Justin Timberlake explained why he wanted to pay tribute to Prince during his halftime show at Super Bowl LII.
While he didn't directly address the criticism launched against him surrounding Prince, Timberlake said on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon that he wanted to do something special for the city of Minneapolis, Prince's hometown.
"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 The Roots and 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," Timberlake said, to which Questlove responded, "Yeah, it was good."
Many Twitter users mocked the tribute, which included a performance of Prince's "I Would Die 4 U" and a projection of the artist, who died in April 2016, behind Timberlake as he performed.
Some wrote that Prince himself wouldn't have appreciated the tribute. "Prince didn't like Justin Timberlake... it's kind of rude to use his image for this performance," Affinity magazine tweeted, while user Adam Best wrote, "Prince specifically said he didn't want that, right?"
"Too bad that Justin Timberlake couldn’t have shown Prince respect when he was alive .....this tribute was crap," another Twitter user wrote.
The reaction to Timberlake's Prince tribute wasn't all negative, however. The late singer's family gave their stamp of approval with a simple "thumbs up" emoji on Twitter.
On The Tonight Show, Timberlake talked technical details about the performance and the Prince projection.
"We got the actual vocal stems from 'I Would Die 4 U' and the actual recording, and then we got uncut footage from his performance of it in Purple Rain and somehow, someway, by the grace of — probably Prince looking down on us — it synced up and it was this crazy, serendipitous moment...and I just wanted to use that opportunity to do something special for this city but most of all my favorite musician of all time," Timberlake said.
The Prince tribute made perfect sense, since the legendary "Purple Rain" singer was from the Minneapolis area. He also performed an iconic Super Bowl halftime show in 2007.