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Justin Timberlake may have received mixed reactions to his using Prince performance footage during his Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday, but when he received Questlove’s approval during the special episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon that followed, he spoke about making the choice to incorporate the iconic musician.
“It’s a moment for me, if I’m being quite honest, because he’s always been the pinnacle of musicianship for me,” Timberlake said. “When we decided that the serendipity and synergy that we would be in Minneapolis and that, you know, he’s such a special thing here, aside from what he is all over the world, I just felt like I wanted to do something for this city and something for him that would be the ultimate homage to what I consider the GOAT of musicians.”
After Questlove expanded upon his thumbs-up review of the performance — “It was dope” — Timberlake began to nerd out about how they pulled off the appearance.
“We got the actual vocal stems from ‘I Would Die 4 U,’ the actual recordings, and then we got uncut footage from his performance of it in Purple Rain,” he explained. “And somehow, some way, by the grace of probably Prince looking down on us, it synced up. It was like this crazy serendipitous moment. I just wanted to use that opportunity to do something special for this city, but most of all, for my favorite musician of all time.”
Critics of Timberlake’s dueting with Prince argued that the moment went against the late icon’s feelings about posthumous performances using holograms, which Prince called “demonic” in a 1998 interview with Guitar World.