I’m going to just say this: “Cry Me A River” by Justin Timberlake was the best song of the 2000’s, in terms of summing up the decade’s shift in pop music. Here’s why:
1. It straddled the shift in pop artists. Indie stuff aside, this was right when music shifted from boy bands and manufactured stars to emerging solo careers and independent artists. If you missed N’Sync (and you did, don’t lie), this is when you got over it.
2. It straddled the shift in music videos. This is one of the only videos that I actively looked for on TRL and still worth referencing on YouTube.
3. It straddled our opinion of Justin Timberlake. Sure, we all enjoyed “Like I Love You” more than we were expecting to, but this is the song where he earned our respect and we realized he had staying power.
4. It straddled the rise and fall of Britney. As Joe R. on the great Low Resolution pointed out, this was the moment Britney’s image and eventual sanity shattered. We had proof that she had faults. Slutty, cheaty faults.
5. It straddled Timberland’s career. Prior to 2002, he focused mainly on hip hop artists like Aaliyah and Ginuwine. Post JT, trainwrecks like Lindsay Lohan stalk him at parties because they know he can turn any pop artist into gold. This is the album that kicked it off.
6. It straddled the shift between our mild curiosity and crazy obsession with celebrities. Not going to lie, I sort of believed Britney when she said she was a virgin? Not because I cared, but because I didn’t have her vajay shoved in my face every time I turned on my TV or computer. I didn’t care and I didn’t have a cultural obligation to care. Before this video, we weren’t sure why Britney and Justin had broken up… there were rumors that she cheated on Justin with Wade Robson, a choreographer and Michael Jackson protege, but no one knew for certain. And then this video hit – with a Britney lookalike, a Wade-ish dude, subtle clues like a fairy figurine, and the entire story for our entertainment. While TMZ has given us full access to celebrities today, back then it was pretty rare to be a fly on the wall. In short: sofa king awesome. I wish all gossip and dirt resulted in this kind of art.
7. It straddled the moments I did not and absolutely did want to straddle Justin Timberlake.
8. It’s the ultimate SNAAAAAAAP. I spent at least half of this decade as a spurned lover, so I can fully appreciate the vengeful, “Oh yes he did” factor.
When Timberlake sings, “You don’t have to say/What you did/ I already know/ I found out from hiiiim,” he’s gleefully tiptoeing around Britney the same way Bugs Bunny dances around Elmer Fudd.
Plus, you know, it’s simply great. Damn JT. I still adore everything about this song and video… aside from when you make a tear with your finger when you sing the word “cry.” Which you still do. Stop it.