Justin Timberlake Performs with Prince Projection After Widespread Criticism at Super Bowl
The "Filthy" singer hit the field in Minneapolis during the Patriots-Eagles NFL championship game
The Grammy winner, 37, hit the field at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis to headline the Pepsi Halftime show, performing a slew of hits from his nearly 20-year musical career.
Wearing Stella McCartney and “SBLII” Air Jordan III sneakers, Timberlake launched into “Filthy,” his first single off of the new Man of the Woods album. The medley also included 2002’s “Rock Your Body” and “Cry Me a River” from Justified as well as 2006’s “SexyBack,” “My Love” and “Until the End of Time” from FutureSex/LoveSounds.
The “Rock Your Body” song sparked some criticism online as it is the same song that he performed with Janet Jackson in their now infamous “nipplegate” performance at the 2004 Super Bowl. (Jackson revealed on Saturday evening that she would not join Timberlake at the Super Bowl, despite widespread calls for her to appear.)
After taking the stage with the Tennessee Kids, Timberlake hit center field for some choreography with his backup dancers followed up by his 2013 The 20/20 Experience setlist led by “Suit & Tie” and “Mirrors.”
Controversially, Timberlake also did a tribute to Prince and sang the late icon’s “I Would Die 4 U.” Footage of Prince projected behind Timberlake as he played on the piano as the camera panned to the arena’s surrounding area lit up in purple.
Prince died at age 57 in his Minnesota home, Paisley Park, in April 2016.
Timberlake completed his performance with 2016’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” joined by an array of colorfully dressed backup dancers and enthusiastic crowd members.
The former ‘NSYNC band member’s Prince tribute was received with outrage on social media. Celebrities and Prince fans tweeted their reactions to the Prince projection.
However, the “Purple Rain” singer’s family was quick to point out that they only denied a hologram was happening — they did, in fact, approve the projection. Prince’s close friends Sheila E. and Morris Day also voiced their approval, saying “Prince would be proud.”
Timberlake’s performance in Minnesota came just two days after he released his fourth full-length studio album, Man of the Woods, which includes collaborations with Pharrell Williams (“Supplies”), Chris Stapleton (“Say Something“) and Alicia Keys (“Morning Light”). The showman will hit the road to promote the LP in March. (Click here for a complete list of tour dates.)
Over the weekend, rumors swirled that Jackson would be making a surprise appearance and that Timberlake would be performing alongside a hologram of Minneapolis’ native son, the late Prince. However, both were denied Saturday.
Jackson shut down the rumors herself, telling PEOPLE in a statement, “To put to rest any speculation or rumors as to whether I will be performing at the Super Bowl tomorrow: I will not. Thank you for your support and I do look forward to seeing you all very soon.” Meanwhile, the “Purple Rain” singer’s family denied the hologram was happening through a Twitter account managed by the Purple One’s brother, Omarr Baker.
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Timberlake joined an impressive list of A-list entertainers who have headlined the Super Bowl halftime show in recent years, including: Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Beyoncé and Madonna.
Super Bowl LII is being played Sunday at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is airing live on NBC.