Justin Timberlake’s past is catching up to his music career. On Thursday, the singer released his first single in six years, titled “Selfish.” Over the next day, Timberlake's biggest competition on the iTunes chart came from his ex-girlfriend, Britney Spears. On Friday, Spears’ 2011 song “Selfish,” from the album Femme Fatale climbed to the No. 1 spot on the iTunes top 40 singles chart, knocking Timberlake to No. 3. (It hasn’t cracked the Spotify charts just yet, but the Spears song is getting airplay on the radio.)
Fan accounts dedicated to Spears rallied together on Thursday to buy the song to help it climb the charts, following Timberlake's release. By the next day, the 13-year-old song—which was never put out as a single—made its way back to the top of the iTunes chart (though on Friday afternoon, both "Selfish" songs were outranked by Tom MacDonald and Ben Shapiro's "FACTS").
Timberlake hasn’t put out solo music since his last album, 2018’s Man of the Woods. Since then, he has been the subject of controversy after both his negative treatment of Spears following the end of their relationship in 2002 and his conduct during the 2004 Super Bowl incident with Janet Jackson came to light in the 2021 New York Times documentary Framing Britney Spears. That year, the “Mirrors” singer released a vague apology on Instagram to both women, saying that he was “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.”
He continued, “I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.” Timberlake promised to do better moving forward.
More recently, Timberlake's treatment toward Spears received renewed attention following the October publication of her 2023 memoir, The Woman In Me. In it, Spears wrote that she had an abortion because Timberlake wasn’t ready to be a father. She wrote that she “took the little pills,” and was in agonizing pain. “Justin came into the bathroom and lay on the floor with me,” she wrote. “At some point, he thought maybe music would help, so he got his guitar, and he lay there with me, strumming it.”
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