The Super Bowl: an American tradition celebrated by football fanatics and many others, even those who don’t follow the sport to witness the memorable halftime show. But even before the start of the 52nd Super Bowl, there was plenty of controversy surrounding the upcoming performance by artist Justin Timberlake.
According to The New Yorker, Timberlake had previously performed the song “Rock Your Body” at the Super Bowl with artist Janet Jackson in 2004. As Timberlake sang the lyrics “Bet I’ll have you naked / By the end of this song,” he “reached over and snatched off the patch of black leather that covered Jackson’s right breast.” The Federal Communications Commision received thousands of complaints, eventually leading to Jackson apologizing for the incident with Timberlake taking much less criticism. As said by TIME magazine, the incident had “result[ed]in a scandal that effectively halted her career while his continued to rise unabated.”
While many had theorized that Timberlake may take the opportunity to perform at the halftime show once again to make amends with Jackson, she reported in an Instagram post the day before the game that she would not be performing. Instead, Timberlake sang the same song up to the lyrics where the incident had occurred 14 years ago and failed to acknowledge Jackson, according to BBC.
Knowing of the controversy concerning Jackson and Timberlake, freshman Namrata Harish thought it was not a wise decision for Timberlake to sing the same song. According to The New Yorker, not only did Timberlake fail to acknowledge Jackson, but he also decided to pause before the lyrics at which the incident had occurred.
“A smarter person probably would not have done that [and sing the same song],” Harish said.
In addition, Harish did not find Timberlake’s performance to be appealing, as she said he simply walked back and forth on various stages. She found his performance to be simply okay. Harish prefered performances in the past that had more large scale effects, such as when Lady Gaga performed at last year’s Super Bowl.
Along with the controversy associated with Jackson, rumors about Timberlake’s plan to perform alongside a hologram of Prince — who was from Minneapolis where the Super Bowl was to be held — spread across the internet. This received a lot of backlash, as Prince had said creating a situation where present artists could perform with artists in the past was “demonic” in an earlier interview. Although there was no hologram to be seen come the day of the performance, Timberlake sang a “duet” with a projection of Prince on a large white screen in an attempt to honor him. However, according to CNN, some fans were still enraged with this tribute, as it still seemed disrespectful to Prince.
Although freshman Lakshmi Talapaneni initially thought the projection was a good way of honoring Prince since the Super Bowl did take place in his home state, her views changed once she became aware that Prince was against holograms.
“If he didn’t want it, [Timberlake] should have respected his wishes,” Talapaneni said.
Aside from the controversy, Talapaneni felt that there was something lacking in Justin Timberlake’s performance.
“Justin Timberlake is usually a really good singer, but there were a lot of stunts in [the]49th Halftime show,” Talapaneni said. “But [for]Justin Timberlake’s [performance], there was nothing special about it. There were no fireworks or a rocket, it was just pretty blunt. But his songs were pretty good.”
Although she does not necessarily blame Timberlake for the performance, Talapaneni thinks that the people who staged it didn’t put in as much effort as they could have.
“For a person who’s not super into football, the Halftime show is my favorite part of the Super Bowl,” Talapaneni said. “So I wasn’t super happy with it because it wasn’t very good.”
In contrast, junior Benjamin Bedregal found himself pleasantly surprised with the rest of Timberlake’s performance. At the start of the show, he found it to be boring and thought Justin Timberlake was not the most relevant artist currently in the entertainment industry. However, Bedregal said it progressively improved.
“I like how he used various components of the field,” Bedregal said. “Most performers just stay on [the stage]and do their thing and maybe they move. But he got everybody into it.”
While Bedregal does not know many of Timberlake’s recent songs, he appreciated that he had performed older songs that used to be popular. However, Timberlake’s controversy with Prince seemed to lessen Bedregal’s impression of the artist. Bedregal had read in some article headlines that Timberlake defended his decision by saying he had cast a projection, not a hologram, but he did not agree with his actions or argument.
“It was a little insensitive,” Bedregal said. “Especially if it’s a deceased person’s wish specifically not to be something, the least you could do is actually take that into mind.”