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Justin Timberlake sings the blues over credit card debt

John Egan
February 12, 2018
Justin Timberlake credit card debt

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Perhaps multitalented entertainer Justin Timberlake — the star of the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl — worried at one time about credit card debt. It’s really doubtful that he does today.

With an estimated net worth of $230 million, it’s hard to imagine Timberlake ever struggled to pay his credit card bills. But back in his native Memphis, Tennessee, some folks do wrestle with credit card debt, just as they do anywhere else.

Out-of-tune credit card debt

In fact, Timberlake gives a nod to the credit woes of Tennesseans on his brand-new album, “Man of the Woods” (which, by the way, many critics have panned).

In the tune “Livin’ Off the Land,” JT serves up these lyrics:

I’ll be down, sometimes it’s hard
To back up the bills on the credit card
She keeps on running to leave
If you don’t get on your knees and repay the money you spend describes the song as “a working man’s lament about paying off credit card debt to save your relationship.” (Warning: That’s a really bad idea.)

For his part, Los Angeles Times critic Mikael Wood laments that the lyrics of “Livin’ Off the Land” and other songs on the album deliver “flimsy clichés about country life” and dispense “condescension to those well-meaning simpletons struggling out in the heartland.”

And in the heartland — specifically, Memphis — Chris Herrington, a writer at JT’s hometown newspaper, isn’t exactly singing Timberlake’s praises.

Herrington rants that Timberlake’s music “was never really born or bred here. It came from nowhere. … It was a product of the pop industrial complex, a homestead built somewhere along the journey from Mickey Mouse Club to Michael Jackson.”

What’s the score?

Nonetheless, Timberlake does appear to be in tune with the financial troubles of Tennesseans.

According to a recent report from credit-reporting bureau Experian, the average VantageScore (one of the many credit-scoring models out there) in Tennessee is 662. It’s even lower in Memphis, Timberlake’s hometown — 642. By comparison, the U.S. average is 675.

But while average VantageScores are lower in Tennessee and Memphis than the national average, the average credit card balances in the Volunteer State also are lower than the national average:

  • Tennessee — $5,975
  • Memphis — $5,251
  • U.S. — $6,354

So, while JT’s fellow Tennesseans have relatively lower credit scores, they also have relatively lower credit card balances. It’s certainly a better balance, so to speak, than having a lower credit score and a higher credit card balance.

‘Direct insult’ of Prince

JT’s “Livin’ Off the Land” lyrics aren’t the only credit card-related criticism that’s been leveled at the Super Bowl performer.

Timberlake also has taken heat for taking part in an American Express-sponsored party at the Paisley Park estate and studio of the late music legend Prince, a Minneapolis native. The pre-Super Bowl party was in Minneapolis, the host city for the 2018 game.

Spin magazine blasted the bash as “more or less a direct insult to the legacy of Prince, a dedicated anti-corporatist who risked his reputation and finances to disentangle himself from the capitalist conglomerates that control culture.”


Here’s some advice for Timberlake: You might want to lay off the credit card-related references and activities for a while. Otherwise, the fans and the critics might continue their chorus of disapproval.

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