Justin Timberlake avoids controversy (and holograms), honors Prince at Super Bowl

Wendy Geller
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Where to begin with Justin Timberlake’s halftime performance at Minneapolis’s Super Bowl LII? The pop star’s appearance has been fraught with gossip since the NFL announced his upcoming turn during the telecast back in October.

Luckily, the pop star managed to pull off a (mostly) controversy-free show, with the centerpiece being a tribute to hometown hero Prince.

For those who need a primer to the gossip leading up to Timberlake’s performance, let us count the ways:

We could start with the long-simmering controversy surrounding his last Bowl appearance in 2004, when he infamously caused a “wardrobe malfunction” resulting in a massive hit to performance partner Janet Jackson’s professional reputation. Jackson fans called for him to finally rectify this wrongdoing in 2018, perhaps by calling Jackson onstage; however, both he and Jackson denied this would happen.

We could move on to the rumors that he might bring up his old bandmates in *NSYNC for a dazzling reunion. Nope, again.

Perhaps his old girlfriend Britney Spears, who was spotted traveling to Minneapolis for the big game? No.

Timberlake released his somewhat schizophrenic Man of the Woods, on Friday, Feb. 2, which zigzagged between styles and contained a much-hyped collaboration with country music hitmaker Chris Stapleton (as well as a writing credit with Oklahoma rabble-rouser Toby Keith). Maybe fans could enjoy an unexpected country moment during halftime? Well … no.

Just mere days before the Bowl, TMZ reported that Timberlake would perform alongside a hologram of Prince (he was, after all, performing in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis). This caused a shockwave driving even the likes of Prince’s relatives and his protégé Sheila E to make a public statement against it.

Alas, for those who like the drama, it was all a rumor; Shelia E’s publicist confirmed to Yahoo Entertainment that Timberlake had contacted her and assured there would be no such thing happening. Did it happen? Well…

So, given all of this, what did Timberlake deliver? The singer seemed to move in the currently favorable direction of a purely entertainment-oriented halftime show, centering his performance on a solo-heavy platter of dance, hits, and — yes — a tribute to Prince, but not as expected.

Recording artist Justin Timberlake performs during the Super Bowl LII halftime Show in Minneapolis.

Timberlake was not accompanied by a hologram as reported; rather, he launched into Prince’s 1984 Purple Rain tune “I Would Die 4 U” with projected footage of the Minneapolis icon performing behind him. Additionally, the telecast showed off a glowing city shot lit up purple for the nation to see.

Many fans, including even those as stellar as Diana Ross, seemed to agree this was a respectful tribute.

Others seemed perplexed by the rumors and weren’t impressed by the projection, perhaps expecting something more.

Aside from the Prince tribute, Timberlake delivered a straightforward, dance-filled halftime, which delighted fans with such hits as “Sexyback,” “Suit and Tie,” and the live debut of his new single “Filthy.”

As previously noted, no special guests accompanied Timberlake, thus rendering his performance either a individual triumph or a bit of a disappointment, depending on which camp you fall into.

Super Bowl LII was held Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, hosting the New England Patriots vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.