Justin Timberlake is courting controversy at the Super Bowl. Again. And this one hasn’t even happened yet.
No, this isn’t about Janet Jackson and that whole wardrobe malfunction thing of 14 years ago. This time it’s Prince. He died in 2016. But he’s going to be a part of the halftime show at Sunday’s Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis if Timberlake’s rehearsals for Sunday’s big halftime show have anything to say about that.
According to TMZ’s sneak peek posted on Saturday, JT plans to perform with a holographic image of the late pop star. Not everyone thinks that’s cool. Not the least because it’s going to happen in Prince’s hometown.
And even Prince had words to say about this very thing way back in his “Lovesexy” era when he told Guitar World in a 1988 interview that virtual performances with artists from the past — read: dead people — “is the most demonic thing imaginable.”
“Everything is as it is and it should be. If I was meant to jam with Duke Ellington we would have lived in the same age,” Prince told the magazine.
Many of the comments from average TMZ readers took an even less hospitable view of Timberlake’s leaked plans:
“I wish Bruno Mars was performing instead of this jerk.”
“THIS WHITE BOY STEALS ALL BLACK MUSIC AND GETS AWAY WITH IT. ....ANOTHER ELVES PARSLEY.”
(Somewhere, Elvis Presley and Prince are tittering over that typo.)
“Justin is a culture thief. He’s lame as hell trying to be black.”
“Heard that Prince did not like Justin, because he made fun of him being short, at one of the award shows, so he probably would not have wanted any kind of tribute from him, of all people, and we fans all know that Prince didn’t play, or go for any of that BS.”
This TMZ reader, however, seems like he could be converted: “Using Prince is played out. Stand on your own. He has more talent than most. Should be a good show.”
“Timberlake incorporating Prince … shouldn’t be a shocker, especially after JT promised at his Minneapolis press conference that ‘we’re doing things with this halftime show that they’ve never quite done before,’ ” CBS Sports said.
Minneapolis, after all, was Prince’s turf and it would have been a no-brainer to assume he would have been the headliner for Sunday’s halftime spectacle.
But there’s that nagging truism that Prince, who headlined Super Bowl 41’s halftime show in Miami Gardens in 2007, is dead. And it’s a hologram. And JT is already a lightning rod of — with all apologies to an old Prince song — controversy where Super Bowl performances are concerned after all the heat he faced for pulling Janet Jackson’s top down during their 2004 performance together.
Even the famously fractured Jackson family still holds a grudge. Members of the Jackson family told the New York Post Saturday that if Timberlake really wanted to put the past behind him and make amends, he’d feature the “Rhythm Nation” singer in his performance at Super Bowl 52 on Sunday. “If he’s such a gentleman, he’d make sure Janet is there,” her father, Joseph Jackson, told the Post.
This hasn’t been the best week for the pop superstar. Timberlake’s new album “Man of the Woods” dropped Friday and its reviews are just a shade better than this flap over Prince.
On Metacritic, which aggregates reviews, “Man of the Woods” scores a mixed 57 out of 100 score based on 16 reviews so far.
Of these, Entertainment Weekly was the most kind, with a B grade. “Timberlake now seems content to ride out his own scenic route, as blithe and unknowable as he’s ever been,” the critic said.
But The Los Angeles Times opined, “a song-and-dance sham” and “faux-folksy,” and others followed suit along those lines.