“I felt betrayed,” an MTV boss said as insider accounts revealed what went down before and after the infamous Super Bowl moment.
After blowing up Britney Spears’ conservatory in the New York Times Presents documentary “Framing Britney Spears,” the release targeted another female pop star who was unfairly insulted by the public: Janet Jackson.
“Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson” began by documenting the pop icon’s rapid rise to fame as she broke free from her famous family to become one of the greatest superstars ever. Her rise coincided with the MTV generation, and when CBS and Viacom merged in 2001, she was selected to host ViacomCBS ‘second Super Bowl – following the success of its Aerosmith and NSYNC’s half-time show with Mary J. Blige, Nelly and Britney.
One of the voices that viewers heard a lot from was Jim Steeg, the former director of NFL Special Events, who said that Janet was the least of their worries the year she performed – as her break show would also feature performances from Diddy, Nelly and Kid Rock.
“Of all the issues we potentially had regarding talent for that halftime show, Janet Jackson was probably the least concern we had. There was concern with P. Diddy, there was concern with Nelly, there was concern with Kid Rock.” he explained. “With some elements of the NFL thought it went too far from where they wanted to be.”
Steeg claimed that Justin Timberlake was added to the list to help “dampen the tone” of the show and make it more “family friendly”.
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According to the break’s show director Beth McCarthy-Miller, they did a full dress rehearsal a few times the Thursday before the big match. Steeg said there were a lot of notes after the rehearsals when he wrote a 2-page note with what needed to be changed – including lyrics for Diddy and Nelly, as well as concerns that Kid Rock chose to carry the American flag under his part of the show.
According to former Senior VP of MTV Salli Frattini, they had very little rehearsal time with Justin, especially – with Miller explaining that Janet would initially have to wear a skirt that could be torn off Justin would pull off her when he sang “Rock Your Body “lyrics,” I want you naked at the end of this song. ” Jackson would have had an entire jumpsuit on downstairs, but the powers that be decided it just “did not work” and the NFL and CBS agreed to pull it off the routine. “She agreed with that,” Frattini said of Janet’s reaction to the note.
Frattini then went through all the wardrobe looks with someone from standards and practices, and they went out in the belief that they had “delivered the messages clear” about what was expected show day. However, it was alleged that Janet’s stylist Wayne Scot Lukas was rogue after the wardrobe approvals, spending money on new fabric and the star-studded nipple shield. “We had no knowledge at all of what could have happened to Janet and her team,” Frattini said.
The day of the big match, Timberlake landed in Houston, Texas shortly before halftime, with a police escort bringing him to the stadium. Frattini claimed that “there was a request for him to talk to Janet, her stylist” in her dressing room. “We did that as producing not, we were not in the room, no one was in the room,” she said, saying that “there was a small conversation that lasted a few minutes” before Justin came out and they went on stage.
“And then of course we come to the end, and that’s the last few seconds of the song, and that was right when everything went wrong,” Frattini recalled. “The song ended, we went wide, the pyro hit, and we start clapping, ‘Oh my god, we did it!’ And then the phone rings.And I think I pick up that phone because I get, “It was amazing and congratulations.”
Instead, Steeg told her what everyone else had just seen.
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Director McCarthy-Miller immediately called his stage director to ask what was going on down the field. “She said, ‘I do not know, but I had a blanket that Janet could wrap her in. I laid the blanket on her and she cried,'” she claimed.
Frattini then rewound the footage and realized what they had all missed the first time: half a second of Jackson’s chest had been revealed at the end of the song. “We were all standing there in shock. Of course, one of the first things we tried to do was talk to Janet. Janet fled. We could not get her on the phone, we could not get the manager on the phone,” she then claimed.
When Justin spoke to reporters backstage, as if nothing had happened, Jackson was nowhere to be found. Frattini said they then pulled Timberlake aside and asked him what happened. “It was never meant to be. I was told you knew,” she claimed he told them.
