In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, both Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson swore there were no plans to reunite during the halftime show — and they kept their word. So, 14 years after the infamous “wardrobe malfunction,” Timberlake returned to the stage solo as the featured performer. We have a few questions.
1. Was it a good idea to make a sly reference to Jackson?
Timberlake started the performance in a dark room singing his new single, “Filthy,” as lasers shot everywhere. Then he ran out and climbed a set of stairs to the stadium as he segued into “Rock Your Body,” the song he was singing in 2004 during the “incident.” People speculated that the move was intentional because right before he ripped off part of Jackson’s top, he sang this lyric: “Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song.”
This time, just as Timberlake was about to get to that point in the track, he yelled, “Hold up, stop!” before going on to the next song in the medley. It may have gone over people’s heads, but was it smart to poke fun, even briefly, at the situation? Even he has admitted that Jackson was unfairly blamed in the fallout, as her career tanked and his flourished. Given that #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay was trending on Twitter on Sunday, and Timberlake has been widely criticized for not defending Jackson over the years, it might not have been the best move.
2. Was it also a good idea to bring an image of Prince into the show?
This week, a rumor spread that Timberlake was planning to perform with a hologram of the late Prince, who was beloved in his home state of Minnesota, where the Super Bowl took place. Considering that Prince once called such uses of technology “demonic,” the idea was not met with approval — particularly because Timberlake has been accused of appropriating black culture throughout his career.
There was no hologram. However, when Timberlake settled in at a piano about halfway through the performance, an image of Prince singing “I Would Die 4 U” suddenly appeared on an enormous projector screen. So, it was sort of a duet? The camera showed the city outside the stadium, lit with purple lights that formed the Prince symbol. Some fans loved it. Many others were not pleased.
3. What . . . exactly was he wearing?
A fringe jacket. Orange bandanna. A shirt with an elk on it. Sure, it probably all ties in to his new “Man of the Woods” album and new woodsman persona, but Twitter still made fun of him.
4. How long until the selfie kid becomes a meme and/or international celebrity?
You know how it is — you’re in the stands at the Super Bowl, trying to live your best life, and then suddenly Justin Timberlake is dancing next to you while he sings the theme song from the “Trolls” movie. How do you react? If you’re this kid, you try to take a selfie on national television, and the rest is history.
5. Really, no ’N Sync reunion?!
Timberlake ran down his list of solo hits: “SexyBack,” “My Love,” “Mirrors,” “Cry Me a River,” etc. But despite hopeful rumors of a reunion on stage, there wasn’t a single song to be found from the group that made him famous. While fans may have been furious, his fellow group member Lance Bass had a very chill attitude about the whole thing.