Justin Timberlake Features Prince in Super Bowl Halftime

A large image of Prince is
Mark Humphrey/AP/REX/Shutterstoc

After days of rumors that Justin Timberlake’s Super Bowl halftime performance would include a Prince hologram – which was denied by the late legend’s longtime friend Sheila E last night – the singer’s show did end up including a tribute to the Minnesota artist.

A clip from “Purple Rain” was projected on a curtain — rather than as a reanimated hologram, as many had feared — which was hanging from Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium as Timberlake accompanied Prince’s recording on a piano below, the two dueting on hit “I Would Die 4 U.” The video images displayed were from Prince’s “Purple Rain” film, and having them projected onto a billowing screen recalled his classic Halftime performance during the 2007 Super Bowl, which is nearly universally regarded as the best Super Bowl musical performance in history.

The inside of the stadium turned purple as the song played, as did the surrounding city, even transforming the city lights to show Prince’s symbol.

“Minneapolis, Minnesota, this one’s for you,” Timberlake said into the microphone before honoring Prince, who was born in the city and continued to have deep ties there throughout his life, before dying in his Minnesota home on April 21, 2016. He was also known as a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, who play in the stadium hosting this year’s Super Bowl.

The song ended with Prince’s infamous shadow from the 2007 Super Bowl projected on the sheet.

Said Nick Whitenhouse of Fireplay, which was the creative lead on the performance: “Paying tribute to Prince was something JT highlighted as an important moment for this show, and we spent quite a bit of time ensuring this moment would be true to his legacy. Ultimately, Justin decided that the only person who could do Prince justice is Prince, and we’re so proud to be part of his team who created this epic moment.”

Timberlake’s performance also included a number of hits throughout his career, including “Rock Your Body,” “SexyBack,” “Suit” & Tie” and “Filthy” off of his new “Man of the Woods” album, which was released Friday. Close friend Jimmy Fallon introduced Timberlake’s halftime show, his first return to the Super Bowl stage since his 2004 incident with Janet Jackson, which resulted in the now-infamous wardrobe malfunction seen ’round the world.