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Janet Jackson directly addresses the aftermath and allegations around her Super Bowl Halftime Show with Justin Timberlake and the Grammys controversy during the second night of Lifetime’s two-part documentary Janet Jackson.
While the first hour focuses more heavily on Janet’s response to the sexual abuse allegations her brother Michael Jackson faced, the second hour dedicates significant time to her 2004 Super Bowl performance, which resulted in a media storm and backlash from conservative politicians and CBS, as well as an FCC investigation.
The retelling begins with Janet responding to an ask by Timberlake’s team about whether she would be interested in returning to perform at the Super Bowl with him in 2018. “When I think about it, would it be nice to be able to perform? Yes,” Janet says. “Our family, we love entertaining. But on the flip side of it, it’s stretching out the past, reliving something that happened over 10 years ago.”
The doc then rewinds back to the exact night, skipping over recounting the preparation for the halftime show and mixing archival footage of the performance and photos with new interviews featuring Janet’s dancers, her then-partner Jermaine Dupri and her sister Rebbie Jackson. Janet’s sister, who describes the event as “horrible,” recalls how her two children at the show saw Janet crying as she was leaving.
In her own interview, Janet says that following the event, Justin Timberlake did reach out to her. “We talked once, and he said, ‘I don’t know if I should come out and make a statement,'” Janet recalls. “I said, ‘Listen, I don’t want any drama for you. They’re aiming all of this at me.’ So I just said if I were you, I wouldn’t say anything.”
In a recorded video, Janet also dispels rumors that there’s still tension between them and encourages people to move on.
“Honestly, this whole thing was blown way out of proportion,” she says. “Of course, it was an accident. That should not have happened, but everyone is looking for someone to blame, and that’s got to stop. Justin and I are very good friends, and we will always be very good friends. We spoke just a few days ago, and he and I have moved on, and it’s time for everyone else to do the same.”
While there’s no discussion about what may have led to the wardrobe piece ripping, Janet and her supporters, including Dupri and her brother Tito Jackson, firmly deny the moment was intentional. “It pissed me off a lot when people were saying she did this to create this hype,” Dupri says. “The way people tried to play it was disgusting for me.”
Janet Jackson also addresses the blacklisting and Grammys controversy that followed, one more directly than the other. While Janet gives no specific statement on the alleged blacklisting, a video clip highlights a news piece that VH1 and MTV were to not play her new album. As for the Grammys, Janet states that she was “disinvited.” Dupri, who was on the Grammys board at the time, supports this. “I felt like they were disrespectful to Janet, and I resigned at that point,” he says.
(During Malfunction, The New York Times‘ documentary on Jackson, former vp communications for the Recording Academy, Ron Roecker, states that the Grammys never disinvited the singer and that Jackson backed out.)
The singer says she tried to avoid seeing much of the backlash — which was even more emotionally difficult due to it taking place amid Michael’s sexual abuse trial — but she couldn’t escape all of it. That includes “grown men” wishing ill of her and “people coming up to my brothers and saying things, wishing I would be put away.”
The rest of the second hour looks at how Janet’s relationship with Dupri fell apart due to cheating, her Unbreakable World Tour, the joys of having her baby and becoming a mom in her 50s, her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, Janet’s musical impact on other female artists, and how the Jackson family handled both her father Joe and brother Michael’s deaths.
“No privacy at all,” Rebbie recalls of Michael’s passing, ahead of footage featuring the Jackson matriarch, Katherine, tearing up. “Even on the street that my mom lived on, you couldn’t even drive down the street.”
“The last thing we said to each other was ‘I love you,’ and that was the last time I saw him,” Janet says. “But at least we have that.”
The show’s first hour offers a deeper look at how, when Michael was alive, Janet handled the allegations against him. The artist reveals how that initial allegation — made by a then-13-year-old boy who visited Michael’s Neverland Ranch — “tarred” her and a commercial deal with Coca-Cola that was ready to be signed. “When that came out, Coca-Cola said no thank you,” Janet recalls.
“My brother would never do something like that, but I’m still guilty by association. That’s what they call it, right?” Janet says.
According to Janet, the family stood by Michael, even moving into his Neverland Ranch “to make sure Mike knew he had the support of his family.” Part of how the family showed that support was by offering to reunite the Jacksons for a tour with Janet opening, but Michael wasn’t responsive to it.
“There were people who wanted to keep him where he was, where they could have some sort of control over him,” she says of her brother’s shifting behavior. “I was really upset because we didn’t grow up like that.”
Janet was, however, able to record “Scream” with her brother, a process she and others, along with video footage, recount. While the music video is punchy and high-energy, it was particularly “tough” to complete. What was to be a three-day shoot turned into a $7 million endeavor stretching so far beyond its planned time frame the chart-topper says she forgot how long they were working. It was an ordeal she said she wanted to “feel like old times between him and I,” but ultimately didn’t.
“Michael shot nights, I shot days. His record company, they would block off his whole set so that I couldn’t see what was going on. They didn’t want me on set,” Janet says. “I felt like they were trying to make it very competitive between the two of us. That really hurt me because I felt like I was there fighting the fight with him. Not to battle him.”
As for her brother’s guilt, Janet goes on to say that Michael settled that initial allegation because “he just wanted it to go away, but that looks like you’re guilty.”
While the documentary can get heavy around moments that show how Janet was tested during her career, the rest of the night charts her groundbreaking artistry and industry impact.
In addition to reflecting on her record label bidding war in the early ‘90s and the experience filming her feature debut Poetic Justice, the doc celebrates her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, her support of social causes like fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and embracing her sexuality as part of her public music image. That includes her famous shirtless Rolling Stone cover with René Elizondo Jr., a move that artists like Mariah Carey, Teyana Taylor and Ciara said “broke down a door” for female artists to be fearless.
As for why Janet did her own documentary, she says it was an effort to, like the revelations about her early career during night one, take back control.
“I wanted people to see my family and myself, who we really are. Not someone else’s perception of us,” Janet says. “The real story. How everything really happened.”
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