Why Justin Timberlake’s Prince Tribute was so Controversial

Last weekend the Philadelphia Eagles outlasted the New England Patriots, despite an incredible performance by Tom Brady, to win Super Bowl 52. Among the hysteria for Philadelphia and heartbreak for Bostonians there was a great deal of resentment for the halftime performance. Justin Timberlake performed at the super bowl for the second time in his celebrated music career and it was both controversial and a bit mediocre.

Who doesn’t love Timberlake’s music, and who didn’t appreciate him throwing in back to the 2000’s with some of the pop hits that helped shaped us. Well some people took offense to some of the stuff he did during the performance and the fact that he performed at all.

Prince fans are very upset over the performance because Timberlake paid tribute to the late Purple Reign superstar in perhaps the most distasteful way possible. It all stems from an interview the Purple One did in 1998. At the time, Prince sat down with Guitar World Magazine and was asked about the trend of live musicians using technology to duet with someone who had passed away … think Natalie Cole‘s version of “Unforgettable” she did with her dad.

Here’s what Prince said at the time …

Guitar World: “With digital editing, it is now possible to create a situation where you could jam with any artist from the past. Would you ever consider doing something like that?”

Prince: “Certainly not. That’s 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. That whole virtual reality thing… it really is demonic. And I am not a demon. Also, what they did with that Beatles song [“Free As a Bird”], manipulating John Lennon’s voice to have him singing from across the grave… that’ll never happen to me. To prevent that kind of thing from happening is another reason why I want artistic control.”

So, when Timberlake used Prince’s voice and image to create a duet — seems like JT did exactly what Prince didn’t want.

But there is more, in 2006 Justin Timberlake dropped the hit single “Sexy Back” and At the time, Prince joked that sexy never left … and Timberlake responded with a diss verse in “Give It To Me” in which he said to Prince, “Don’t hate on me just because you didn’t come up with it.”

Timberlake later pulled a stunt where he lowered the mic for Prince to mock his height at the Golden Globes.

Many celebrities close to Prince, especially Sinbad came up publically to say that Prince had a disdain for Justin and that this was disrespectful to perform.


Jelani Arthur Williamson

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