There were a lot of rumors about Justin Timberlake’s Super Bowl halftime show, and pretty much none of them turned out to be true. Janet Jackson wasn’t there (she said as much yesterday); there was no NSYNC reunion; and there was no Prince hologram. What we got instead was, well, a Justin Timberlake performance, introduced by Jimmy Fallon atop a Pepsi sign: a medley of hits and dancing that including a brief detour into Timberlake singing Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” while a projection of the Purple One sang along on a screen behind him. Watch below.
Notably, Prince was not a fan of this sort of thing. Back in 1998 when Guitar World asked, “With digital editing, it is now possible to create a situation where you could jam with any artist from the past. Would you ever consider doing something like that?,” Prince responded:
Certainly not. That’s the most demonic thing imaginable. Everything is as it is, and it should be. If I was meant to jam with Duke Ellington, we would have lived in the same age. That whole virtual reality thing… it really is demonic. And I am not a demon. Also, what they did with that Beatles song [“Free As a Bird”], manipulating John Lennon’s voice to have him singing from across the grave… that’ll never happen to me. To prevent that kind of thing from happening is another reason why I want artistic control.
Nick Whitenhouse of design studio Fireplay, the creative lead for the halftime performance, defended Prince’s posthumous appearance in a statement:
“Paying tribute to Prince was something JT highlighted as an important moment for this show, and we spent quite a bit of time ensuring this moment would be true to his legacy. Ultimately, Justin decided that the only person who could do Prince justice is Prince, and we’re so proud to be part of his team who created this epic moment.”
Earlier in the evening Pink sang the National Anthem (after disposing of her lozenge), Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr. sang “America The Beautiful,” and Meek Mill’s “Dreams And Nightmares” played as the Philadelphia Eagles took the field.