Sleepy halftime show should stay in 'The Woods'
The iconic Justin Timberlake: To some, a former proponent of “denim on denim” who infamously alleged that he brought “SexyBack,” and to others, a past member of the popular mid-90s boy band ‘N Sync.
Yet to another portion of the population, he will forever be remembered as giving a Super Bowl performance that afflicted viewers with acute narcolepsy.
Sure, there have been terrible halftime shows before. There was The Rolling Stones’ somewhat rugged outing in 2006, when they wheezed out a paltry three songs. And who could forget the unwelcome hoedown in 1994 with Clint Black and the Judds, when the world felt that they had been subjected to one overlong commercial for Cracker Barrel?
While not nearly as bad as those, Timberlake in 2018 did manage to deliver a performance that was uncharacteristically bland.
Was it the faux-club intimacy of his walkout? Perhaps it was the adolescent in the audience who, when confronted with a global superstar, decided to ponder the screen of his iPhone? Just where did Timberlake go astray?
For starters, the show was boring. The performance relied heavily on run-of-the-mill dance choreography, which lacked the impressive spectacle that a video like Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” showcases. Rather, Timberlake spread his resources thin – instead of being impressive at either dancing or singing, he was good at neither. The singer often opted to toss the mic in a precarious juggling act, exposing his lip-syncing in an apparent attempt to emulate 2016 New Year’s Eve Mariah Carey.
A glaring issue for many about Timberlake’s performance seemed to be his tribute to the late singer Prince, with some perhaps considering “tribute” too generous a word. The use of a Prince projection, many argued, was a far cry from the late star’s views on his image post-mortem.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Shelia E., Prince’s former associate and one-time fiancé, discussed his views on holograms and other such devices past his death: “[Prince] thought it was very demonic and that’s his spiritual beliefs.”
Yet this statement does nothing to deny that a good tribute, if done tastefully, has the potential to create a truly emotional and visceral experience. Consider the various impassioned covers of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in the wake of his death – stirring, rousing performances that brought the iconic musician’s essence to the masses once again. Timberlake did not achieve such an effect, nor did it appear to be his intention.
Still, we have to forgive Timberlake. He bears a distinction that many future artists for the Super Bowl must recognize: you are attempting something that Beyoncé has already done. Now, I am not attempting to arm the “BeyHive” by any means (they are rowdy enough as is). Rather, it bears noting that no matter who takes on the Super Bowl Halftime Show, they will have to somehow best the Queen Mother herself in order to truly count the endeavor as a win.
That is to say, I don’t feel that topping Beyoncé is impossible – just not a course of action that is likely to succeed.