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On January 31, Timberlake introduced his 2002 breakup diss track “Cry Me a River” with a message to fans. “I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to absolutely fucking nobody,” he told the crowd at Irving Plaza in New York City, per one video shared on a fan’s Instagram story.
Spears and Timberlake met on the set of Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club in 1992 and began dating in 1999, when they were both 18 years old. They split in 2002, with Timberlake implying that Spears cheated on him by releasing “Cry Me a River” that same year. He continued to use his music to dunk on Spears for years after their split, though this behavior sparked a wave of backlash with the release of the Framing Britney Spears documentary in 2021.
He ended up apologizing to Spears nearly 20 years after their breakup in a since-deleted Instagram post, writing, “I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right.”
So, were his recent words really meant for Spears? Well, song choice aside, this alleged jab comes after a wave of Spears fans pushed his new single, “Selfish,” out of the top spot of an iTunes chart using her 13-year-old song of the same name. If Timberlake didn’t find this as funny as Stan Twitter did, neither did Britney Spears.
Spears's ex recently released a song with the same name.
At the end of January, Spears took it upon herself to promote her ex-boyfriend’s single and even seemed to apologize to Timberlake for bringing up certain aspects of their relationship in her 2023 memoir, The Woman in Me. “I wanna apologize for some of the things I wrote about in my book,” Spears wrote on Instagram, per Yahoo! Entertainment. “If I offended any of the people I genuinely care about I am deeply sorry…I also wanted to say I am in love with Justin Timberlake’s new song ‘Selfish.’”
Perhaps this is why many people online found Timberlake’s recent comments to be in poor taste. “Justin Timberlake takes ANOTHER shot at Britney right before singing ‘Cry Me A River,’” one fan wrote on X.com. “He is such a pompous douchebag, even after Britney was kind to him & apologized without actually needing to.”
Spears also appears to have been made aware of the clip, taking to Instagram with a cryptic message underneath an image of a basketball hoop (basketball was a big part of their relationship back in their heyday). “Someone told me someone was talking shit about me on the streets,” she wrote on February 1, though her account is still private. “Do you want to bring it to the court or will you go home crying to your mom like you did the last time? I’m not sorry!!!”
Back in December 2023, Spears seemed to call out Timberlake following another performance of “Cry Me a River” in Las Vegas, telling fans that an unnamed man would “cry” after losing to her at basketball. “No disrespect,” she reportedly captioned the post, which were reportedly the same words he said on stage to introduce the song.
Clearly, the ballad still causes Spears a lot of pain. “I felt there was no way at the time to tell my side of the story,” Spears wrote of the song in The Woman in Me, per Us Weekly. “I couldn’t explain, because I knew no one would take my side once Justin had convinced the world of his version. I don’t think Justin realized the power he had in shaming me. I don’t think he understands to this day.”
Timberlake just released a new single.
Originally Appeared on Glamour