“Cry Me A River” by Justin Timberlake (2002)

The words “fuck you” are never said or sung during “Cry Me A River”, but they’re all over every lyric Justin Timberlake wrote and sang during this song. That’s to say nothing of the deliciously spiteful video that ran on MTV and VH-1 for months on end and officially elevated Mr. Timberlake beyond his teen-pop beginnings. If Britney cheated on him, at least she managed to gift-wrap him a career in the process.

I consider “Cry Me A River” the first part of a trilogy that continued with “What Goes Around Comes Around” (you made me a mess and now you’re a mess too so fuck you) and ended with “Mirrors” (I’ve moved on and found the love of my life so even though I’m not even going to mention my relationship with you during this song fuck you anyway). I’m not sure if they’re meant to be processed that way, but they’re musically similar enough to be all of a piece to my ears.

Justin’s privilege with respect to him being a cishet white dude who’s been famous since he was a teenager and is also capable of code-switching gets discussed ad nauseam and I have nothing new to add to that particular discussion, but I will say that this privilege affects his songwriting. His songs are fun enough to listen to, but they’re generally not weighty or even interesting from a lyrical standpoint. When he does try to get weighty, the results are usually quite embarrassing (see: “Losing My Way”). “Cry Me A River” is his one exception.

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