Justin Timberlake: the Prince of Average

Lainey Posted by Lainey at February 5, 2018 16:21:25 February 5, 2018 16:21:25

Remember when Justin Timberlake claimed a few weeks ago that he and Janet Jackson worked things out and that he just never talked about it out of respect for her? Bullsh-t. Yesterday was #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay on social media. And of course it was timed specifically to remind Justin Timberlake that many of us will #NeverForget. You know who celebrated #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay? 

Janelle Monae.

And it’s not like Janelle Monae wouldn’t know exactly why #JanetJacksonAppreciation Day was started in the first place. So, maybe, not everyone in the industry is up Justin Timberlake’s average ass. But before we get there, let’s stay with Janet for a minute, and go back to how JT said that they supposedly made peace. Here’s what Janet posted on Saturday, the night before the Super Bowl, to address all the rumours that she would join JT on stage during halftime. 

“I will not.”

Sure, you can’t read tone in text but…the punctuation that precedes those three words is tone. I will NOT. And then she thanks people for their support. And signs off. If things were chill between Janet and Justin, and if Janet wanted us to stop demanding #JusticeForJanet and if she was interested in absolving him, she could have offered a few words to wish Justin good luck, something to back up what he claims happened – that peace was made between them. Janet did no such thing. And the fact he tried to convince us of it is another example of how JT has continually, and egregiously, over the course of his career, misrepresented artists, and black artists in particular, for his own personal gain. 

Which brings us to last night and Prince. (Which came after he had the f-cking nerve to sing the song that he sang when he was on stage with Janet as her guest, the song that they were singing during the “wardrobe malfunction”. The wardrobe malfunction that resulted in her career getting torpedoed and his ascending to the point it is now. #NeverForget) When Justin Timberlake released SexyBack, Prince asked the crowd, cheekily, during a performance: 

“For whoever is claiming they are bringing sexy back, sexy never left!”  

A few months later, at the Golden Globes, Justin presented the award for Best Original Song. Prince won but he didn’t bother showing up, possibly because he knew who would be presenting. This is how Justin decided to honour Prince…

 

…by MOCKING HIS HEIGHT. 

Later that year, on Timbaland’s song Give It To Me, Justin sang these lyrics: 

We missed you on the charts last week
Damn, that’s right you wasn’t there
Now if se-sexy never left…
Then why is everybody on my sh-t? 
Don’t hate on me just because you didn’t come up with it.

And now he’s declaring himself to be Prince’s biggest admirer? F-ck you. 

By now I’m sure you’ve read Prince’s interview with Guitar World when he said he thought virtual performances were “demonic”. Over the weekend there was a lot of talk back and forth about a Prince “hologram” and now there’s even more talk about how what we saw last night wasn’t actually a “hologram” but a projection, which is how they’re rationalising what happened. On a f-cking technicality of vocabulary. 

So we’re lawyering this sh-t now? Any time you have to argue anything on a technicality, you know you’re in trouble. Any time you have to justify an artistic decision on a technicality, it compromises the very spirit of the art. But we don’t even have to go there, on technicalities, to know that Prince would have never approved of this sh-t. You know why? 

Prince wouldn’t even allow his footage to be shown on YouTube. He went to great efforts to have his performances scrubbed from YouTube – and it was annoying for a lot of people, even his fans! – so WHYYYYYY would an artist like Prince ever be OK with seeing video of himself blowing in the wind on a goddamn sheet…at the request of another much lesser artist who has repeatedly disrespected him in the past!?

Beyond that, you don’t have to have encyclopedic knowledge of Prince and his career to understand how Prince would have felt about last night. Prince had an ego. It was enormous. Prince thought of himself, quite rightly, as a legend. Would Prince, a legend in his mind and of our time, agree to be a “guest” on the stage of someone whose accomplishments come nowhere near to his own?!? Would Prince agree to appearing for 30 seconds to jerk off Justin Timberlake’s reputation? Would Prince agree to show up in the middle and disappear so that someone else can take the glory?

PRINCE?!? 

REALLY!? 

