Justin Timberlake could be headed to Super Bowl LII despite his complicated history with the NFL. According to Variety, the singer is the frontrunner to headline the halftime show on Feb. 4, 2018.
However, the NFL declined to discuss the 36-year-old hitmaker in a statement to EW on Thursday. “No decisions have been made on the performer(s) and we are not going to speculate on particular artists,” said Brian McCarthy, the league’s vice president of communications. “Along with [sponsor] Pepsi, we know that we will put on a spectacular show. When it is time to announce her name we will do it. Or his name. Or their names.”
As for when that time might come, Variety points out that Lady Gaga’s headling gig was announced in late September last year. If selected to perform on the NBC broadcast, Timberlake would come full circle 13 years after his controversial appearance in the 2004 halftime show, when he removed a piece of headliner Janet Jackson’s ensemble during the “Rock Your Body” lyrics “gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” revealing Jackson’s right pierced nipple as about 90 million viewers watched live on television across the globe. As a result of the so-called wardrobe malfunction, a.k.a. “Nipplegate,” CBS was fined $550,000 by the Federal Communications Commission and a five-second delay was instituted for Super Bowl halftime shows.
Timberlake would have a tough act to outshine: Lady Gaga’s critically acclaimed performance at Super Bowl LI became the most-watched halftime show in Super Bowl history. Previous performers in recent years have included Bruno Mars, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Katy Perry, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Madonna.
This would be Timberlake’s third time performing in the halftime show — he first hit the stage with his former boy band *NSYNC, then-girlfriend Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly in headliner Aerosmith’s 2001 show. It remains to be seen if Timberlake takes a page from Beyoncé — who performed with Destiny’s Child at her 2013 halftime show — and invites the rest of *NSYNC to share his halftime spotlight. The group previously reunited at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, where Timberlake performed a medley covering his post-Disney career.
According to the Washington Post, JAY-Z passed on Pepsi’s offer to headline the 2018 show at the 52nd Super Bowl. The news comes as NFL players across the nation kneel or lock arms during the national anthem before games to protest police brutality and racial injustice and President Donald Trump’s sharp criticism of the protests.
It’s been four years since Timberlake released his last album, 2013’s platinum-selling The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2, and over one year since he reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his infectious hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” for the Trolls soundtrack, which he executive-produced. The Grammy winner has plenty of other hits to perform at the Super Bowl, including chart-toppers “SexyBack,” “My Love,” and “What Goes Around… Comes Around.”