It was the boob that shook the world: at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, legendary singer, dancer, and performer Janet Jackson took to the stage with JT. Their halftime show was obviously going to be a sexy one—with these two, there’s really no other choice—but things got way out of hand. During the final line of Timberlake’s hit “Rock Your Body,” he really did have her a little “naked by the end of this song.” Timberlake ripped off a part of Jackson’s top, exposing her jewelry-adorned nipple for about half of a second.
The shocking live moment created a worldwide scandal, resulting in hundreds of thousands of complaints to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a record-breaking $550,000 fine against CBS (that the network ultimately didn’t have to pay) and the unfortunate term “wardrobe malfunction” that continues to be used today. Despite multiple apologies, Jackson took the brunt of the blame. According to Rolling Stone, Viacom blacklisted her by “keeping her music videos off their properties MTV, VH1, and radio stations under their umbrella,” while CBS banned her from the Grammy Awards in February 2004. To this day, one could argue that her career never recovered.
Timberlake, meanwhile, received little to no backlash at all. Not only did he attend the Grammys (and win) that season, he even boasted after the incident, “Hey man, we love giving you all something to talk about.” His apology could also be read with a bit of an eye-roll. “I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl,” he said through his publicist. “It was not intentional and is regrettable.”
Incidentally, when The Mag asked Timberlake about the incident 10 years later, he cracked (via ESPN), “I’m not touching that thing with a 10-foot pole.”