Justin Timberlake Frontrunner to Perform at Super Bowl, but Nipplegate Still Looms

Will the “wardrobe malfunction” seen ’round the world soon be all but a distant memory?

According to multiple sources, Justin Timberlake is the frontrunner to perform at next year’s Super Bowl halftime show.

It’s hard to believe this February will mark 14 years since Timberlake’s baring of Janet Jackson’s right breast during halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. Could Super Bowl LII, slated for U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Feb. 3, 2018, being televised by NBC, be the site of Timberlake’s long-awaited return? Although the former boybander is inching closer to the gig, the 2004 controversy still engulfs the singer.

The so-called “wardrobe malfunction” caused a “chilling effect” crackdown by the FCC on objectionable broadcast material and served as a launching pad for a fledgling site known as YouTube.

Sources also tell Variety that Timberlake is expected to release a new album at the beginning of 2018, which would make the Super Bowl timing optimal.

Internet chatter began to surface last month and reached fever pitch on Wednesday that Timberlake – despite the NFL’s insistence he’d been banned for the incident – is being considered for the halftime slot alongside pal Jay-Z, with whom he toured in 2013 as part of their “Legends of the Summer” U.S. dates. The rapper was a featured performer on Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie,” the first single from Justin’s album, “The 20/20 Experience.” One major TV music executive even insists a buzzworthy reunion with Jackson can’t be completely ruled out, though that seems far-fetched.

It’s no surprise Jay-Z has reportedly turned down the NFL’s offer, given the league’s current controversy over players refusing to stand during the playing of the national anthem to protest racially charged police brutality incidents around the country, and the apparent reluctance of teams to sign the movement’s currently free-agent leader, quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

A decision should be revealed any day now, as Lady Gaga was announced as the performer at the end of September last year.

The halftime show has been headlined over the past few years by a succession of rock superstars like Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, The Who, and Madonna. Ameriquest Mortgage, Sprint Nextel, Bridgestone, and AOL Topspeed were all halftime sponsors until Pepsi took over for Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, highlighted by a Beyonce reunion with Destiny’s Child in 2016.

The Super Bowl halftime show has become the most-watched musical event in history. Last year’s Gaga performance at Houston’s NRG Stadium was seen by 117.5 million viewers, and for four consecutive years, the show has attracted higher average views than the actual game.

So, with most of the major pop and rock acts having played the halftime show, who will headline the 2018 edition? It won’t be Taylor Swift, who, as a Diet Coke spokesperson, is a no-go for the Pepsi-sponsored event, instead scheduling a performance headlining the halftime show of the College Football National Championship game in Atlanta on Jan. 8, 2018, from nearby Centennial Olympic Park, produced by ESPN. Swift previously debuted a clip for the track “Ready for It” during college football’s opening weekend game between Alabama and Florida State on ABC.

Britney Spears, another early contender – she performed at Super Bowl XXXV at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on a lineup which included Aerosmith, Timberlake with NSYNC, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly – has also been ruled out, according to a recent statement from PepsiCo head of sports marketing Justin Toman.

Recent polls as to who should headline saw Billboard readers overwhelmingly voting for K-Pop band BTS (with a whopping 58.6%), while Popcrush’s audience opted for Queen & Adam Lambert (37.6%) over BTS (with 34.3%).

And while rumors of Timberlake being the chosen one has sparked talk of a possible NSYNC reunion, at least one observer, Fred Traube, head of his own East Coast-based Pro Sports Music Marketing, claims the NFL is still smarting over the incident 14 years ago.

“Don’t expect any controversial rappers, either,” he noted, with the expected on-air bleeps ruining the potential of appearances by not just Jay-Z, but Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, or Migos (subjects of an online petition for last year’s slot), even though it’s hard to believe that ban extending to the likes of mainstream crossovers like Chance the Rapper (who recently made an appearance on CBS’ Emmy Awards).

Meanwhile, the fact that musicians aren’t paid for their Super Bowl performance, and indeed, have to pay, has scared off a number of artists, including Kelly Clarkson, who is about to release a new album next month for new label Atlantic, and recently admitted to Breatheheavy.com, “I’m not paying, you pay me.”

Others touted include Pink, who also has a new album, “Beautiful Trauma,” coming out on Oct. 13 (with an Oct. 14 “Saturday Night Live” appearance on tap, and a high-wire act that would play well on a big stage), along with Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith (slated for “SNL” on Oct. 7), and Foo Fighters.

More TV

  • 'Grease' Spinoff Series Ordered at HBO

    'Grease' Spinoff Series Ordered at HBO Max

    HBO Max is clearly hopelessly devoted to “Grease.” The streamer has issued a straight to series order for “Grease: Rydell High,” a spinoff of the original John Travolta and Olivia Newton John 1978 musical. The new series will be set in and around the world of Rydell High, the school which Danny and Sandy attended [...]

  • TV Ratings: '9-1-1' Down, 'Prodigal Son'

    TV Ratings: '9-1-1' Down, 'Prodigal Son' Steady for Fox

    After three weeks hovering around the 1.6 rating mark, “9-1-1” dipped in week four to tie with “The Voice” as the top show on Monday night. The disaster series wrapped its tsunami arc to a 1.4 rating and 6.4 million total viewers, shedding roughly 1 million sets of eyeballs from last week. In better news [...]

  • A autora Carla Faour, a diretora

    Globo Presents ‘Second Call’ at Mipcom

    It’s been rare in recent decades that Latin American free to air tv has ventured into social drama as the realism needed to handle the genre has often been deemed to gritty to be entertaining. That’s not been the case for Brazil’s Globo however, which has moved waves and dales, which reaping prizes, with series [...]

  • Ronan Farrow NBC News Expose

    NBC News Chiefs Under Fire as Ronan Farrow Book Dishes Weinstein Dirt

    The long-awaited publication of Ronan Farrow’s book “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators” has unleashed a furor within NBC News. “Catch and Kill,” set for release Oct. 15, portrays NBC News and its leaders as compromised while Farrow pursued the story of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein — because [...]

  • Shepard Smith Fox News Exit

    What Shepard Smith's Exit Means for Fox News

    For a figure who strove to present the news as evenhandedly as possible, Shepard Smith had become extremely controversial by the time he announced his departure from Fox News on Oct. 11. Indeed, it was his equanimity that made him controversial. Smith, the host of Fox’s hard-news 3 p.m. hour as well as anchor of [...]

  • Looking For Alaska is an 8-episode

    TV Review: 'Looking for Alaska'

    It was probably just a matter of time before John Green and Josh Schwartz became collaborators. Green, whose novels include “Looking for Alaska,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” and “Paper Towns,” has become known for writing teenagers filled with so much restlessness and existential melancholy that they can hardly stand it. Schwartz, whose shows include [...]

  • Hunter Biden

    Hunter Biden Says He Made No 'Ethical Lapse' in Emotional ABC News Interview

    In an interview that prompted tears, Hunter Biden sat down with ABC News’ Amy Robach, stating that he made no “ethical lapse” by sitting on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, and rejected President Donald Trump’s notion that he and his father, former Vice President Joe Biden, have engaged in any wrongdoing. “I don’t [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content