By Scott T. Sterling
After a whirlwind of controversy leading up to the Super Bowl LII halftime show, Justin Timberlake delivered.
The pop star’s ambitious and engaging set played on Super Bowl halftime traditions, updated with a grand production and inventive presentation that made for a thoroughly entertaining and memorable show.
Timerlake opened with the Man of the Woods single, “Filthy,” amidst a sea of lasers on a small stage surrounded by fans in a corridor of Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium.
Emerging onto the first of many stages situated across the playing field, the singer went back to his solo debut, playing “Rock Your Body” and “Senorita” before launching into the 2006 smash, “Sexyback.”
Touching on more Justified tracks with “My Love” and “Cry Me a River,” the show focused on Timberlake’s hits and dancing skills with a parade of flashy choreography with a fleet of dancers.
Marching onto a small stage surrounded by an orchestra of horns for “Suit and Tie,” the singer hopped over to yet another stage with a white grand piano for the big set piece featuring Prince.
With rumors abound that Timberlake had planned on utilizing a Prince hologram, the singer instead segued from his own song, “Til the End of Time,” into Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U.”
There was no hologram, the images and sounds of Prince singing the song with Timberlake made it into something of a disembodied duet.
The Prince moment of the set was accompanied with images from the singer’s legendary 2007 Super Bowl halftime show, with television graphics adding swathes of purple and the singer’s famous glyph symbol over the arena.
“Put two fingers in the air for Prince tonight,” Timberlake shouted to the crowd.
The pop star followed with “I Don’t Want to Lose You Now” and the on field performance of “Can’t Stop The Feeling” before culminating in a classic Super Bowl finale of confetti with Timberlake in the crowd taking selfies.
The most surprising aspect of the show was the lack of surprises. Other than the Prince moment, there were no big-name special guests or cameo appearances.
Timberlake gambled on his catalog of hits and the onstage charisma that’s made him a global superstar, and it paid off. No controversy necessary.