Full confession: I rock with Justin Timberlake.
I know many Black folks want nothing to do with Timberlake because they feel he left Janet Jackson holding the boob following the Nipplegate incident during 2004’s Super Bowl halftime show, and later because of the All Lives Matter-ish comments he made on Twitter following Jesse Williams’ soul-shattering speech at the 2016 BET Awards.
But you’re a damned liar if you say that “Rock Your Body” doesn’t make you wiggle your booty at least a little bit, and that the Futuresex/Lovesounds album didn’t have you rethinking your whole perspective on who R&B/soul music “belongs” to. Listening to his alright-ass new album, Man of the Woods, motivated me to spend a good part of this weekend rocking out to his older material.
When those of us not pissed off about the aforementioned slights heard that Timberlake was on deck to perform the halftime show for Super Bowl LII, we went in with cautious optimism. But when we heard the rumor that he would use a Prince hologram, a la Tupac at the 2012 Coachella festival, that optimism turned to everyone tying one supersize metaphorical rope to drag him with. Even legendary Prince collaborator Sheila E. had some words about it.
Prince told me don’t ever let anyone do a hologram of me. Not cool if this happens! https://t.co/khtCjXr2mY
— SheilaEdrummer (@SheilaEdrummer) February 3, 2018
The legendary drummer reportedly spoke with Timberlake and assured fans that there would be no Prince hologram
Family, I spoke w/Justin 2nite and he shared heartfelt words of respect for Prince & the Purple fans. I look 4wrd 2 seeing what I’m sure is going 2 be a spectacular halftime show. There is no hologram. 🙏🏽💋 pic.twitter.com/mhVXBfBa1B
— SheilaEdrummer (@SheilaEdrummer) February 4, 2018
Prince possessed an unparalleled talent, and it speaks volumes about his legacy that people don’t want to see some weird, ethereal version of him on the most watched television program of any given year. We all went into the halftime show with that “you bet’ not” sentiment, and what happened was not quite as bad, but many still considered it blasphemous: in the midst of an expected medley of hits, Timberlake performed “Until the End of Time” commingled with “I Would Die 4 U,” Prince’s best song ever, in front of a life-size video of Prince projected onto your grandmama’s good curtains.
Black Twitter Has Spoken
Sure enough, Black Twitter, the arbiter of what’s acceptable shit and what ain’t, chimed in with their opinions quickly.
Omg. I just gasped. Prince is furious
— roxane gay (@rgay) February 5, 2018
Imagine, thinking your song is worth being mixed with a Prince Classic. White privilege i tell ya
— 🇰🇲Comorienne🇰🇲 (@_ShamGod) February 5, 2018
Justin Timberlake: I’m going to perform at the Super Bowl with a Prince hologram.
Prince (from the grave): pic.twitter.com/IhwAbcZwKm
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) February 4, 2018
Okay punkass justin Timberlake. You was cool till you pulled that Prince bullshit. You dissed Prince on a track of yours and you dissed him onstage when you lowered the mic stand onstage when prince won an award. Later for ya ass
— Sinbad (@sinbadbad) February 5, 2018
Prince Would Not Be Pleased
I mean, when even Sinbad is dragging you on Twitter, you might want to find a cyanide pill or something. Hapless white entertainers have been bungling Prince tributes since he died – see: Madonna’s raging dumpster fire – and I think most ardent fans of one of the most beloved recording artists would rather his legacy be left the hell alone. That his actual image is being used postmortem appears to be something The Purple One was specifically opposed to, according to his words from a 1998 interview with Guitar World magazine:
GW: With digital editing, it is now possible to create a situation where you could jam with any artist from the past. Would you ever consider doing something like that?
Prince : Certainly not. That’s the most demonic thing imaginable. Everything is as it is, and it should be. If I was meant to jam with Duke Ellington, we would have lived in the same age. That whole virtual reality thing… it really is demonic. And I am not a demon…To prevent that kind of thing from happening is another reason why I want artistic control.
Factor that in with the apparently sketchy past that Timberlake has with all things Prince and it’s not a reach that folks might have an issue with the dude from Friends with Benefits stepping in Prince’s home state and desecrating his image. Though there might not be a consensus on the status of JT’s cookout invite, let’s just say that if he were invited today, he’d be relegated to the corner until everyone else has eaten—and gotten seconds, and assembled their to-go plates, if necessary.
Maybe he could even get a plate if he made a better banger than Man of the Woods.
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at his own site, wafflecolored.com.