“I want to take this opportunity to apologize… to fucking nobody.” These were the words of Justin Timberlake last night during a concert to present his next work. A few days after Britney Spears asked for “sorry for some things” written in her book and also for “having offended people she really loves”, while she bothered to promote Timberlake’s new single – without anyone noticing asked for it, nor expected it-, his answer is this.
Perhaps he is resentful of the business performance of ‘Selfish’. Perhaps he is resentful of reviews that are directly calling his song and almost his entire career a “dordo.” Maybe you’re right that you don’t have to apologize to anyone because we don’t fully know their side of the story. But his entire public comment on what has happened in recent days is this:
“I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize… to absolutely fucking nobody.”
Justin Timberlake apparently shades Britney Spears while performing tonight in NYC.
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‘Selfish’ arrived on the market last Friday surrounded by enormous expectation. It is the first single from Justin Timberlake’s first album in 6 years. It is Justin Timberlake’s first single since Britney published her memoirs, in which she says, for example, that he forced her to have an abortion. And it is Justin Timberlake’s first single since what is known as cancel culture has taken hold. The public that saw Janet Jackson’s popularity fall due to the tit incident – without even a nipple – in the Super Bowl, but not him, is more eager than ever. And not for the better.
However, at the same time there are people who have been canceling the cancel culture. If Britney enjoys ‘Selfish’, why don’t you? Forgetting for a moment about Justin Timberlake’s personal life, how good is the song? Is it fair to say, as Consequence’s reviewer says, that it’s shit like “his last 10 years of music”?
Sticking to the production, a return of Justin Timberlake with Timbaland would have been very appealing. There is no one squeezing the boundaries between jazz, R&B, soul, hip hop and electronics like they did in songs like ‘Suit & Tie’ or ‘Mirrors’, classics of our century. Justin’s last album so far, ‘Man of the Woods’, was already marked by popular suspicion. Its reception was very irregular. And yet there were songs that played with various genres in a way as cute as the title song, produced by The Neptunes. It feels like it would have been a hit in the mouths of, for example, Jon Batiste or Justin Bieber. It’s so transversal that Blur liked it too: it’s the only song in the world that has something from ‘Tender’ and something from ‘Coffee & TV’ at the same time.
Back, Timberlake hasn’t followed the Timbaland/Neptunes path, except in terms of minimalism. ‘Selfish’ is a small song, produced this time with Cirkut and Louis Bell, about which the best thing that can be said is that it sounds cute. The production and the falsetto approach of the chorus are beautiful. In most of the song there is barely a keyboard in organ mode or similar, and a drum machine so rudimentary that it could have come from a toy keyboard that one of his two children had at home. It is an excellent idea for a theme that speaks of innocence or pure love. It seems that if Harry Styles had released it he could be hitting it, although it’s hard to believe that he would use it as the first single instead of the fourth. But it’s good. In addition, it is inspired by John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’, but in which Donny Hathaway sang.
Its main problem is that its lyrics do not adapt to 2024. It certainly seems to be written in 1971. Timberlake, who has an album called ‘Justified’, dedicates this song to justifying the decisions or bad thoughts he has for love. And this is a possessive love: “I don’t want other guys to take my place, baby, I’m very proud.” He then adds: “I know I may be wrong, but I don’t want to be right.” And the chorus echoes: “If I get jealous, I can’t help it. I want every last piece of you, I guess I’m selfish. “It’s bad for my mental health, but I can’t fight it.” Without mincing words, Justin Timberlake is portraying everything you feared he could be. As one would say today, he is portraying himself. Or crowning (for worse).
On the charts, ‘Selfish’ is being received with enormous lukewarmness. The new playlists surrendered to it, but Today’s Top Hits, the most important and powerful in the world, turned its back on it. As a result, a very fair top 15 is expected in the United States, and the top 40 in the United Kingdom is becoming more complicated every day. In Spain a top 100 would be a miracle. ‘Selfish’ was only in the top 92 of the Spotify Global chart on the day it was released, then it sank until it disappeared from the top 200 and in recent days it has risen somewhat (174th place in the Global chart), apparently aided by the radio. Certainly not for that video which, according to Sony, attempts to contrast “performance and reality” with “artist and person” and in the end it goes nowhere.
Yesterday’s “performance” does not seem like the way for the casual audience of the pop world to give a worthy song a chance. When Justin says that he doesn’t have to apologize, who is he addressing? Who do you think is his target audience? The friends of Pedro Sánchez who believe that feminism has gone too far? The kind of white man who votes for Donald Trump? For the type of public that is aware and concerned about real equality, these are not the ways to schedule a comeback. Especially when the topic is good, but not historical. As a colleague commented on his Stories: “give me something I have to listen to on the sly. Not that”.