inappropriate.


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