Well shit. I totally forgot about the halftime show in my Super Bowl roundup.

You would be correct if you thought that had something to do with my reaction to it.

Justin Timberlake’s performance was visually appealing, but otherwise safe, confusing, disappointing, and forgettable.

I had heard the “controversy” coming about the rumored use of a hologram of Prince during JT’s performance. I also read the quotes from both Prince taken before his death and from friends and family that pointed out how he would not have approved the use of him image in that way if he were able to weigh in. So I must admit I was down on the performance even before it began.

The show was full of energy for sure. If you turned the sound down, or even didn’t expect the frontman to provide much in terms of vocals, it was a perfectly entertaining performance. But was it memorable? Nope. It blends in with a dozen other glitzy halftime shows.

In his effort to provide a dynamic performance that moved throughout the stadium, Timberlake chose to only sporadically sing over backing vocals. Listen, I get that the Super Bowl halftime show is all about spectacle. Thus I’m willing to watch a performer not give 100% on their vocals in order to dance their asses off. It was so distracting, though, to watch Timberlake prance around while only occasionally doing any singing. He came off as an old school rap second man, only singing the final word of each line to add emphasis. I’d rather he had straight lip-synched his entire performance than do this.

As for the Prince stuff, there was no hologram. But there was an image of Prince projected onto what looked like a giant bedsheet. Which I’m guessing was their last-second “How can we honor Prince without using a hologram?” trick.

I realize that Timberlake could not win here. Just as the next Super Bowl hosted by Gary, IN will feature a Michael Jackson tribute, the first in Minneapolis after Prince’s death had to have some reference to the man. Whatever Timberlake did, it was destined to look weak in comparison to Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl halftime performance, generally considered to be, at worst, one of the best ever.[1] Plus Timberlake was wearing his bizarre urban camo getup. Meanwhile Prince wore this:


Prince danced, sang, and played guitar in high heels in the (purple) rain in Miami. JT shuffling around indoors in Jordans, banging out a few notes on a piano, and singing maybe ¼ of his vocals live doesn’t come near Prince’s performance for virtuosity, originality, or memorability. The Prince references shone a brighter light on how weak Timberlake’s show was.

Listen, I like Justin Timberlake. He’s a fine performer both in terms of music/dance and comedy/acting. But his performance Sunday should have been more ambitious, shown off his singing voice better, and been more confidently imagined overall.

  1. Intelligent people know it was, by far, the greatest Super Bowl halftime show.  ↩