High Point University

Justin Timberlake to headline the Super Bowl LII halftime show

By Collin Giuliani

February 1, 2004. For fans of the Patriots, it was the day where the team cemented itself as a potential dynasty in the making. It was the team’s second Super Bowl win in three years, and continued a winning streak of 15 consecutive games dating back to week five.

For fans of the Panthers, it was the most heartbreaking loss in franchise history at the time. After advancing to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, Carolina led 22-21 with less than seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and had the game tied 29-29 with 1:09 left. If John Kasay did not kick the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, which ended up giving the Patriots the ball at the 40-yard line and allowed Tom Brady to march down the field to lead the game-winning drive, that Super Bowl likely goes into overtime, and the Panthers might have a ring in their collection.

However, for most people, Super Bowl XXXVIII was not about the game. Despite the fact that the game was a stark contrast from the blowout that took place the year before at the Super Bowl between the Raiders and the Buccaneers, despite the fact that the game consisted of 37 points in the fourth quarter, and despite the fact that Carolina receiver Mushin Muhammad caught the longest touchdown from scrimmage in Super Bowl history when he caught an 85-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter from quarterback Jake Delhomme, few people associate Super Bowl XXXVIII with the actual game.

For many, Super Bowl XXXVIII is remembered for what happened when there was no football taking place. It is remembered for the infamous halftime show involving Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson.

Towards the end of the halftime show, Timberlake appeared to perform his hit song, “Rock Your Body,” alongside Janet Jackson. After the final line of the song, “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” Timberlake removed a part of Jackson’s costume, which exposed her breast. While CBS quickly cut away from the incident and showed an aerial shot of the field, the half-second incident changed the entertainment world forever.

This half-second incident led to the implementation of a short delay during a live broadcast, so that an unexpected incident like that could be avoided in the future. It led to CBS, the network broadcasting that Super Bowl, getting fined $500,000 from the Federal Communications Commission. It led to MTV, the producer of the halftime show, being banned from ever producing another Super Bowl halftime show again. It led to the NFL changing the halftime show, swapping out pop stars like Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake for safe acts appealing to an older demographic, like Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen. And, it led to Janet Jackson, one of the biggest female pop artists of all-time, never having another hit for the rest of her career.

As for Justin Timberlake, the man who exposed Janet Jackson at the halftime show, his career was only beginning. While the incident put Janet Jackson’s career to an immediate halt, despite two decades of success and 10 number one singles, the incident did nothing to slow down Justin Timberlake’s career. Since the Super Bowl halftime show back in 2004, Timberlake has had 15 songs reach the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, four songs hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and has had three number one albums, including The 20/20 Experience, which was the best selling album in the United States in 2013.

In 2004, Justin Timberlake changed the Super Bowl forever. In 2018, the NFL is ready to give him a second chance.

According to a recent report by Variety, the NFL is finalizing a deal to have Justin Timberlake headline the Super Bowl LII halftime show on February 4, 2018. This would mark Timberlake’s third halftime show, as besides the infamous Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, he performed with NSYNC during the Super Bowl XXXV halftime show.

Despite what happened at the Super Bowl back in 2004, and despite the backlash that followed (and, to some extent, still has not gone away), the move to have Justin Timberlake headline the halftime show makes sense.

For one, the halftime show in recent years has been about getting one of the biggest pop artists, and Timberlake fits the bill for that. There are only a few artists out there that carry a weight in the pop world greater than Justin Timberlake does. Taylor Swift cannot do the halftime show since she is sponsored by Coca Cola, and the halftime show is sponsored by rival Pepsi. Ed Sheeran will likely land the biggest hit of 2017 with “Shape of You,” but whether or not one man with no backing band, no backup dancers, and no special effects can perform a stadium show and pull off a Super Bowl spectacle is up in the air (this is the same reason that Adele declined to do the halftime show last year, as she did not feel like she was the appropriate artist for that kind of performance).

Justin Bieber has seemed unstoppable lately, with the top selling song of 2016 in “Love Yourself,” and the song of the summer this year with “Despacito,” which tied the record for most consecutive weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 at 16 weeks. However, considering the plethora of incidents that have surrounded Bieber in the past few years, and considering the somewhat mixed reviews of his latest world tour, the NFL is likely holding off on Bieber for a few more years.

Maroon 5 and Pink, two artists that have been rumored for the halftime show in the past, are safe choices that will not cause controversy and that will appeal to a wide audience, but probably not on the scope that Justin Timberlake will. By the time the Super Bowl occurs, Maroon 5 will be going on three years without a top-five hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and Pink will be going on a five-year period with just one top-ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100. While Maroon 5 or Pink could have worked a few years ago, and would still be more than acceptable choices, they do not have the same appeal that they had for a show like this near the start of the decade.

Any popular rap artist is out of the picture, as the NFL has never had a rapper headline the halftime show before. Bruno Mars has done the show twice in the last four years, and Beyonce has done the show twice in the last five years, so both of those artists are out of the picture. When all of those factors are put together, it makes sense that Justin Timberlake was chosen to headline the halftime show. He not only has had longevity with his career, with two decades of hits when combining his solo career and his time with NSYNC, but he has had recent success (“Can’t Stop the Feeling” was a number one hit last year, and was the ninth best selling song of 2016), but appeals to all demographics.

For reference of what a Justin Timberlake halftime show could look like, his performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards could be a good indication. During that 15-minute performance, he performed almost all of his hit songs, had a brief reunion with NSYNC, and utilized the entire Barclays Center stage. Even though he did not perform any song in its full length, and spent, at most, two minutes on any particular song, there was still material in his discography that was not sung.

“What Goes Around… Comes Around,” which hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2007, was merely a five second instrumental during the performance. “LoveStoned” and “Until The End of Time,” both songs which hit the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 off of the FutureSex/LoveSounds album, were not performed. “Summer Love,” which peaked inside the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, was not performed. None of his songs as a feature artist were performed during this set, despite the fact that Timberlake has five top five singles as a feature artist, including “Holy Grail” and “Dead and Gone.” Additionally, this does not even include “Not a Bad Thing” and “Love Never Felt So Good,” songs that were released one year later that peaked inside the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, and does not include arguably the biggest hit of his career, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” which became Timberlake’s fourth number one song as a lead solo artist on the Billboard Hot 100.

Despite the fact that this performance at the 2013 VMAs was the length of a typical Super Bowl halftime show, there were still recognizable songs that were not played. This shows just how extensive Timberlake’s discography is, and that he has more than enough material to carry out a full show. Whereas some halftime shows seem pretty obvious in terms of the songs that the main artist will perform, such as Bruno Mars at Super Bowl XLVIII and The Black Eyed Peas at Super Bowl XLV, the same cannot be said about Justin Timberlake due to his catalogue that spans two decades when counting his time with NSYNC.

Timberlake has the material. Timberlake has the popularity and a large, diverse audience. On February 4, in front of what is sure to be one of the biggest television audiences of all-time, he will have the opportunity to do something that was largely thought of as impossible even a few years ago.

That thing? Erase from history, if only for 15 minutes, the biggest wardrobe malfunction of all-time.





The Super Bowl halftime show is, typically, the most viewed event of the year. According to Deadline, the Super Bowl LI halftime show starring Lady Gaga drew 117.5 million viewers, while the all-time record was set at Super Bowl XLIX, when Katy Perry’s halftime show drew 120.7 million viewers.