Multiple sources last month reported Justin Timberlake as the frontrunner to perform during the Super Bowl LII halftime show at Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4, 2018. It would be a momentous occasion based purely on the pop star’s enormous catalogue of hits and off-the-wall stage presence, but historical context lends his appearance a much greater significance.
Timberlake’s reported 2018 halftime show performance teases the possibility of numerous star-studded collaborations, a reunion with the power to break the internet — and, of course, a chance to atone for his last halftime show appearance 14 years ago, which pockmarked the legacies of both artists involved and changed the way we view the most-watched musical event of the year.
Here are five reasons Justin Timberlake should play the 2018 Super Bowl halftime show.
Redemption for Nipplegate
Anybody old enough to remember watching the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in 2004 remembers its grand and ill-fated finale. Timberlake sidled up next to Janet Jackson during set closer “Rock Your Body,” and immediately after singing the final lyric — “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song” — ripped off part of her costume and exposed her breast on live TV, infuriating millions of viewers across the country and coining the term “wardrobe malfunction” in the process.
To be fair, Jackson suffered far greater backlash for Nipplegate than Timberlake, as she was banned from attending the Grammys that year and forced to withdraw as a presenter while JT was still allowed to attend. Nevertheless, commentators and conservative media watchdog groups questioned both artists’ intentions and character, and for Timberlake to pull off a 2018 halftime show performance without a hitch would be the ultimate redemptive act. And — though it’s almost 100 percent impossible — imagine the reaction if he and Jackson reprised their performance sans malfunction. History in the making.
Third time’s the charm
Timberlake first rocked the halftime show in 2001 alongside his *NSYNC bandmates as well as Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly (no, seriously). He returned three years later as a solo artist, but only for his brief (and infamous) cameo alongside Jackson. Returning for a full-fledged solo set in 2018 would bring Timberlake’s halftime show performance arc full circle and make him the only solo artist to appear three separate years. (Grambling State University Marching Band and educational organization Up With People performed six and five times, respectively, but JT’s a performer of an objectively higher caliber.)
Endless collaboration potential
Timberlake has an endless arsenal of hits and could easily enthrall the halftime show crowd on his own — but hey, sharing is caring, so why not enlist some star-studded help to send the performance completely over the top? Drake could jet in to drop some dexterous bars on JT’s sensuous R&B stomper “Cabaret,” or he and Jay-Z could reprise 2013’s massive Legends of the Summer Tour by storming through “Suit & Tie” and “Holy Grail” (and lend some credence to the rumor that Jay himself would play this year’s halftime show). And, of course, Chris Stapleton could join Timberlake for a supercharged rendition of “Tennessee Whiskey,” shining a light on a genre that gets little recognition at the Super Bowl.
He’s a more seasoned performer now — with way more hits
Timberlake was only 23 when he graced the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in 2004, still riding high on the success of his solo debut, Justified. Nobody can deny the robo-funk hooks of “Rock Your Body” and “Cry Me a River,” but fans would relish the opportunity to sing along to the sultry electro-grind of “SexyBack,” the tearjerking mega-ballad “Mirrors” and one of the decade’s most infectious dance anthems, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” At previous halftime shows, Timberlake got somewhat swallowed by the spectacle or faded into the background, but now he can easily dominate the stage with his commanding presence and stage production.
That being said… it’s the perfect time for an *NSYNC reunion
The facts are all on the table. 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the worldwide release of *NSYNC’s debut album. The group already reunited briefly during the 2013 VMAs when Timberlake received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Lance Bass teased a full-fledged reunion in February (though the group later squashed his claims via Twitter). The music consuming public’s reunion obsession has reached a fever pitch over the past two years. Frankly, it would be foolish for Timberlake not to get the band back together during the most televised event of the year. Be on the right side of history, JT. If it was good enough for Destiny’s Child, it’s good enough for you.