Culture

NPR Music Critic: Timberlake Embodies ‘White Male Privilege,’ Super Bowl Halftime Show Was Not ‘Right for This Moment’

'We are living in a moment of struggle, and we want our pop music to also reflect that struggle'

National Public Radio music critic Ann Powers said Monday that Justin Timberlake embodies "white male privilege" and that his Super Bowl halftime performance on Sunday was not "right for this moment."

"It's really, in some ways, not his fault. It's just who he is," Powers added of Timberlake, who has won multiple Grammys and is one of the best-selling male soloists in pop music history.

Harkening back to the infamous "wardrobe malfunction," when Timberlake briefly exposed fellow Super Bowl halftime performer Janet Jackson's breast in 2004, Powers said that moment "haunted" his show on Sunday, which consisted of Timberlake singing his hits and included a tribute to Prince.

"The entire performance was shrouded in the sense of Timberlake not being right for this moment—and the Janet Jackson controversy haunted it," Powers said on "All Things Considered." "He chose to perform the song ‘Rock Your Body,' during which the famous wardrobe malfunction took place, and yet he didn't mention Janet. He didn't shout her out, and he stopped the song right before the line during which he ripped off her costume."

"It was almost like he was trying to erase what had happened in the past, but that is just not flying in 2018," she added.

Powers said Timberlake's entire career and art were "based on his ability to be smooth" and through "artful mixes, never quite shows any struggle."

"But we are living in a moment of struggle, and we want our pop music to also reflect that struggle," she said. "And, frankly, Timberlake now embodies that phrase so often spoken today: white male privilege. It's just not a good look for 2018, and it's really, in some ways, not his fault. It's just who he is."