Justin Timberlake’s Super Bowl performance that featured a hologram-ish image of Prince went directly against the estate of the legendary singer, who friends say would never have wanted his image used in such a manner. While many saw the gesture as a fitting tribute in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, others called blatant disrespect.
Longtime Prince collaborator Sheila E tweeted late Saturday night that Timberlake had assured her he wouldn’t use a hologram out “of respect for Prince & the Purple fans.”
Less than 24 hours later, there Timberlake was shouting out Prince and looking up to a larger than life projection while singing “I Would Die 4 U.”
The disbelief from fans was swift.
The use of the Prince’s image marked the second time he’s disrespected a Black performer at the Super Bowl in a shameless attempt to rediscover his one-time relevance of last decade. No one’s forgotten when he ripped away Janet Jackson’s bra to expose her nipple on live TV in an episode that gave birth to the terms “wardrobe malfunction” and “nipplegate.”
Timberlake has been mad at Prince for at least the past 11 years, when Prince reportedly said, “For whoever is claiming that they are bringing sexy back, sexy never left!” The comment, reported by TMZ, was clearly a shot at Timberlake’s hit song “Sexy Back.”
As Genius reminded us, JT would go on to record a verse on a Timbaland track that included the lyrics, “We missed you on the charts last week; Damn, that’s right you wasn’t there; 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.”
The weak diss flew below the radar back then, but now, especially after he showed — in Prince’s hometown, of all places! — he didn’t care for the wishes of Prince’s estate, friends and family, this performance may just come back to haunt him in the worst of ways.
Beyond all of the above, and perhaps most importantly, Prince would have never had anything to do with the NFL, especially this season amid the national anthem controversy, making the cultural appropriation of his likeness at the Super Bowl all the more unfortunate, and tasteless.