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Justin Timberlake, ‘TKO’ – Song Meaning

Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Love is a battlefield. Justin Timberlake makes that point in his new single ‘TKO’ from ‘The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2.’

The song, built on boxing metaphors, centers on a relationship gone bad, as JT’s protagonist muses about being sucker punched when seeing her with someone else. Even when a romance sours, it still sucks to see your former beloved with some other dude. That’s just human nature.

“Girl I can see in your eyes that there’s something inside that made you evil / Where did you go, ’cause it just ain’t fair / Over here thinking ’bout the s–t you say / Don’t know why it gets to me.”

Early in the song, JT muses over how she has changed and despite that fact, she’s still fresh in his mind. The wounds of heartache are fresh for him. He can’t figure out why she still casts a spell on him, but she does. The wounds of love are deep and often infected. They leave a scar.

“It cuts right on my eye, yeah it hurt, won’t lie / Still can’t see, think I saw you with another guy / Can’t fight, knocked down, then I got over you / Can’t fight no more, you knock me out / I’m out for the count / Yeah, girl, you knock me out / It’s just a TKO / I’m out for the count / Yeah, girl, you knock me out / With a TKO.”

JT employs the bloodied, boxing metaphor here: That he’s got a cut, he’s knocked out, he’s out for the count. But to her, hey, it’s just a technical knock out. Nothing more, nothing less, no emotion. Meanwhile, he’s writhing in pain over it. Clearly, one has moved on and one has not.

“I don’t understand it / Tell me how could you be so low / Been swinging after the bell and after all of the whistle blows / Tried to go below the belt, through my chest, perfect hit ’til the dawn, dammit babe /This ain’t the girl I used to know / No, not anymore, TKO.”

He’s still wondering when she became so cold and callous, but life goes on, and some people go on with it. His ex-lover has moved on, but he’s still in the acceptance phases of letting go. It sucks. We’ve all been there. Again, love is a battlefield and one person in the relationship always gives me and therefore is also left hurting more when it ends. In this case, JT doesn’t like how she treated him or who she became, but she’s still got some kind of hold on him.

That’s our assessment of JT’s ‘TKO.’ PopCrushers, how do you see, read or hear the song?

Next: See the Top 10 JT Songs

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