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Justin Timberlake’s tribute to the late Minneapolis native Prince, rumored on Saturday, didn’t go over so well on social media when it finally played out on Sunday night during halftime of Super Bowl LII.
Many Twitter users mocked the tribute, which included a performance of Prince’s “I Will Die 4 U” and a projection of the artist, who died in April 2016, behind Timberlake as he performed. During the halftime show, the singer-songwriter ran through some of his biggest hits, including “Rock Your Body,” “SexyBack” and “Suit & Tie,” as well as a single from his new album Man of the Woods.
Some noted that the late artist himself would not have appreciated the tribute: “Prince didn’t like Justin Timberlake.. it’s kind of rude to use his image for this performance,” Affinity Magazine tweeted, while user Adam Best wrote, “Prince specifically said he didn’t want that, right?”
Singer Demi Lovato was disappointed that Timberlake’s iconic 1990s band didn’t get a shout-out. “But … ‘N Sync,” she tweeted, with many tear-faced emojis.
Others were more positive, including FCC chairman Ajit Pai. “Whew! Thank you, @jtimberlake,” he wrote, referring to Timberlake’s last appearance on the Super Bowl stage, in 2004, during which he exposed Janet Jackson’s breast during a performance of “Rock Your Body.” The FCC fined CBS $550,000 for the gaffe.
After the show, Timberlake explained the Prince tribute while appearing on NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. He didn’t directly address the criticism, but did explain why he wanted to incorporate it into his performance.
“It’s a moment for me, and if I’m being quite honest, it’s because he’s always been the pinnacle of musicianship,” Timberlake said. “And when we decided that the serendipity and synergy [of being] in Minnesota — he’s such a special thing here aside from what he is all over the world. I just felt like I wanted to do something for this city and something for him that would just be the ultimate homage to what I consider the GOAT [Greatest of All Time] of musicians.”
He also noted that Questlove, who is Fallon’s bandleader, approved of the performance.
See some of the Twitter reactions below.
Prince didn’t like Justin Timberlake.. it’s kind of rude to use his image for this performance #PEPSIHALFTIMESHOW
— Affinity Magazine (@TheAffinityMag) February 5, 2018
Problem is, a lot of people down with Prince know he wouldn’t approve https://t.co/tD7W6ol0wp
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) February 5, 2018
Not down with the dead Prince duet.
— Scott Derrickson (@scottderrickson) February 5, 2018
NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE
— Gabby Sidibe (@GabbySidibe) February 5, 2018
Okay punkass justin Timberlake. You was cool till you pulled that Prince bullshit. You dissed Prince on a track of yours and you dissed him onstage when you lowered the mic stand onstage when prince won an award. Later for ya ass
— Sinbad (@sinbadbad) February 5, 2018
WOW JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE TRYING TO RUIN PRINCE AND JORDAN 3s IN THE SAME DAMN PERFORMANCE
— Eddie Huang (@MrEddieHuang) February 5, 2018
PRINCE HATED JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE AND HE IS DEAD SO CANNOT OBJECT TO THIS ACTUAL KIDNAPPING
— J. Escobedo Shepherd (@jawnita) February 5, 2018
The Prince tribute would’ve been cool… except Prince specifically said he didn’t want that, right? Even in death, Prince continues to be misunderstood.
— Adam Best (@adamcbest) February 5, 2018
— Demi Lovato (@ddlovato) February 5, 2018
If you ever shared two words with #Prince.
Or heard him speak.
Or saw him play.
You’d understand in the base of your bones — them deciding to hologram him at the SB — would’ve busted his heart to pieces. pic.twitter.com/TqK76Yacqi
— Vic Mahoney (@VictoriaMahoney) February 5, 2018
— Vicki’s Human (@MyPerler) February 5, 2018
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) February 5, 2018
Maybe the best halftime show ever. (Next to U2). JT for POTUS!#SuperBowl2018
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) February 5, 2018
— Tove Lo (@ToveLo) February 5, 2018
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