Say what you will about Justin Timberlake’s bizarre, high-energy Super Bowl halftime show. The pop star seems to be in something of a “finding himself” phase, having released the new album “Man Of The Woods” to mixed reviews. His Super Bowl performance was an extension of this phase – a confusing mash-up of weird new material, a questionable woodsman-like suit, those old patented dance moves, and chart-topping hits. Plenty of people loved it. Some called it a total disaster. It seems destined to become a polarising performance.
What many people can agree on, however, was that it was fitting for Timberlake to do a tribute to Prince as part of his show. A Minnesota hero who gave a great deal to the state, Prince may well have been tabbed to run this halftime show had he not tragically died in 2016. And though the artist’s family reportedly objected to the use of a hologram, they approved of the projection of Prince that effectively sang a duet with Timberlake. Purple lights lit up the crowd and then TV audiences were treated to a fairly stunning visual: the outside of the stadium glowing purple, and the streets of Minneapolis slowly turning the same color in the shape of the iconic Prince symbol.
It was hard not to watch the tribute and think of it in the context of so many other things that have been done to honor deceased artists in the last few years. Oddly, despite the fact that the music industry has seen a horrible number of deaths in the last few years, the first figure who comes to mind might be Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix has been gone for some time, but because he shared Prince’s affinity for purple (most notably via the song “Purple Haze”) it’s an easy connection to make.
Hendrix was actually the subject of multiple tributes in recent years. First, there was a slot game designed in his memory by NetEnt. It was part of a series of rock games but one that was designed to revolve completely around the artist, featuring seven Jimi Hendrix bonsus within an otherwise typical game structure. Next and perhaps more significantly, there was Seattle’s opening of a Jimi Hendrix park in 2017. The park had been rumored and attempted for years, but finally became a place the public could access last year. It was a wonderful triumph for fans of the artist.
The other artist that comes to mind simply because he passed so close to the time that Prince did himself is David Bowie. The legendary rock/pop star succumbed to liver cancer in January of 2016 and set off a massive outpouring of love and support from the musical community. It’s actually difficult to pick a single tribute to discuss, but the one that might have stood out most actually came from Lorde rather than one of Bowie’s contemporaries. Bowie had once called Lorde the future of music, so when the young singer did her own tribute at the 2016 BRIT Awards it was a particularly memorable occasion. Best of all was that she did her performance of “Life On Mars?” with Bowie’s own band.
It is of course tragic that we have to keep seeing tributes like these, because it means we’ve lost wonderful musicians (or that we’re still not over an all-time great who passed decades ago). These things happen, however, and at the very least it’s great to celebrate artists’ contributions. People have done quite a good job of it over the last few years and Timberlake’s Prince tribute – regardless of the questionable quality of the overall show – was another example.