Justin Timberlake Backlash: Why Everyone Is Picking on Him - Rolling Stone
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Why Is Everyone Picking on Justin Timberlake? Inside the Backlash

His ‘Man of the Woods’ LP hit Number One to eye rolls worldwide; new episode of ‘Rolling Stone Music Now’ explains how he became a pop punching bag

Recording artist Justin Timberlake performs onstage during the Pepsi Super Bowl LII Halftime Show at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Despite his continued chart success, Justin Timberlake has gotten flak for his wardrobe, his so-called "pivot to whiteness," cheery 2016 hit "Can't Stop the Feeling" and his failure to take responsibility in the 2004 Super Bowl debacle with Janet Jackson.

Christopher Polk/Getty Images

It’s a weird time to be Justin Timberlake. His just-released album, Man of the Woods, hit number one, and he played music’s most coveted gig at the Super Bowl – without incident, this time. He’s about to go on what will no doubt be a highly successful arena tour.

But a very vocal online contingent has simply had enough of him: they mocked every second of his album roll-out, beginning with its trailer, which raised accusations of “pivoting to whiteness”; they questioned his professed commitment to women’s rights in the face of his very recent starring role in a Woody Allen movie; they feel that he failed to take much responsibility for his 2004 Super Bowl debacle with Janet Jackson; and they’re not crazy about his fashion sense, either. 

In the new episode of Rolling Stone Music Now, Staff Writer Brittany Spanos and Contributing Editor Rob Sheffield join Senior Writer and host Brian Hiatt to discuss all things Timberlake. To hear the entire discussion, press play above or download and subscribe to Rolling Stone Music Now on iTunes or Spotify.

In the episode, our panelists ponder if, like his pal Jimmy Fallon, Justin just isn’t made for these politically charged times – and whether the same charming blitheness that aided his ceaseless success is now working against him.  Along the way, Hiatt attempts to defend “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” which Sheffield calls “bland and manipulative and cynical,” while Spanos argues that it “sounds like someone sped up ‘Happy’ and threw it in a trash can.”

Download and subscribe to Rolling Stone Music Now on iTunes or Spotify, and tune in Fridays at 1 p.m. ET to hear the show broadcast live on Sirius XM’s Volume, channel 106.

Justin Timberlake led the halftime show at Superbowl 52. Watch highlights below.


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