Justin Timberlake received mixed reactions after using footage of Prince during his Super Bowl LII halftime show on Sunday, February 4. Amid the backlash, the “Filthy” singer opened up about his controversial decision to pay tribute to the late Purple One.
“It’s a moment for me, if I’m being quite honest, because [Prince has] always been the pinnacle of musicianship for me,” Timberlake, 37, said on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon a few hours after his performance at the NFL championship event at U.S. Bank Stadium in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis.
He continued, “When we decided that the serendipity and synergy that we would be in Minneapolis and that, you know, he’s such a special thing here, aside from what he is all over the world, I just felt like I wanted to do something for this city and something for him that would be the ultimate homage to what I consider the G.O.A.T. [Greatest of All Time] of musicians.”
The “Man of the Woods” crooner went on to say that Questlove, who is the frontman of The Tonight Show’s house band The Roots, gave him the “thumbs up” to honor Prince, who died from accidental fentanyl poisoning at the age of 57 in April 2016. “Questlove is the encyclopedia on music … [and] a gatekeeper on Prince,” Timberlake explained as the drummer called the halftime show “dope.”
Timberlake then explained how the tribute came about. “We got the actual vocal stems from ‘I Would Die 4 U,’ the actual recordings, and then we got uncut footage from his performance of it in Purple Rain,” he explained. “Somehow, some way, by the grace of probably Prince looking down on us, it synced up. It was like this crazy serendipitous moment. I just wanted to use that opportunity to do something special for this city, but most of all, for my favorite musician of all time.”
The former ‘NSync singer faced backlash on Twitter for using footage of Prince on a projection screen because the late music icon said in a 1998 interview with Guitar World that he believed posthumous holograms were “the most demonic thing imaginable.” Prince’s former drummer Sheila E. also voiced her disapproval, tweeting on Saturday, January 3, that she had spoken with Timberlake ahead of his performance and he assured her that he would not include a hologram of the “Kiss” entertainer.