“Cry Me a River” by Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” is rumored to be based on his former relationship with singer Britney Spears. The singer expresses his anguish when he finds out that his girl was cheating on him.

He’s even more angered by the fact that he had to discover the truth from the other guy (Wade Robson), who was a friend to the former couple. Justin emphasizes that he doesn’t need her anymore and wishes that she feels the same pain he had to cope with. He gets his revenge by telling her that he has also moved on with another person, when she tries to get in touch with him. He expects his ex to be equally hurt and cry him a river full of tears. Hence the song’s title – “Cry Me a River”.

Lyrics of "Cry Me a River"

Music Video

The music video, which had Francis Lawrence as its director and featured a Britney Spears’ lookalike, was quite-exceptional. For instance, it won two MTV VMAs in 2003 – Best Male Video and Best Pop Video. And this was in addition to also being nominated in three other categories.

Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears

Although you rarely hear about it these days, there was a moment in time when pop music superstars Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears were actually a hot item. They were both in their late teens when their romance again, and the generally-accepted story is neither of them really possessed the discipline it took to make it last. However, they did go a good three years before breaking up, which is more than enough time to develop strong feelings.

And it appears that it was actually Justin who called it off after discovering that Britney cheated on him. Moreover, being that he is indeed a musician, he was able to vent his association emotions in song.  That is to say that the dissolution of his romance with Spears resulted in one of Timberlake’s greatest hits, 2002’s “Cry Me a River”.

Afterwards Justin still failed to adequately get over Britney, as manifest by him exposing personal details of her life to the media. So Spears responded by dropping a track called “Everytime” in 2004. However, this wasn’t a diss song or anything like that. Rather it features the singer pleading with the addressee, her ex, to forgive her for hurting him. So in a roundabout way, Britney did kinda admit that she did Justin wrong.

Subsequently both Justin and Britney went on to respectively start families. And by the looks of things, any beef they may have had is a thing of the past.

Writing Credits

Justin Timberlake wrote this song in partnership with Scott Storch and Timbaland. And the legendary Timbaland also produced the tune.

In fact this was the first song upon which he and Justin Timberlake collaborated. And the pair went on to drop quite a few hits and a bunch of tracks together in general.

The general understanding is that the lyrics are actually based on Justin Timberlake’s former troubled romance with Britney Spears, which lasted for about three years. In fact, he allegedly wrote the tune just two hours after they had officially broken up.

Release Date of “Cry Me a River”

This song is a feature on Justin’s first album, “Justified”. It came out with the album, via Jive Records, on 5 November 2002, later serving as the second single from the project also.

The lead single, “Like I Love You”, although a hit itself wasn’t nearly as successful as “Cry Me a River”. So in many ways the latter can be viewed as the song that actually put Justin Timberlake on the map.

Chart Success

In fact the track charted in almost 20 nations. And this includes peaking at number 3 on America’s coveted Hot 100 and number 2 on Britain’s coveted UK Singles Chart.

“Cry Me a River” has also been certified Platinum in the United Kingdom, where the song also topped both the UK Indie Chart and UK R&B Chart.

Justin scored a top 10 hit with “Cry Me A River” in the countries below:

  • United States (3)
  • United Kingdom (2)
  • Sweden (10)
  • Scotland (3)
  • Norway (10)
  • Netherlands (6)
  • Ireland (6)
  • Hungary (6)
  • France (6)
  • Belgium (5)
  • Australia (2)

The track also went Platinum in the United States and double-Platinum in Australia.


And Justin Timberlake took home a Grammy in 2004, in the category of Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, as a result of this song.

Indeed “Cry Me a River” is considered to be one of the greatest tracks of all time. Just ask the likes of Rolling Stone, who placed it on their 2012 list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. And it has received similar accolades from prominent music institutions such as VH1 and Spotify.

Famous Live Performances

The first live performance of “Cry Me a River” is acknowledged as having taken place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena – located in Las Vegas, Nevada on – 9 December 2002. And of course since then Justin has performed it more than a few times, such as when he received perhaps MTV’s highest honor, the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, in 2013.

Covers, both official and unofficial, of “Cry Me a River” which are known to exist include those rendered by Taylor Swift (2011), Kelly Clarkson (2012), Justin Bieber (2012) and Selena Gomez (2013).

Interesting to note is that Selena Gomez’s cover was said to be in direct response to Justin Bieber’s acoustic rendition of “Cry Me a River” which he sang on 10 November 2012, apparently inspired by Selena reportedly dumping him earlier that month.

A Truly Inspirational Song

Moreover a couple of other prominent musicians, i.e. Coldplay and Marilyn Manson, actually cited this track as a source of inspiration and influence.

1 Response

  1. Kate Collins says:

    Justin Timberlake uses “Cry Me A River” to talk about how he showed his former girlfriend so much love, yet she paid him back by cheating with another person. In the first lines, the singer uses the sun and earth as metaphors to describe how important she was to him. He then tells her that she didn’t appreciate his love hence her decision to be unfaithful. The singer who seems to have figured out her external affairs tells her not to explain herself because he already found out the truth from the other guy. It is highly possible that this other guy may have been his friend or they may have met by chance.

    Throughout, Justin asserts that she has already ruined their relationship and there’s no way they are getting back together. He tells her to cry him a river because he is no longer concerned about how she reacts to their breakup. Although he is hurt by her actions, he will simply walk away and never look back.

    The Rolling Stone has suggested that the song was inspired by Justin’s former relationship with Britney Spears, and how he found out about her cheating with Wade Robson.

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