Study Guide

Cry Me a River Lyrics

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You were my sun
You were my earth

Quick Thought

Ah, clichés. What they lack in subtlety, they make up for in associations and memories.

Deep Thought

While clichés are usually frowned upon in writing circles, they're often the fastest way to get from Emotional Point A to Emotional Point B.

JT wanted to make it clear from the get-go that this song was about someone important who used to be in his life, and clichés get the job done. There's always that other song, that other context, that other place you heard those words.

"You were my earth." Doesn't that just sound familiar?

Well, that's because it is familiar, in the broad, nebulous way that clichés tend to be. That's what makes 'em cliché.

So, if you're gettin' Boyz II Men vibes, you're on the right track. Timberlake wouldn't be the first one to say "you were my earth" to a special someone out there, but he wouldn't be the last, either.

So, you took a chance
And made other plans

Quick Thought

We're feeling a cheating song coming on.

Deep Thought

Cheating on significant others is a remarkably enduring theme in American pop music.

From a classic Hank Williams break-down of the cheating lifestyle to a Rihanna remix, cheating shows up in pretty much every decade, in nearly every genre of music.

Why do you think this is?

Perhaps it's because infidelity is verging on common practice in the U.S., with stats revealing that around 21% of men and 19% of women admit to cheating on their partners. Don't worry, Justin: it happens to the best of us.

And now it's your turn
To cry

Quick Thought

Sure, there are plenty of reasons for why people cheat, but revenge is one of 'em.

Deep Thought

This motif—cheating on your partner to get back at them for cheating on you—is central to "Cry Me a River."

The theme becomes particularly graphic in the well-known music video, in which Timberlake tapes himself making out with another woman and leaves the tape running on his ex-girlfriend's TV. The video was quite scandalous at the time, as it features an actress who bears a striking resemblance to JT's real-life ex Britney Spears in the role of—you guessed it—the cheating Jezebel.

Looks like he was taking that whole "art imitating life" thing pretty seriously.

Cry me a river

Quick Thought

Rivers, rain, tears, burned bridges, shattered windows. Okay, okay, we get it.

Deep Thought

Justin's hurt. And "Cry Me a River" takes the bitter tone of someone who's been burned and wants to make it glass-shatteringly clear that he's not going to be burned again.

The music video riffs on the river of tears theme so hard, though, that it almost becomes elementary. Not only does Justin spend much of the video walking through the rain, but he also shatters a window, kicks a photo of his ex across the room, and exacts cruel, complicated, over-the-top revenge. There's even a creepy shower scene at the end.

These are great visual metaphors for the breakdown of a relationship. And it certainly sheds light on what "picking up the pieces" would mean. But he certainly hits us over the head with these images.

We love "Cry Me a River," but we're even more excited for Timberlake's requisite follow-up songs, "Build Yourself a Bridge" and "Get Over It."

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