Britney Spears apologizes to Justin Timberlake, praises music after dueling ‘Selfish’ songs. Here’s what’s going on.

Dr Angela Marshall
7 Min Read

Well, this is a curveball. In what’s likely a surprise to many of Britney Spears‘s loyal fans, the pop star not only issued a public apology to ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake but also praised songs on his new album.

Spears’s mea culpa came after fans pushed her 2011 song “Selfish” to the top of the iTunes charts, overtaking Timberlake’s new track of the same name, released last week.

It’s the latest twist in the Spears-Timberlake saga. The two were one of the most iconic couples of the early aughts; last year, their relationship garnered renewed attention thanks to Spears’s tell-all memoir, The Woman in Me. What she had to say about Timberlake was not exactly flattering. Here’s what’s going on.

Timberlake is back in the spotlight ahead of his new album. Spears fans are not happy.

After dropping hints for months, Timberlake confirmed he’s releasing a new album, Everything I Thought It Was, in March. It’s his first full-length album since 2018. Timberlake released his lead single, “Selfish,” on Jan. 25 and announced he’ll be going on tour across the U.S. beginning in April.

However, headlines about all of Timberlake’s big news were quickly overtaken when another “Selfish” — a 13-year-old song from Spears — climbed the charts. Not only did Spears fans push the 2011 track ahead of Timberlake’s song on iTunes, but “Selfish by Britney Spears” trended on X, formerly Twitter.

Music videos for Spears’s singles “Oops! … I Did It Again” and “I’m a Slave 4 U” took the top two spots on iTunes’s music videos chart over the weekend, with Timberlake’s video for “Selfish” sitting at No. 3.

Spears apologizes to Timberlake after the commotion

Timberlake didn’t let the situation faze him, at least publicly. He was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live over the weekend. The gig followed a buzzy appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and it looks like Spears tuned in to both. On Sunday night, she shared a screenshot of Fallon and Timberlake on social media. In the caption, the “Toxic” singer issued an apology to her ex.

“I wanna apologize for some of the things I wrote about in my book. 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,’” she wrote on Instagram before making her account private. “It is soo good and how come every time I see Justin and Jimmy together I laugh so hard.”

Spears also praised Timberlake’s song “Sanctified,” which he debuted on SNL.

What did Spears say in her book, exactly?

A lot. Spears wrote she was pregnant with Timberlake’s baby when they were together but got an abortion because he felt he was too young to be a father.

“If it had been left up to me alone, I never would have done it,” she claimed. “To this day, it’s one of the most agonizing things I have ever experienced in my life.” Although she admitted to cheating on Timberlake once when she kissed choreographer Wade Robson, she alleged he cheated on her multiple times. Spears recounted their devastating breakup and slammed Timberlake’s 2002 music video for “Cry Me a River,” in which he painted her as a “harlot who’d broken the heart of America’s golden boy” when, in actuality, she was “comatose in Louisiana, and he was happily running around Hollywood.”

Did Timberlake ever react?

He never said anything publicly when anecdotes from Spears’s book made headlines last year. However, he apologized to both Spears and Janet Jackson in 2021, writing, “I care and respect these women and I know I failed.

“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. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism,” he wrote in a now-deleted post. (Timberlake’s entire social media feed was wiped ahead of his album release.)

“The industry is flawed. It sets men, especially white men, up for success. It’s designed this way. As a man in a privileged position I have to be vocal about this. Because of my ignorance, I didn’t recognize it for all that it was while it was happening in my own life but I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again,” he continued. “I have not been perfect in navigating all of this throughout my career. I know this apology is a first step and doesn’t absolve the past. I want to take accountability for my own missteps in all of this as well as be part of a world that uplifts and supports.”

The post ended with, “I care deeply about the wellbeing of the people I love and have loved. I can do better and I will do better.”

During a recent interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1, Timberlake said his new music will give fans a “real” perspective on his life.

“I was able, on some of the songs, to look back at the past and have a real, not a refracted perspective of what it was because they always say … you always hear that thing about, well, there’s never any truth, there’s just everybody’s perspective of what happened. But to really look at it and be able to metabolize and verbalize my perspective on it, I don’t think I’ve ever really done that before,” Timberlake said.

It’s unclear if he’s alluding to his past with Spears, but a lot of people will probably stream the album to find out.

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Dr. Angela Marshall is a Gold Medalist Physiotherapist from the Heidelberg University of Health Sciences in Germany.