With just one sentence, Justin Timberlake destroyed his career comeback.

Picture this: Today is a very big day. The most coveted tickets for a global world tour are on sale. I call in sick for work pretending I'm gripped by a mystery flu. My work friends all do the same thing. 

The day might be understaffed, but we have other things to worry about. 

Today is all about lining up to secure the best seats for a once-in-a-lifetime extravaganza. 

The biggest pop star in the world is coming Down Under. 

No, I'm not hoping to score Taylor Swift's Eras tickets

It's 2007 and Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveShow tour is coming to Australia.

I'm not kidding. 

In the noughties, Timberlake was widely considered "the world's biggest male pop star", off the back of multiple Grammy awards and years of consecutive chart-topping singles.

This was a vastly different pop culture landscape. Justin Timberlake was untouchable. 

Justin Timberlake wins at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards. Image: Getty. 


Timberlake burst into music as one of two lead singers (I don't know what the other three actually did?!) in '90s boy band 'NSYNC.  

Timberlake was the clear breakout star of the group, in small part for his looks, charisma, and talent but arguably in a much larger part because of his 1999 to 2002 relationship with pop superstar, Britney Spears.

By 2002, 'NSYNC had disbanded, Timberlake had gone solo and broken up with Spears (via text, the 'Stronger' singer later claimed). 

In the following years, Timberlake would spin a narrative about their split by releasing 'Cry Me a River', a biting revenge song assumedly about Spears that accused a woman of cheating on her partner. 

Britney became publicly hated, a scarring experience she documented in her 2023 memoir, The Woman In Me. "In the news media, I was described as a harlot who'd broken the heart of America's golden boy," she wrote. Spears was famously left in tears when Diane Sawyer told the singer on national TV “You broke his heart." 


Britney Spears breaks down. Image: ABC. 

Then came a little incident in 2004 when he was headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show with Janet Jackson. During a performance of 'Rock Your Body', Timberlake ripped off part of Jackson’s costume, exposing her right breast. 


And who was to blame? Janet Jackson, of course.

Jackson was banned from attending the following 2004 Grammy Awards. Timberlake was permitted to attend if he apologised, which he did when he won Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. 

WATCH: Justin Timberlake discusses the incident in 2024. Post continues after video.

Video via Apple. 

In 2018, Timberlake was invited back to headline the Super Bowl Halftime — this time solo with no special guests, an honour awarded to only a handful of pop stars. 

For instance, even Beyoncé was joined by Destiny's Child during her slot. 

The show didn't get good reviews. As a spectacle, it was predictable and uninspired— an Entertainment Weekly review called it "dutiful and empty" — and provided a stark reminder to punters of how Jackson's career never recovered yet Timberlake's was comparatively thriving. 

This marked the beginning of the public tide of opinion turning on the former boy band member. 


Of course, there were early signs. In 2016, Justin tweeted a tone-deaf response to Black Lives Matter activist Jesse Williams' speech about police brutality, remarking that "we are the human race" which left online critics cringing. 

The tweet spurred people to take a retrospective look at how Timberlake had profited off the cultural appropriation of Black music, dance moves, and fashion for decades. Spears wrote in her memoir that she recalled Timberlake speaking with a blaccent during their relationship.

Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake in 2003. Image: Getty. 


Meanwhile, a more sinister light was being cast over JT's treatment of Spears as the 'Free Britney' movement to end the singer's conservatorship was at its peak. After the Framing Britney Spears documentary premiered, the singer felt urged to release a sanitised public apology in 2021. 

"The industry is flawed. It sets men, especially white men, up for success. It’s designed this way. As a man in a privileged position, I have to be vocal about this," he wrote in a statement.

"Because of my ignorance, I didn’t recognise it for all that it was while it was happening." 

Go boy, give us nothing! 

Since releasing this statement, Timberlake kept out of the headlines until Spears released her memoir in 2023 where she alleged the former boy band member pressured her to have an abortion and cheated on her regularly when they were together. 

This brings us to 2024. Timberlake is releasing a new album and preparing to embark on a world tour. 

And it's not going particularly well! 

Listen to The Spill hosts discuss the Justin Timberlake story that will never be told. 

JT's first song released off the album Everything I Thought It Was has already been tainted by controversy. 


The track titled 'Selfish' is a song name shared with his ex-girlfriend from 2011. After news of the song's release, Spears' fans rushed to buy the 13-year-old Spears track, with both songs charting in the top five of iTunes.

The 'Senorita' singer has since come out swinging against Spears. As he performed in New York City this week, he told the crowd “I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to absolutely f**king nobody."

He said this before singing the 2002 hit 'Cry Me a River', which made the person he was directing the jibe at blatantly obvious to onlookers.

Spears had initially attempted a ceasefire by posting to Instagram that she was "in love" with Timberlake's new track. But then following his recent comment, she posted an Instagram post that sounded a lot like it was directed at her ex.

“Someone told me someone was talking shit about me on the streets !!!,” Spears wrote in a caption of an image of a basketball hoop. “Do you want to bring it to the court or will you go home crying to your mama like you did last time ???”

The bizarre outburst from Timberlake has been met with venom online — especially from Spears' vocal and active fan base. With just one sentence, it looks like he swiftly ended his comeback, before it had even really begun.

This is just one of many moments from Timberlake's comeback attempt that have fallen flat. 

He was once a beloved celebrity on Saturday Night Live — he's hosted five times and found a cult following for his 'Dick in a Box' skit — but his recent appearance as a musical guest on Dakota Johnson's episode was met with a lukewarm response. 


This is no longer the Justin Timberlake that can do no wrong in the public's eye. 

The Atlantic described his return to the SNL stage as having "an air of desperation" while one post on X wrote that "the only people that like Justin Timberlake's music is Justin Timberlake and his wife [Jessica Biel]." 

The reviews for Timberlake's first solo single in six years have not been... great. 

Forbes described the song as "low-energy and "lacklustre" while a particularly savage review from Consequence said the track was a 'treacly schlock turd'. Ooft. 

Timberlake obviously disagrees. "I think every artist probably says this, but it is my best work," Timberlake told Zane Lowe for Apple Music about his new album.

It's unclear if Timberlake's latest album tour will reach Australia, but if he schedules a show near me, I can safely assure my boss (reading this now, hello!) that unlike 2007, I won't be chucking a sickie to rush to buy tickets. 

Feature image: Getty. 

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