Feels like there’s little to look forward to when Super Bowl LII kicks off tomorrow (Feb. 4) in frigid Minnesota. Vegas has already locked down its bets, with the New England Patriots as the 4.5-point favorite to win a sixth Super Bowl—this time against the Philadelphia Eagles. Halftime show star Justin Timberlake’s latest album, Man of the Woods, has been slammed by critics for its forced folksiness and subpar lyrics. Even his listening party at Paisley Park Studios was bashed by Prince fans.
JT’s forthcoming performance, to feature a digitized Prince, bodes even worse.
TMZ reports that a hologram version of Prince is planned to grace the stage with Timberlake at US Bank Stadium. The intent is to honor the late musician in his hometown of Minneapolis. Prince, who died at his Paisley Park residence in 2016, played the Super Bowl XLI halftime show in 2007. The iconic set couldn’t have been more dazzling: From the literal pouring rain to the symbol-shaped guitar, there was little need for improvement.
Timberlake has his own, less-celebrated place in halftime history. He set off controversy in his 2004 performance with Janet Jackson, the one that featured the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” revealing a nipple shield on Jackson’s otherwise bare breast. The former NSYNC member did everything he could to distance himself from the incident, waiting two years to issue an apology as Jackson shouldered all of the blame. Timberlake says he’d made amends with the singer, but already confirmed that Jackson will not be featured at Sunday’s halftime show.
If Prince were alive, it’s doubtful he’d want to share a stage with the “SexyBack” singer.
Prince’s remark was reported to have been made during a 2006 Emmys after-party performance. JT fired back in 2007 with “Give It To Me,” a song that includes the line “Now if se-sexy never left, then why is everybody on my shi-i-it? Don’t hate on me just because you didn’t come up with it.” Needless to say, the internet is enraged by the idea of a potential digital Prince/analogue Timberlake performance.
Hologram renderings of deceased artists have a rather unfortunate contemporary history. While rap superstars like Tupac, Wu-Tang Clan’s ODB, and NWA’s Eazy-E have been resurrected to much acclaim, the technology has been plagued with failures.
A duet featuring a hologram version of Whitney Houston and a live Christina Aguilera to be aired on NBC’s The Voice was pulled by Houston’s estate because it simply wasn’t ready. The cringe-inducing footage nonetheless leaked to the media. A proposed Selena hologram tour featuring the late Latina superstar was cancelled before it even got off the ground. And glitches contributed to a rather stiff performance from a hologram Michael Jackson at the 2014 Billboard Music awards, ultimately culminating in a lawsuit.
Prince was notoriously careful about his public image and digital footprint, crafting a unique style, sound, and ethos wholly unto himself. That’s something technology will never be able to capture.