There is no way that would have happened if Prince were alive. Which is why Justin Timberlake was able to make that happen. Because he’s dead. And he can’t do anything about it… or so we think. If anyone can come back as a ghost and take a purple sh-t on someone, it would be Prince.

Justin was interviewed by Jimmy Fallon following the game. Per THR:

Justin Timberlake explained why he wanted to pay tribute to Prince during his Super Bowl halftime performance later Sunday night.

Appearing on NBC's The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, Timberlake didn't directly address the criticism surrounding the tribute, but did explain why he wanted to incorporate it into his performance.
"It's a moment for me, and if I'm being quite honest, it's because he's always been the pinnacle of musicianship," Timberlake said. "And when we decided that the serendipity and synergy [of being] in Minnesota — 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 just be the ultimate homage to what I consider the GOAT [Greatest of All Time] of musicians."

He also noted that Questlove, who is Fallon's bandleader, approved of the performance.

"Questlove is the encyclopedia on music, but I also feel like a gatekeeper on Prince, so if I got the thumbs-up from Questlove, I'm good," he said, to which Questlove responded: "Yeah, it was good."

Questlove, Pharrell, Timbaland, Janet Jackson – this is how Justin Timberlake has always operated: he uses – exploits – the achievements and the reputations of black artists to legitimise his entry. He pulls that card at the door, they invite him in, and he proceeds to piss all over the party. This is what he’s done here to Questlove. Who works for NBC. On NBC. So don’t be mad at Questlove, be mad, again and always, at Justin Timberlake. Who will skulk into the room behind people who’ve worked harder and worked braver than he ever has – and then proceed to rise higher than they ever have by simply being mediocre. 

Isn’t that what his Super Bowl performance was? Average? It started out average, in a shitty room below the stadium as he sang his new average-at-best song Filthy. His dancing was average and we now need to stop pretending that his moves were ever that fresh. His vocals were average, when he was actually singing. To be fair though, the audio at a Super Bowl is never great. The Verge did a great interview with Patrick Baltzell who’s designed the audio for the last 19 Super Bowls and other major shows and it’s a fascinating read about the sound work that goes into a show. As Patrick explains, the venue for the Super Bowl is set up for a football game, first and foremost. So the audio will never be up to the standards of a proper concert. The best you can hope for is 80%. Some lipsynching will happen. That said, women get trashed allllll the time for lipsynching. Justin Timberlake was barely singing through much of the performance. At times, he didn’t even bother properly mouthing the words. Does he get a pass on that? Does he get pass for singing to 60%, at best, and very, very average? 

Sure, why not. 

Isn’t this what we’ve been doing for the last 10 years? Rewarding Justin Timberlake for average? Even if you’re not a JT hater, you can’t deny that what he gave you last night wasn’t  memorable. The staging wasn’t memorable. Having people holding up mirrors during Mirrors (genius!) wasn’t memorable. The energy wasn’t memorable. And, frankly, the most memorable moment came at the very end, during his “Super Bowl selfies”, with the boy who became the meme. HE was memorable. The actual star of the f-cking show? 

Not all that memorable. Except for the outfit, maybe? A camo suit with a wilderness shirt and a bandana tied around his neck, as if you could forget that he’s a Man Of The Woods now. Exactly the kind of man who would buy a Ram truck because he watched a commercial with MLK’s voice telling him how he could make America Great Again. How? By celebrating the average while repeatedly ignoring the exceptional. But maybe that’s changing. 

Justin Timberlake released a new album on Friday. The album is receiving the worst reviews of his career. Nobody’s giving it 0 stars but the consensus from some of the most high profile critics who’ve been complimentary of him in the past seems to be that what used to work for Justin Timberlake isn’t working anymore. This is a guy who’s used to having his dick sucked by everyone. And suddenly, in 2018, some people are starting to refuse to play that game. Does that mean Justin Timberlake will finally change HIS game? Or will he keep coasting… the way he always has? 


 

Photos:
Streeter Lecka/ Icon Sportswire/ Gregory Shamus/ Angela Weiss/ Jeff Kravitz/ Christopher Polk/ Kevin Mazur/ Getty Images

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