Justin Timberlake is no rookie to conspicuous Super Bowl performances - recalling his ’N Sync’s appearance in 2001, 2004 with Janet Jackson, and again this year with an electronic appearance of the beloved Prince.
For those of you that have never heard of his performance with Ms. Jackson, I will provide you with a backstory that required a redemption performance on Timberlake’s part:
At the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, Janet Jackson glowingly performed her most popular hits, including “All for You” and “Rhythm Nation”. She closed her performance with help of Mr. Timberlake, performing his song “Rock Your Body”, in which his his hand snatched her top and exposed her breast. The public mainly, and unjustly, placed the blame onto Janet Jackson, negatively affecting her career, even though the song belonged to Timberlake.
While the pragmatic option would be to not perform “Rock Your Body” again when he was invited to perform at the 2018 Super Bowl, the need for absolution far outweighed sensibility. No more than 2 minutes into the Super Bowl LII halftime show, Timberlake appeared on the field to sing the song that derailed Jackson’s career, with a feeble attempt at dancing to match. The choice to include this song seemed tasteless, however it seemed to be done in order to overcome the controversial performance in 2004, and reclaim the song as just another harmless pop song.
Regardless, as his performance continued, it became more and more apparent that it was more focused on dance, rather than conveying vocal authority. It was heavy on his first two albums, with digital songs such as “SexyBack”, “Cry Me a River”, and “My Love”. His singing talent was mostly only showcased on the ballad “Until the End of Time”.
Moreover, in a time in which the N.F.L’s relationship with race has been at its most public, it is no surprise that Timberlake was invited to perform, yet again. Timberlake’s booking had less to do with his want or need for absolution, and more to do with a display of the presumption on the irrepressible nature of the white race (with a side of a “non white scapegoat”).
Leading up to the Super Bowl, an announcement stating that Timberlake would be accompanied onstage by the highly admired Prince, in the form of a hologram, displeased many Prince fans: those who recalled the extravagant performance of Prince during the 2007 halftime performance; those who recalled that he stated that he disproved of such exhibitions; and to those who execrate the idea of what seems like another black person passed onto an entertainer who had mishandled one before in such a public light.
The performance did not actually include a hologram of Prince, but instead, a projection of Prince upon a mega-screen. Additionally, one of his siblings and part heir to Prince’s fortune, Tyka Nelson, stated that she was surprised by the tribute and enjoyed the performance. What did you think?