Justin Timberlake surprised everyone by announcing a second volume of his smash album, The 20/20 Experience. But there’s already a controversy surrounding the project: Last week, the pop star unveiled the album’s new single, “Take Back the Night,” which is facing criticism for its title, as it is also the name of a well-known sexual assault awareness foundation.
The Take Back the Night Foundation’s lawyers sent a letter to Timberlake, threatening legal action over using the trademarked name without permission. Timberlake issued a formal apology with Radar Online, stating that he was unfamiliar with the group’s existence and hoped his song would spread the word about its mission.
“It just shows how far we have to go when Take Back the Night as a historic movement to end sexual violence in all forms is still not widely enough known, according to Mr. Timberlake, that he claims he didn’t know that we existed,” Take Back the Night Executive Director Katherine Koestner tells Rolling Stone. “It shows exactly how much work we have to do as an organization and as a cause to end sexual violence to get our visibility increased in pop culture.”
Koestner says the group is still awaiting a response after its volunteer attorney sent a legal notice to Timberlake’s legal team.
Aside from the trademark question, the organization is concerned that the track’s lyrics don’t reflect its own longstanding goals.
“Our mission is to end sexual violence, not to end sex,” says Koestner. “In reading the lyrics, I think they’re open to a lot of interpretation. They’re clearly sexual, but they’re not about sexual assault – so I think the problem may be just confusion with how an overtly sexual song matches with the mission of ending sexual violence.”
Koestner adds that she hopes the two parties can work out their differences. “As a foundation, we’re all about promoting healthy, respectful relationships,” she says. “So if Justin is on the side of healthy, respectful relationships, then we’re a fan of his. And I hope we can move forward with his voice, and all of those throughout the world that stand against sexual violence.”
Additional reporting by Killian Young