“What Goes Around… Comes Around” by Justin Timberlake
Many people consider “What Goes Around… Comes Around” to be an extension (i.e. sequel) of another Justin Timberlake classic, “Cry Me a River” (2002). Indeed according to the history of What Goes Around, that is at least partially true. But Timberlake has contended that this particular piece is not about his own love life but rather that of a friend whose girlfriend cheated on him.
You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Justin Timberlake's What Goes Around... / ...Comes Around (Interlude) at Lyrics.org.
On the song, the singer is confronting such a partner (the addressee) who is ‘running around’, i.e. seeing other dudes. The implication is that they have already broken up. More to the point, the termination of the relationship seems as if it was her idea. To put it simply, the singer got dumped. So now he is sitting back, watching her do her thing, and it would appear that at the moment she’s cool. However, he is able to perceive that she is “living a lie”, and ultimately the negative results of her unfaithful actions will come crashing down on her. This is what he means by ‘what goes around comes all the way back around’. Or stated differently, he feels that karma is going to catch up with her, considering the harrowing emotional ordeal she has put him through. And verily even before the song climaxes, it is revealed that the dude she cheated on Justin with is now likewise neglecting and cheating on her.
So all of that being said yes, there are some minor sentimental differences between “Cry Me a River” and “What Goes Around… Comes Around”. For instance, in the first song, Justin is (vengefully) celebrating the fact that he’s moved on with his life. Yet in the latter, it seems more or less that he is still stuck on his ex. But either way, both tracks center on the singer being in his feelings due to having an unfaithful partner. So the implication would be that if this song were actually about Britney Spears, then between 2002 and 2006 Timberlake had actually witnessed what he perceived as karma catching up with her for cheating on him.
Facts about “What Goes Around… Comes Around”
This track can be found on Justin’s second-solo album, entitled “FutureSex/LoveSounds”. It is actually listed as an “interlude”. However, it is in fact the longest song on the project, officially weighing in at 7 minutes and 28 seconds.
The creation of this track was primarily a three-man project. It consisted of Justin Timberlake, Timberland and the latter’s sidekick, Danja. They served as both the writers and producers of the song. And their creative inspiration was to create a track in the likeness of Justin’s classic “Cry Me a River”.
The music video to this song won a 2007 MTV VMA in the category of Best Direction (in addition to receiving a Video of the Year nomination). It was directed by a visual artist named Samuel Bayer and features Scarlett Johansson, of Avengers fame. In the video Scarlett portrays Timberlake’s romantic interest.
Said video had a violent undertone, and in the process of filming a fight scene both Scarlett and especially Justin were injured.
The song performed even better than the video. For instance, it was nominated for a pair of Grammys in 2008 and won the award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. It also topped the iconic Hot 100 singles chart. Overall, the song charted in excess of 20 nations, and it achieved Platinum or better statuses in 4 of them.
And amongst the artists who have covered “What Goes Around… Comes Around” are Marilyn Manson (2007) and Taylor Swift (2009).