In an homage in Minneapolis to the state's native son Prince, who died in 2016, Timberlake played a white piano and sat beneath a projection of Prince on a screen to sing a cover of "I would Die 4 U".
Although the hologram was meant to honor Prince, whose Super Bowl XLI show in a Miami downpour is one of the all-time best, Prince himself had spoken about how using the hologram of a dead musician would be "the most demonic imaginable".
In the end, his stripped-back tribute marked a reflective moment in his otherwise high-octane performance, as the US Bank Stadium in Minnesota was lit up in purple.
"That's the most demonic thing imaginable", Prince said at the time. "But this year.my band, The Tennessee Kids, I feel like they're my special guests, and I'm excited to rock the stage". As Billboard reported, CBS asked Jackson to release a written apology taking "full blame" for the stunt and she was blacklisted from the Grammy's the next week (though Timberlake was allowed to attend).
"Family, I spoke [with] Justin [tonight] and he shared heartfelt words of respect for Prince [and] the Purple fans", she wrote.
Since it was announced that Timberlake would be performing again this year, the hashtag #JusticeForJanet was being used by Jackson fans. "I look forward to seeing what I'm sure is going to be a spectacular halftime show". The Rhythm Nation hitmaker and Justin, 37, last appeared together at the Super Bowl Half-Time Show in 2004, a performance that turned controversial and infamously became known as "Nipplegate" after her breast was momentarily exposed during their set.
"I don't know that a lot of people know that", he said. "I heard some music the other night that was pretty mind-blowing and we're getting some stuff mixed right now".