Justin Timberlake sang and danced his handsome rear end off on Sunday night.
The artist performed at halftime of Super Bowl 52, running through such hits as “Gone,” “Can’t Stop That Feeling” and “Cry Me a River,” while almost literally running the entire time.
Seriously, he must have covered, like, three miles between all his dancing, shaking and mere moving around the stadium in Minnesota.
While the halftime act in general has received modest to mixed reviews, one aspect of the performance in particular has largely been panned.
About three-quarters of the way through his set, Timberlake sat down at a computer and paid tribute to Prince, covering a few bars of “I Would Die 4 U.”
As he did so, a few photos of the legendary musician (who died of a drug overdose in April of 2016 and who famously made Minnesota his home) were projected on a giant screen nearby.
Why did this tribute not go over well with many viewers?
As explained below, it’s because Prince once referred to the idea of singing a duet with a dead artist via hologram to be terrible and “demonic.”
Granted, Timberlake did not use a hologram.
But he did rely on Prince’s likeness as part of his concert.
Appearing later on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Timberlake explained why he wanted overall to pay homage to Prince.
“It’s a moment for me, and if I’m being quite honest, it’s because he’s always been the pinnacle of musicianship,” Timberlake said, adding in more detail:
“And when we decided that the serendipity and synergy [of being] in Minnesota – he’s such a special thing here aside from what he is all over the world.
“I just felt like I wanted to do something for this city and something for him that would just be the ultimate homage to what I consider the GOAT [Greatest of All Time] of musicians.”
That’s fine and all.
It’s great and admirable, even.
No one is disputing that Timberlake should have given Prince a special shout-out.
There was even a Las Vegas prop bet one could have made that predicated Timberlake would cover a Prince track… and the odds were pretty low because it was nearly a given this would take place.
The controversy has simply arisen over the projected pictures of the late superstar on screen.
JT did not really touch on this topic while speaking to Fallon, however.
He simply expounded on what went into the homage itself.
“We got the actual vocal stems from ‘I Would Die 4 U’ and the actual recording, and then we got uncut footage from his performance of it in ‘Purple Rain’ and somehow, someway, by the grace of – probably Prince looking down on us – it synced up and it was this crazy, serendipitous moment,” he said.
“I just wanted to use that opportunity to do something special for this city, but most of all my favorite musician of all time.”
You can relive the entire performance here:
Toward the end of his interview with Fallon, Timberlake did seem to acknowledge some of the negative press surrounding his act.
But Questlove gave Justin a thumbs-up from across The Tonight Show stage and, to Timberlake, this said it all.
“Questlove is the encyclopedia on music, but I also feel like a gatekeeper on Prince, so if I got the thumbs-up from Questlove, I’m good,” he said.
Do you agree?
Overall, hand out a grade for Timberlake’s halftime act below: