Despite a public feud with Prince that lasted until the Purple One's untimely death in 2016, Justin Timberlake thinks that the icon would be pleased with the tribute he pulled off at the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday night. Justin sat down with pal Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show in Minneapolis following the big game, where he opened up about how his controversial homage to Prince — which was rumored to have originally featured a hologram of the "Let's Go Crazy" singer, before his family shut Timberlake down — came to be.
"It's a moment for me, if I'm being quite honest, because he's always been the pinnacle of musicianship for me," Justin explained. "When we decided that the serendipity and synergy that would be in Minneapolis, you know, he's such a special thing here, aside from what he is all over the world, I just felt 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 of musicians."
The bad blood between the two artists started way back in 2006, when Prince reportedly mocked Justin's latest hit during a live concert, saying "For whoever is claiming that they are bringing sexy back, sexy never left!" Instead of shaking off the icon's words, the dig stuck with Justin for quite some time. First he took a jab at him on Timbaland's "Give It To Me," singing, "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." Then, at the Golden Globes in 2007, Justin made fun of Prince's height while accepting an award on the singer's behalf.
Still, Justin went on to note that he got a "thumbs up" from The Roots drummer Questlove to go forward with the halftime show performance and even spoke to Prince's close friend, collaborator, and former fiancée Sheila E, who tweeted that "he shared heartfelt words of respect for Prince & the Purple fans." Given the Super Bowl's presence in Prince's hometown of Minneapolis this year, Justin figured there was no better time to work one of Prince's songs into his lineup.
"Somehow, some way, by the grace of — probably Prince looking down on us — it synced up," he continued. "It was like this crazy serendipitous moment . . . I just wanted to use the opportunity to do something special for this city, but most of all, for my favorite musician of all time."