For his first return following his infamous appearance with Janet Jackson in 2004, in which he exposed Jackson’s breast, Timberlake and his band the The Tennessee Kids ran through some of his greatest hits since his debut solo album, Justified, in 2002.
Timberlake kicked off the performance with a rendition of “Filthy,” a single from his new album, Man of the Woods. He started underneath the stage at Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium, which was set up like a club, and then launched into a rendition of “Rock Your Body,” the song that accompanied his infamous performance with Jackson in 2004. The singer-songwriter, walking among the crowd, then moved into “SexyBack,” hitting the stage and dancing among backup dancers and square light displays.
Timberlake shed his outerwear during “My Love,” revealing a shirt emblazoned with a desert scene in an aesthetic befitting his new, country-and-pop-focused album, and jumped up and down with the band. He continued to show off dance moves during “Cry Me a River,” which ended with an ambitious routine on the NFL logo on the field.
Timberlake mounted a small stage for “Suit & Tie,” backed by a full brass marching band whose members were in suits and ties. He then quickly transitioned into tribute mode, playing the piano and singing Prince’s “I Will Die 4 U” in front of a hologram of Prince. The late artist, who died in April 2016, was a native of Minneapolis, and his former residence, Paisley Park, lies on the outskirts of the city.
Backup dancers held up mirrors reflecting light during Timberlake’s single “Mirror,” which then turned into a rainbow during “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” Timberlake finished the set by running into stands, encouraging the crowd to sing and clap.
In the days preceding the big game, the performer shot down rumors that he might bring his ‘90s band ‘N Sync onstage, or Jackson. Timberlake only said that his band, The Tennessee Kids, would perform with him and that the show would showcase things “never done before.” Jackson also confirmed, in an interview with People, that she would not be returning.
The halftime show marked the first time Timberlake has performed on the Super Bowl stage alone. Besides his 2004 performance, he also performed at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2001, where his band ‘N Sync performed with Britney Spears and Aerosmith. “I really am looking at it as my first time,” Timberlake said in a behind-the-scenes video of preparation for the performance. “I believe it’s also the place where there’s nothing wrong with giving people what they want,” he added.
Timberlake’s 2004 appearance with Jackson, where the duo performed a duet of “Rock Your Body,” was supposed to include a stunt wherein Timberlake exposed Jackson’s bra during the lyric “Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song,” according to Jackson’s publicist. The botched move resulted in a $550,000 fine for broadcaster CBS from the FCC and MTV being removed as a producer of Super Bowl events. While Jackson issued two public apologies for the incident, Timberlake gave one public statement. “Hey, man, we love giving you all something to talk about,” he told Access Hollywood.
On Sunday, #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay was trending on Twitter.
Timberlake’s fifth solo album, Man of the Woods, was released Friday by RCA Records.