“We did not. He was very apologetic. He manned up. I was personally a wreck, I was in tears, people were crying, it was really outrageous. I felt betrayed,” she added. “My instincts told me there was a private conversation between wardrobe stylists and artists where someone thought this would be a good idea and it backfired.”
In the days that followed, Timberlake was the first to issue a statement that brought “wardrobe flaws” into the pop culture encyclopedia. Janet then released her own comments and acquitted MTV and all the companies involved in the Super Bowl of what happened, saying “it was not my intention that it should go as far as it did.” Justin would later claim that he was under the impression that Jackson’s red bra would be revealed, but that was it, and began to completely distance himself from her.
“There were two people on stage. He pulled. Janet’s chest didn’t just pop out,” Janet’s brother, Tito Jackson, told the doctor.
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She would go on to release another statement on video, saying that “Unfortunately, it all went wrong in the end.”
According to the New York Times, Timberlake went so far as to show up at CBS offices to give a personal apology to President Les Moonves – and was reportedly “pretty tearful” about it when he did. As setbacks for Janet continued to build, FCC complaints poured in.
“Some people, I think, lost their jobs because of it,” McCarthy-Miller recalled. “Others had to be evicted. And that was scary.”
Both artists were scheduled to perform at the Grammy Awards the same week, also on CBS. But in light of the Super Bowl failure, the terms of their performances were changed at the last minute by Moonves.
“Although Janet and Justin both gave written apologies, it was Les Moonves from CBS who decided that if Janet Jackson and Justin were to attend the Grammy Awards, they should publicly apologize during the show,” said Ron Roecker, VP. of Communication for The Recording Academy. “It was there, it got very sticky.”
While he said the Recording Academy never “unsolicited” the duo, CBS was adamant that they came up with formal excuses in the air – “and Justin decided to be on the show, and Janet decided not to be.” He added: “Was it because of the apology? I do not know. One can assume. Both artists who led to the Grammy Awards had our full support … [but] when you have someone paying your bills for the whole year, listen to them. “
According to Matt Serletic, former CEO of Virgin Records – Janet’s label at the time – they felt that the demand to apologize again “felt like another request for something that was an accident … so she did not and good for her.”
Justin apologized again during his speech of thanks when he received awards for best pop vocal album for “Justified” and best male pop vocal performance for “Cry Me a River” – and his career would only skyrocket from there, while Janets suffered tremendously. There was a lot of talk that her music was “blacklisted” from radio and MTV, with a Clear Channel director claiming that even though there was no “system-wide blacklist” of her music, local markets could have pulled her music, if they believed in their music. the listeners no longer wanted to hear it after the fight.
Said Tito: “I do not know if ‘blacklist’ is the word they were trying to do to my sister, but it certainly seemed like they were trying to diminish her career and her abilities.” His son Taj added: “We all knew as a family that they were trying to sabotage Aunt Janet. Her career suffered because of someone whose ego was hurt.”
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The FCC eventually fined CBS $ 550,000 for the failure, though the network never paid a dime after winning an appeal. Timberlake, meanwhile, was invited back to perform during the 2018 Super Bowl Halftime Show, which sparked a #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay trend on social media as many protested his performance and wondered why his career was not going so well. The answer, according to anyone with eyes: racism and misogyny.
“I’ve never been invited, I know you’re shocked, to ever instruct again,” McCarthy-Miller joked. “It’s okay, my feelings are not hurt.”
However, Jackson would eventually get her flowers when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She eventually also received a very public apology from Timberlake, triggered by the public shame he received after “Framing Britney Spears” highlighted his treatment of both Spears and Jackson earlier this year.
“I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and enjoyed a system that tolerates misogyny and racism,” he said in February 2021. “I would specifically apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually , because I care about and respect these women, and I know I failed. ” You can read his full statement here.
Both Timberlake and Jackson declined to comment on the thesis – though Janet drops her own 2-part A&E documentary, “Janet,” in January 2022. She is expected to address the Super Bowl incident in detail even then.