Justin Timberlake is what they call a triple threat. He can sing, he can dance, he can act. But one thing that Justin Timberlake is not, is a doctor. This much is made startlingly clear on Timberlake’s 2016 hit song “Can’t Stop the Feeling".
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” anchored the soundtrack for Trolls. Wikipedia classifies the 20th Century Fox release as a "3D computer-animated musical romantic comedy adventure film," which speaking from a strictly quantitative perspective, is a lot of things. Timberlake served as the film’s musical director as well as providing this #1 hit.
When “Can’t Stop the Feeling” debuted at the top of the US Billboard charts, critics described the disco-funk pop song as infectiously danceable. This communicable quality is exactly what makes this song so dangerous. The composition appears little more than an innocuous pop confection on its surface. But a closer examination of the lyrics reveals an alarming preponderance of medical disinformation; disinformation of the kind which has the capacity to impact life or death decisions for Timberlake’s listeners.
The song’s narrator presents with a set of concerning medical symptoms.
He opens by explaining:
“I got this feeling inside my bones
It goes electric, wavey when I turn it on”
Later, he notes:
“I feel that hot blood in my body when it drops”
A diagnostic reading of these lyrics suggests that the song’s narrator is suffering from a potentially serious blood toxicity condition, and that any treatment is likely to be complicated by what is mostly likely early-onset osteoporosis.
Though comorbidity of these two conditions is not common, in the narrator’s case, it seems likely correlated to severe personal medical neglect. At the time of the song’s composition, the singer claims “We’re flying up, no ceiling, when we in our zone.”
These vertiginous sensations suggest that Timberlake’s intractable condition is advancing rapidly. Multiple organ failure could be looming.
And yet, as these symptoms mount in severity, the narrator advises:
All those things I shouldn’t do
But you dance, dance, dance
And ain’t nobody leaving soon,
so keep dancing
I can’t stop the feeling
So just dance, dance, dance
I can’t stop the feeling
So just dance, dance, dance,
The most likely explanation for the narrator’s incapacity to “stop the feeling” is his failure to seek immediate medical attention. Blood toxicity aside, dancing is, only in the rarest of cases, prescribed for osteoporosis. In most cases, this strategy would be considered counterintuitive to the goals of treatment.
In addition to taking an unconventional and unproven approach to his treatment, Timberlake demonstrates reckless disregard for those around him. He declares:
And under the lights when everything goes
Nowhere to hide when I’m getting you close
When we move, well, you already know
So just imagine, just imagine, just imagine…
Just imagine that it’s contagious. The diagnoses that we arrived at are based strictly on qualitative evaluation of the presenting symptoms. Without further lab testing, it’s impossible to know for certain what the root medical cause is for the narrator’s intractable “feeling.”
This means that the narrator is not only placing himself in immediate medical peril but may also be risking the health and safety of others by failing to self-quarantine until further information is available. He risks the spread of this unknown condition to all with whom he comes in contact.
Timberlake’s behavior reflects a wanton disregard for the wellbeing of his immediate company. More troubling is that this song has over 600 million listens on Spotify. Timberlake’s irresponsible dispensation of medical advice earned the performer his single biggest hit to date. We may never know just how many youths in his listening demographic will be inclined to attempt treatment of serious medical ailments strictly by dancing.
As a service to the public health, we consider it important to dispel the idea that a set of intractable symptoms impacting your blood and bones can be cured by dancing alone, or even at all. If you have a feeling that you can’t stop, we can’t stress enough the importance of going immediately to your physician for further consultation and testing.
Check out our Teensplainer series for more elucidating explanations of seemingly simple pop songs.