On Why Justin Timberlake’s Super Bowl Half Time Show Probably Didn’t Need To Happen

Sorry guys. Sexy ain't back yet

justin timberlake super bowl half time

by Jazmin Kopotsha |
Updated on

Some Super Bowl Half Time performances go down in history. The ones that stand out in recent memory are Beyoncé’s 2016 show, of course (that insane Formation performance with nods to the Black Panther movement and appearances from Chris Martin and Bruno Mars), and, let’s throw Lady Gaga launching herself from the roof and giving a subtle reference to the political climate of the time (Trump’s travel ban) in there too.

This year, though, Justin Timberlake returned to the pitch with the task of entertaining hundreds of millions of people around the world. Considering the pop stars that have come before him, and our rose tinted memory post-N’Sync Justin’s musical existence, it was fine.

And by fine, I mean it was nothing to write home about. I like Justin Timberlake’s music. I have kept all the CDs, know every word to the Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds albums but also there was a lot riding on this show post- Man of The Woods and 2004 controversy and well, meh.

There were lots of complaints about sound quality and that perhaps misplaced tribute to Prince, but other than that it was little more than a nice live performance of some of his most loved greatest hits. I sang along. I revelled in the nostalgia of my younger years as sound tracked by Senorita, Sexy Back and My Love, but, sadly, I was more interested in the little kid who managed to get a selfie with Justin mid performance. Well played, mate.

A large proportion of those watching this year’s performance will probably remember the last time Justin was on the half time bill. It was when he shared the stage with Janet Jackson during her set and ripped her shirt to reveal one of her nipples. It wasn’t cool. Actually, it was pretty horrific. Not that much was really done about it. Well, except Janet being blamed for a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ and blacklisted from media outlets. Justin was fine, though.

Rumours circulated, as they do, about whether Janet would be joining Justin again for his 2018 performance as some sort of warped apology meets musical redemption. She didn’t, and that was never the plan. To clarify to her fans she tweeted an image that read: ‘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’.

On the plus side, the product of Justin’s return to the Super Bowl and re-highlighting of the injustice of Janet’s experience, was we got to see the best of Twitter. #JanetJacksonAppreciateionDay was trending thanks to the efforts of dedicated fans who managed to offer a different narrative for #SuperBowlSunday.

Chance The Rapper, Laverne Cox and Empire’s Jussie Smollett joined fans in celebrating Janet Jackson Appreciation day on Twitter and it’s safe to say that a lot of people haven’t yet forgiven Justin or the media powers that be for what happened at (and in the aftermath of) their 2004 show.

Let me now direct your attention to another legend of the music game: Prince. One of the most adored respected and honoured musicians of many of our lifetimes. Some people’s legacies you just don’t mess with. Some people’s music you just leave well alone. Some people you really don’t need to turn into a hologram to give your otherwise, bleh, set a bit of a lift. Which is why so many people were horrified when rumours started circulating about Justin Timberlake doing just that at his Sunday night show.

We can connect the dots of logic – Prince was from Minneapolis, where the Super Bowl was being held – but that’s as far as the trail goes, really. Some of Prince’s close friends really weren’t okay with the idea but one, Sheila E. who had collaborated with Prince over the years, tweeted to clarify that she had spoken with Justin and confirmed that there would be no hologram (because apparently Prince wasn’t a fan of that sort of technology, they say)

Instead we had a projection of Prince against some material to which Justin sang along with. Then there was a big wide shot of the city of Minneapolis being lit up in purple lights. It was indeed a very nice tribute. It was fine. It is what it is.

Maybe I feel so meh because I expected more. For someone who's just released a new album (after a long old wait) that hasn't been so excitedly received, I thought the half time show would be an explosive celebration of Justin Timberlake's return. Sexy's come Back. His reclaiming of his friendly R&B-meets-cool guy pop crown. That didn't happen, though.

Considering the current cultural climate and the intentional interweaving of politics within the recent narrative of entertainment (for specific examples, let me refer you once again to Beyonce and Lady Gaga in the two years before this), I kind of thought Justin would say something. But he didn't do that either.

Nothing really happened. He's one of only nine performers not to bring out a special guest for the half time show, and when it was confirmed that no, N'Sync would not be regrouping for this special performance a la Destiny's Child two years ago, our nostalgic fantasies were already crumbled way before the intro to the now controversial (the song he sang with Janet) *Rock Your Body *came in.

So what was this 13.51 minute performance, as awkwardly introduced by Jimmy Fallon? By the look and sound of it, a glorified Justin Timberlake throwback show that probably didn't need to take place at the Super Bowl. We could've had that anywhere. Justin, give us a call when you're ready to make a real return to the stage because I'm not sure that this one counts at all.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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