During Prince’s lifetime, his Paisley Park was an active recording studio and rehearsal space, hosting sessions or tour prep for Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Madonna, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, R.E.M., Neil Young, Jeff Beck, and many others. Obviously the facility has taken on a different quality in the months since his death in April 2016, when fans gathered outside for days; it opened as a museum in October of last year dedicated to commemorating the artist’s nearly 40-year-long professional career.
Thus, the announcement last weekend of an American Express-sponsored listening session at the studio for Justin Timberlake’s new album, “Man of the Woods,” during Super Bowl week meant that the event sold out almost instantly, but was met with howls of outrage from Prince fans on social media.
“Who the f— is letting Timberlake do his album listening party at Paisley Park? Prince would have never consigned this,” Buttuh roared. “Justin Timberlake disrespected Prince with that weak diss track back in the day and now he’s allowed to perform inside Paisley Park? Disrespect all over again…SMH 😒,” said Dreaming in Purple. “Justin Timberlake being able to set FOOT in Paisley Park is some f—ery that should NEVER f—ing happen,” wrote Kromshrugulos Michael. “And it wouldn’t were Prince still here… You f—ers is tacky.”
Others took exception to the fact that alcohol will be served (Prince was a teetotaler and at some point forbid alcohol on the building’s grounds). “Justin Timberlake performing at Paisley Park for $80 a pop and selling liquor there during Super Bowl weekend is ridiculously disrespectful to Prince and his legacy,” wrote ReggieOnTheMove.
There are several positive tweets as well — one fan wrote “Justin Timberlake idolized Prince – and looked up to him and was deeply inspired by him. Prince is always in his own category musically ( nothing compares) and Prince would definitely want him to jam at Paisley and support music 🎶” — but the haters are much louder.
Interestingly, some of the deepest shade came from Keith Harris, music critic at Minneapolis’ City Pages, in an article Monday bearing the memorable headline: “Prince-mocking white guy Justin Timberlake to hold Paisley Park event.”
As Harris recounts, some of the outrage stems from a decade-plus-old back-and-forth between the two singers. At a post-Emmy Awards party in 2006, Prince referenced Timberlake’s hit “SexyBack” by saying, “For whoever is claiming they are bringing sexy back, sexy never left!”
Weeks later, Timberlake presented the award for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes, which was won by Prince for “Song of the Heart” from the animated film “Happy Feet.” Prince was reportedly stuck in traffic, so Timberlake made fun of the artist’s 5’2” stature by bending his knees and lunging upward at the microphone. Shortly after, Timberlake released a verse on a song by his longtime producer Timbaland called “Give It to Me” that reads: “If sexy never left, then why’s everybody on my sh–?/ Don’t hate on me just because you didn’t come up with it.”
Reps for Timberlake, Paisley Park and American Express did not immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment.