Written by By Megan Egan, CNN
Janet Jackson’s surprise wardrobe malfunction alongside Justin Timberlake at the 2004 Super Bowl concert didn’t sit well with many viewers — and isn’t likely to sit well with many of them today.
But a new documentary about the moment, which saw an air balloon dropping a dummy of Jackson’s bare breast while Timberlake danced on stage, has laid bare the ugly aftermath.
Journey to Super Bowl XXXVIII
Timberlake and Jackson, both starring in the National Geographic documentary, answer questions for a camera crew ahead of their halftime show performance at Super Bowl XXXVIII on February 1, 2004.
At the beginning of the film, Jackson admits that the outfit was not her original choice, and Timberlake adds that he was also “shocked” by the raunchy mishap.
The episode, or rather the incident, was a huge publicity stunt by Timberlake and Jackson ahead of the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.
It was also the third consecutive year that Timberlake and Jackson (who along with the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync were expected to perform a medley of their back catalogue) had headlined the halftime show.
Although the rap duo The Roots weren’t involved in the event, they became its center stage, rallying people online, interviewing journalists and even getting President George W. Bush to attend.
This video contains content that some may find offensive.
Jackson had earned a reputation for controversially wearing revealing outfits in the lead-up to her participation in the halftime show. In 2001, she caused an outcry after leaving her nipple exposed while wearing a see-through top.
In that year’s Super Bowl halftime show, Coldplay, Jay-Z and Britney Spears were the headline performers.
Locked in a backroom
During rehearsals, tensions were high as Timberlake sat in the singer’s dressing room, reading a book he read and watching his tape recorder go through its paces, according to the film.
Also in the room was Jackson’s choreographer, Tim “Tears” Christopherson, who told the camera crew he had told Timberlake and his team that it was “best not to censor us.”
But Jackson and Timberlake were also forced to compromise. The producer recalled them getting down on the floor with binoculars to look over each other’s backs. He joked that he looked “like an old detective.”
Timberlake, who didn’t see the air balloon in the rehearsals, recalled seeing the crash unfold in his peripheral vision from the side while he was singing a song. Jackson was oblivious.
One year later, Timberlake released a music video — “Rock Your Body” — that featured a nod to the incident.
Not long after, Jackson was questioned by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) about the incident.
In her statement, she said: “I was absolutely not aware that there would be any type of wardrobe malfunction.
“The fact that one was created to sell papers and create controversy, is really unfortunate.”
Timberlake’s own televised responses provided few clues, and for years, he played down the incident.
A recording released the following year, however, revealed that he had in fact apologized to Jackson in person.
Timberlake later fell out with Jackson, going back and forth over who was the one who was responsible for the incident.
It was during the press for “FutureSex/LoveSounds” — his 2005 album — that Timberlake and Jackson crossed paths again. Jackson’s then-husband James DeBarge was seen in a photo with Timberlake and the choreographer of the show, but the pair didn’t cross paths again.