Reports had leaked out last month about Justin Timberlake performing at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, and on Sunday, the NFL provided confirmation. The 36-year-old Grammy winner will return to the biggest stage in the country’s most-watched TV show for the first time since his infamous “wardrobe malfunction” moment with Janet Jackson in 2004.
The Memphis-born Timberlake will be featured in February at Super Bowl LII, held at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The league has yet to announce if any other artists will join him onstage.
This will be the third Super Bowl halftime gig for Timberlake, the most for any individual entertainer, including a 2001 performance with ‘N Sync. That appearance, however, was quickly eclipsed by the notorious episode three years later, in which he tore off co-star Janet Jackson’s top, briefly revealing a bejeweled nipple.
The moment of partial nudity caused a national furor, prompting the FCC to levy a hefty fine against CBS (later dismissed by a federal appeals court), that network to apologize and the NFL to blame MTV, which produced the halftime show. In the wake of that production, which also featured Kid Rock (clad in an American flag poncho), P. Diddy and Nelly, the league began trotting out a string of tamer, rock-oriented acts, such as Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and the Who.
Halftime was handed back to pop acts seven years ago, as the featured entertainers since then have included Black-Eyed Peas, Madonna, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga (with Coldplay a possible exception, depending on whether one defines them as “rock”). On Sunday, Timberlake shared the news with his social-media followers, in a video with late-night host Jimmy Fallon.
Timberlake followed that up with an interview with Mike Tirico at halftime of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” with that network set to televise this season’s Super Bowl. The conversation did not take long to get to the “wardrobe thing,” and Timberlake said, “That won’t happen this time. … No, Mike, that’s not going to happen.”
He added that he had “watched a ton” of previous halftime performances to make sure his didn’t repeat anyone’s staging. Timberlake joked that, at 36, he definitely wouldn’t be jumping off the stadium roof, as Gaga pretended to last February.
As for what he hoped to achieve with his halftime show, Timberlake said it would be a success if it “feels like it unifies.” That would be the “ultimate accomplishment,” he told Tirico, before joking that he also wanted veteran “SNF” announcer Al Michaels to join everyone else in “shaking their booty.”
Following the Timberlake news, some people online were upset that Jackson, whose career suffered in the wake of the 2004 incident while Timberlake’s continued to flourish, was not also invited to return. An NFL spokeswoman for the Super Bowl did not reply to The Washington Post’s request for comment.
Of the way his experience differed with that of Jackson, Timberlake said in a 2006 interview with MTV, “It’s an understatement to say that it was sort of unfair. If you consider it 50/50, I probably got 10 percent of the blame. And I think that says something about society. I think that America’s harsher on women and I think that America’s unfairly harsh on ethnic people.”
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