In the weeks leading up to Super Bowl LII, there was much speculation surrounding Justin Timberlake‘s halftime performance. Should it really be Timberlake over Janet Jackson who gets another chance at performing after 2004’s nipple slip? Would his former NSYNC bandmates join him in Minneapolis? Would JT use a hologram of Prince, despite massive backlash?
While Prince did appear in some form — projected onto a giant curtain while Timberlake sat at a grand piano below singing a cover of “I Would Die 4 U” — it was a brief tribute performance that felt heartless and hollow on the whole. The two pop stars weren’t the best of friends and had a short spat around the release of “SexyBack,” followed by JT mocking Prince during the 2007 Golden Globes.
The entire performance seemed to fall flat compared to previous years. Just last year, Lady Gaga sang “God Bless America” from atop the stadium roof before flying down to the field on a wire, while Beyoncé‘s 2013 performance featured a Destiny’s Child reunion and political overtones. Timberlake’s appearance felt safe and bland, with the singer tackling “Rock Your Body,” which he cut short before the line that soundtracked the infamous moment he exposed Jackson’s breast to the world. View the entire performance above.