Every year the reviews of the Super Bowl Halftime show turn out to be 50/50, and Justin Timberlake’s performance was no exception. When Timberlake was announced as the performer for the Pepsi Super Bowl LII Halftime Show in Minneapolis, Minnesota, nobody really knew what to expect. Many were questioning if he would bring somebody out to perform with him, and some wished hard for an NSYNC reunion.
After an opening featuring Jimmy Fallon sitting on a Pepsi sign, Timberlake began his 12-minute set with his single, “Filthy” from his recently released album, Man of the Woods. He sang part of the song, before emerging onto the U.S. Bank Stadium’s field where he then screamed, “Let’s Go” and transitioned into a medley of his hit tracks, “Rock Your Body,” “Señorita,” and “Sexy Back” where Timberlake let his choreographed dance moves shine. He even got so into it that he had to strip off his black leather jacket and let his button-up shirt with a woodland scene shine. Was the shirt supposed to represent his new album? Maybe, maybe not.
Timberlake then transitioned into another hit track, “Suit and Tie” which was full of energy and included even more choreographed dancing. As the song began, he pulled out a beautiful camo suit jacket to match the lovely camo pants that he had going on. Good thing his outfit matched…yeah not so much.
“Let me see you put your cellphones up Minneapolis, lets light it up tonight,” said Timberlake while bringing the mood down and transitioning into some slower songs. He began with “Until the End of Time” from his 2nd studio album, FutureSex/LoveSounds.
Then, the moment that created controversy took place. “Minneapolis, Minnesota this one’s for you,” stated Timberlake as a projection of Prince appeared and Timberlake performed Prince’s track, “I Would Die 4 U.” Now, as somebody who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I felt that it was a great tribute to Prince and that the city of Minneapolis truly honored him tonight, not just Justin Timberlake.
Now, I do also see how there are Prince fans who are upset about it since 20 years ago Prince made it clear how he felt about using technology to perform with an artist who had passed away. However, no matter the controversy, it was the highlight of the performance and was a moment that brought Prince fans from around the world and the city of Minneapolis, Prince’s home, together.
On The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Timberlake and Fallon discussed the tribute to Prince. Timberlake stated, “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.”
Then Timberlake began to discuss how the tribute came about and was able to happen.
“We got the actual vocal stems from “I Would Die 4 U.” The actual recording. And then we got uncut footage from his performance of it in Purple Rain. And then somehow, someway, by the grace of probably Prince, looking down on us, it synced up. I just wanted to use that opportunity to do something special for this city, but most of all for my favorite musician of all time,” stated Timberlake.
After turning the city of Minneapolis purple, literally, Timberlake transitioned into his hit song, “Mirrors” which was the song of his own that got the most reaction from the crowd. To end his performance, he wrapped up with his track, “Can’t Stop The Feeling” and got the crowd clapping along as he made his way up and into the bleachers and took what he called, “super bowl selfies.”
Overall, I think Timberlake moved more during the halftime show than the football players did all game. The show was full of non-stop dancing which was the entertaining part of the performance since the vocals were definitely lacking. Timberlake seemed to be singing harmonies to the track singing for him, more than he was actually singing. Yes, Timberlake’s songs were catchy, but it was almost like you were listening to it on your iPhone and not a live performance. If you take out the tribute and compare Timberlake’s performance of his own songs to Katy Perry and Lady Gaga’s from past years, well it just didn’t hit the bar.