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Justin Timberlake’s Not-So-Sexyback Super Bowl

Written by Music

Justin Timberlake took to the field at half time of Super-Bowl 52 with a back catalogue of hits and an extravagant production that had the potential to promise a half time show as exciting as the game itself. Yet the final product was a lacklustre performance disguised in the robes of flashy lights and extensive choreography, creating a disappointing and instantly forgettable addition to the historic half-time tradition.

Timberlake began the performance with his new single, ‘Filthy’, beneath the stage in a nightclub-like setting that immediately established the performance as one primarily focused on visual rather than audio. Upon his emergence onto the stage, the popstar smoothly navigated around the field whilst performing an energised medley of his early hits, ‘Señorita’, ‘Rock Your Body’ and ‘Sexy Back’. These heavy hitters reminded us all of his dancefloor filling catalogue and got the feet moving of both the fans in the stadium and the millions of viewers around the world.

Sadly, the performance would peak here. Audio mixing problems between the live and pre-recorded vocal hindered the show, but not as much as the extravagant choreography routines, that often came at the expense of a strong vocal. As such, much of the performance consisted of Timberlake, albeit well, simply dancing along to the radio-edits of his own song; this is hardly the live music extravaganza we’ve come to expect from a half time show that has featured the likes of (at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man three times my age) Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Tom Petty and Prince.

Whilst the cover itself is passable, the entire segment reeked of inauthenticity, with the tribute a rather tacky attempt at winning over Prince’s hometown crowd of Minneapolis.

The latter does make an appearance in Timberlake’s half time show, with the music icon being projected onto a fluttering sheet as Timberlake performed a cover of ‘I Would Die 4 U’. Whilst the cover itself is passable, the entire segment reeked of inauthenticity, with the tribute a rather tacky attempt at winning over Prince’s hometown crowd of Minneapolis.

Justin went on to perform mid-career hits such as  ‘Mirrors’ (to a painstakingly predictable reflecting mirror routine). He then ended with the thoroughly deflating recent hit ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’, accompanied by a Coldplay-esque array of primary colours that created a closing routine almost as boring as Coldplay themselves.

Timberlake caps off the performance taking selfies with a young child in the stands, an ending rather metaphorical of the show as a whole. There was no political message, no musical triumph and no artistic statement; instead, the show represented the play-it-safe hedonism of commercial pop. This is not to take away from Timberlake’s undoubtable talent as a mainstream pop artist, but upon comparison with many half-time performances, this one becomes almost instantly forgettable.

Last modified: 12th February 2018

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