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Did Justin Timberlake go wrong with his Prince tribute at the Super Bowl?

Fans debate whether the use of a projection was a dismissal of artist’s last wishes

Justin+Timberlake+pays+tribute+to+Prince%2C+singing+%22I+Would+Die+4+U%2C%22+as+video+of+the+music+icon+performing+in+%22Purple+Rain%22+is+projected+on+a+large+screen+during+the+Super+Bowl+halftime+show+Sunday%2C+Feb.+4%2C+2018+in+Minneapolis%2C+Minn.+%28Carlos+Gonzalez%2FMinneapolis+Star+Tribune%2FTNS%29
Justin Timberlake pays tribute to Prince, singing

Justin Timberlake pays tribute to Prince, singing "I Would Die 4 U," as video of the music icon performing in "Purple Rain" is projected on a large screen during the Super Bowl halftime show Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minn. (Carlos Gonzalez/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

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Justin Timberlake pays tribute to Prince, singing "I Would Die 4 U," as video of the music icon performing in "Purple Rain" is projected on a large screen during the Super Bowl halftime show Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minn. (Carlos Gonzalez/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

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The Super Bowl halftime show is often more talked about than the game itself, whether it be a controversy as scandalous as a wardrobe malfunction, or a powerful performance given by an acclaimed artist. Justin Timberlake’s return earned widespread praise aside from one element: his Prince tribute. The moment happened when he sat down at a white piano and performed “I Would Die 4 U” alongside an enormous screen projection of Prince, the original artist of the song.

Timberlake’s attempt at honoring Prince’s rich musical legacy was deeply flawed and actively worked against the pop singer’s beliefs.

While some have seen it as a worthy tribute to the Minneapolis-born artist, where the game was being played, most have seen it as a slight to the late singer, who passed away in 2016.  

Prince stated in a 1998 interview with Guitar World Magazine that he felt the use of holograms during a performance was “demonic,” and said, “if I was meant to jam with Duke Ellington, we would have lived in the same age.”

By using the video projection of Prince during the performance, Timberlake went directly against his wishes for the show.

Among the reasons for Prince’s fight for artistic control was working to keep his image from being distorted, saying he wanted to “prevent that kind of thing from happening,” and yet using the hologram is going against his fight.

Prince’s history of protecting his work was seen throughout his career, as he even denied digital outlets YouTube and eBay his music for copyright infringement and had them take down any videos with his music.

A small group of fans are trying to argue that because it was a projection and not an actual hologram of the artist he didn’t technically go against his wishes, but they miss the point.

The whole reason behind Prince’s distaste with the hologram technology was not the fact that a false version of an artist is performing, but this version of a dead performer is right there on stage with another artist. According to his interview with Guitar World, if Timberlake wanted to perform alongside Prince, he should’ve done so while Prince was still alive.

Instead of the large projection of Prince, Timberlake and the crew could have included him in another way, like a video of him on the big screens or dancers dressed in the style of Prince.

Given that he wasn’t a fan of sharing his music with anyone without his consent, it makes the usage of both his video and audio for the halftime performance all the more disrespectful.

In addition to the technology, there was also the fact that Timberlake and Prince famously had a public feud beginning in 2006 when Prince criticized Timberlake’s hit “SexyBack” on TMZ. Timberlake followed this up with diss lyrics in the track “Give it to Me,” as well as making fun of Prince’s height while accepting an award on his behalf at the 2007 Golden Globes.

Considering the two artists’ distaste for each other, it makes it all the more questionable why the producers thought that Timberlake was the best performer to pay “respect” to Prince. Wanting to include some kind of tribute in a halftime show game set in Minneapolis, Prince’s hometown, is honorable,Timberlake was not the best choice.

Those defending Timberlake can’t use the technical point as their only argument, because it ignores the artistic issue. Despite Prince’s distaste for artists performing alongside recreations of dead ones, Timberlake did just that with his video and audio recreation of Prince performing.  

Timberlake had countless opportunities to pay homage, even just sticking to performing the song by himself, but yet still proved disrespectful in his use of the video duet. No matter whose idea it was to feature the projection, an apology should be given to family, friends and fans of Prince, even if the family approved of the performance.

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