Why Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’ makes me sad

I’m a nineties baby. Born in the summer of 1990, I grew up fangirling over proper boybands like Backstreet Boys and N’Sync.

There was always music in my house. Some of my earliest memories are of The Warrior’s long dark hair (I used to love watching her brush it) and of almost constant music. My mum has really quite varied taste in music; anything from Michael Jackson (she still adores him) to Metallica, her love of Sega music, Celine Dion’s French music, Prince, and her strange obsession with Sean Paul (she is totally mad for him and I just don’t understand). The list could go on for pages really.

So in my house music is something that has always been present. And with music comes dancing. The Warrior loves to dance. In fact she loves it so much she is convinced she was a dancer in her past life. It brings her such joy she sometimes mourns the fact she never got the opportunity to take dance lessons. Growing up poor, food was more important than dancing. Still, she had a radio and a little TV at home she used to find music and dance on her own to.

She is struggling at the moment though. Perhaps she always has and I’ve only noticed now because I myself am an adult. The Warrior has had a hard life. One that means she has had to fight constantly for anything and everything. I call her Warrior because to my little sister and I she is one. She is the best kind. She fights. She gets up when she falls down. She just gets on with life because she knows what it is to earn what you have. There is no one like her. Literally no one. And I won’t hear of anyone try to convince me otherwise.

She has had a particular fondness for Justin Timberlake since his days in N’Sync. First he was the talented one. Then, as he grew older, she rather enjoyed his looks too (can’t blame a girl). But mostly she does like his music. Not all of it. There have been some tunes she has simply disliked (‘Senorita’ anyone?) So you can imagine she really was quite pleased to see him back with a new single: the soundtrack for the new Trolls film, Can’t Stop The Feeling. If you haven’t heard it yet you must be living under a rock. It’s a catchy, upbeat and generally just a good song from him. Not by any means his best, but it is good.

And it makes me sad every single time I hear it.

It shouldn’t. Really, it shouldn’t. But it does. Because my mum, the dancing Warrior hasn’t danced for a while. I can see that she wants to. There is something inside her that wants to but these days she is losing the will to dance. There are things, personal things, in her life that are always at the forefront of her mind lately. You can see it in the droop of her shoulders, the sadness in her eyes she tries to hide from us, the constant and ever-present aches and pains she has, her loss of appetite, she can’t even sleep well anymore. And now she no longer dances.

I listen to the song more than I ever thought I would in the hopes that she will somehow find that part of her that knows how happy it makes her to dance. But she doesn’t.

I never really understood the happiness it gave me to watch my mum dance around our little living room so frequently over the years. I took it for granted. Because a person who has been through the life my mum has, no one could truly ever fathom she would actually spend so much time dancing. Now that it’s gone I miss it.

So much.

So when a song like Can’t Stop the Feeling, a song that is all about letting go and dancing for all that you’re worth, about the joy that music and dance can bring to a person, can’t get my mum to do little more than tap her foot, opens up a deep gut-wrenching kind of despair for us – her daughters.

Watching the Warrior fight to work through each day with her head up I can’t say I understand at all what she is going through. I don’t and I feel guilty about that. Because I can’t help her. I can’t make it better. And it frustrates me because now it’s not even about dancing anymore. She is simply fighting to put one foot in front of the other every single day. Maybe she will have that feeling creep up on her one day, maybe she will find her rhythm and walking will soon turn into dancing once again. I’m not even going to entertain the idea that it won’t.

And to the Warrior I say this, I never realised how much Justin is right. There really is “[n]othing I can see but you when you dance”. So next time you do, I’ll commit that image to memory and cherish it.

Forever and always. And each and every time after that.

Smurf x








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