Malfunction Recalls the Culture War That Came for Janet Jackson

Jackson’s eighth studio album, Damita Jo, still sold more than 3 million copies, but that was considered lackluster in its non-streaming day, especially for her (not helped by MTV staying at arm’s length and a diminished radio presence, which a Clear Channel executive insists was not by company-wide design, though he couldn’t speak for local stations). After her ninth album, 20 Y.O. (also certified platinum, with 1.5 million copies sold) came out in 2005 and her contract was fulfilled, she departed longtime label Virgin Records for Island Records.

Meanwhile, the FCC was investigating and Congress was holding hearings. “You knew what you were doing!” outraged Republican Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico accused then-Viacom President Mel Karmazin. “You knew what kind of entertainment you’re selling! And you wanted us all to be abuzz, here in this room and on the playground at my kids’ school, because it improves your ratings, it improves your market share and it lines your pockets.”

Karmazin, who stepped down in May 2004 and went on to be CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio, repeated that no one at CBS, Viacom, MTV or the NFL had known what was going to transpire at the Super Bowl.

As in, she did it, not us. 

Finally Rep. Bobby Rush, a Democrat from Illinois, is seen wondering during these hearings, “Where is Justin Timberlake?” in all this. Rep. Barbara Cubin, Republican from Wyoming, concurred, “Justin Timberlake deserves more than just a slap on the hand. It takes two to tango and I think only a sleazy man would allow Janet Jackson to take the full blame.”

Timberlake, sounding more contrite, mused in yet another media interview, “If you consider it 50-50, I mean, I probably got 10 percent of the blame, and I think that says something about society.”

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