Prince fans turned on Justin Timberlake last night to slam his underwhelming Super Bowl halftime show which featured the Purple Rain singer’s projection on stage.
Fourteen years since he caused a national controversy by exposing Janet Jackson’s breast live on air, Timberlake played it safer with a decidedly family-friendly performance.
The headline-grabber came during a tribute to the late Prince, with Timberlake singing a duet of I Would Die 4 U alongside a projection of the iconic pop legend.
The tribute ended with a projection of Prince’s infamous shadow from the 2007 Super Bowl before an aerial shot showed his hometown Minneapolis turning purple in his honor.
But Prince fans turned on Timberlake, saying the late great wouldn’t have approved of the use of his image and that the two singers did not get on.
The polished singer performed an energetic medley, expertly combining his most famous hits with newer tracks. But while a slick professional Timberlake got the crowd on their feet, the standard concert-style show left fans at home underwhelmed, lacking the gasp-inducing spectacle of recent years.
Sound problems also plagued the live show, with Timberlake’s audio at times less prominent than his backing singers, even appearing to cut out for brief periods.
As the halftime show drew to a close, viewers took to Twitter to brandish their opinions, and many were unhappy with the *NSYNC singer copping a lot of criticism.
Film producer Adam Best wrote: ‘The Prince tribute would’ve been cool… except Prince specifically said he didn’t want that, right?
‘Even in death, Prince continues to be misunderstood.’
Director Victoria Mahoney echoed Best’s message, saying: ‘If you ever shared two words with Prince. Or heard him speak. Or watch him play. You would understand the base of your bones – them deciding to use his hologram at the Super Bowl – would’ve busted his heart to pieces.’
The Undefeated columnist Jamele Hill delivered the damning verdict of: ‘Problem is, a lot of people down with Prince know he wouldn’t approve.’
Fans hoping for a cameo from Jackson herself, or even a *NSync reunion, were left disappointed.
Those taking to social media to express their regret on social media included Demi Lovato, who wrote: ‘But….. *NSYNC…..’ along with a crying face.
Following on seamlessly from a Pepsi ad, the show started with Timberlake under the arena, dancing in a small contained space, before he emerged out of the tunnel and onto the field. By contrast, Lady Gaga’s jaw-dropping start to last year’s show saw her begin her performance on the roof, abseiling down into the arena.
For his show, Timberlake kicked off with Filthy from his most recent album, then transitioned into a medley of Rock Your Body (the song he dueted on with Jackson back in 2004) and SexyBack.
Other tracks included Suit & Tie, which he performed on a raised white platform backed by a tuxedo-clad marching band.
Taking things down a notch he then took a seat at a white grand piano to perform Until the End of Time, before launching into a cover of Prince’s I Would Die 4 U.
The show concluded with Timberlake’s mega-hit Can’t Stop the Feeling, from the soundtrack to the children’s movie Trolls.
But while fans at home amused themselves by tweeting witticisms such as ‘This needed more nipple’, the NFL is unlikely to be concerned by the lack of theatrics.
Back in 2004, Timberlake was Jackson’s special guest when he infamously ripped off a piece of her clothing, revealing her nipple, beneath a star-shaped sticker. Timberlake later described it as an unintended ‘wardrobe malfunction.’
CBS, which aired that Super Bowl, was fined $550,000 by the Federal Communications Commission, but the fine was later overturned.
Timberlake also performed at the Super Bowl halftime show back in 2001, when he made a cameo during then-girlfriend Britney Spears performance, along with his boyband *NSYNC.
The hashtags #JusticeforJanet and #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay became trending topics on Twitter days before Timberlake’s record third trip to the stage at the Super Bowl, as Philadelphia Eagles faced the New England Patriots at the U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
At a press conference on Thursday, Timberlake mentioned Jackson’s name, along with Jay-Z and ’NSync, when talking about rumored guests to join him onstage. He was not asked any direct questions about Jackson or the infamous wardrobe malfunction.
When the NFL announced late last year that Timberlake would be returning to the Super Bowl, the decision triggered a backlash from women, minorities and others who felt Jackson was unfairly forced to pay a far higher price than Timberlake faced.
Some argued that Jackson, as a black woman, fell victim to a racist and sexist double standard and received harsher treatment than Timberlake, as a white man, did, and they said he benefited from ‘white male privilege.’
When asked during an interview last month if he and Jackson have since made peace, Timberlake said, ‘Absolutely.’
He said he and Jackson have talked privately about what happened.
‘I don’t know that a lot of people know that,’ Timberlake said. ‘I mean, I don’t think it’s my job to do that because you value the relationships that you do have with people.’
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