December 5, 2023

For those of you who had no idea that Prince and Justin Timberlake disliked each other, you figured it out Sunday night when the former N’Syncer projected an image of the late Purple One onto a cloth during the halftime show as he sang the classic, “I Would Die 4 U.”


Well, you figured it out if you were on Twitter, and I’ll Prince-splain it for you.

For the record, I’m an avid Prince fan, and I own most of his work. I’m also a fan of most of JT’s music. I’m much less of a fan of JT the person.

See, Prince loathed Justin Timberlake.

And JT hated him back.

Do you have a professional enemy? Even a personal one? Something that goes beyond rivalry? That was JT and Prince. Mind you, I think Prince kind of started it when he said something about Timberlake’s hit song, “SexyBack” during a post-Emmy Awards party in 2006.

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

Timberlake responded via verse in the hit song “Give It To Me” featuring Timbaland and Nelly Furtado.

JT’s verse starts at about 2:10.

First thing he does is mocks Prince’s height, the line about “why don’t you speak up / I can’t hear you from way up here.”

About a half year later, Timberlake is presenting an award at the Golden Globes that Prince won. JT waits around on stage and then smiles. noting that Prince couldn’t be there to accept the award before shrinking himself to again mock Prince’s height. To be honest, it’s not as nefarious as some have made it out to be — but be clear: JT couldn’t stand Prince either.

That brings us to tonight and three things:

1 — No way was Timberlake paying tribute to Prince. This was a marketing ploy all the way, albeit probably not a totally bad one in spirit. Timberlake likely knew that the city of Minneapolis beloved Prince. However, that doesn’t change the fact that these guys couldn’t stand each other.

Would Biggie have delivered a eulogy at 2Pac’s funeral? Didn’t think so.

2 — Prince might not have had a will, but he had always been clear about any ploy to use his image both during his life and after death. Where JT’s decision to use Prince’s image becomes nefarious is that the family had denied his request and that, being a musician, JT knew this about him.

No reasonable music person in the industry or close to it would think that JT thought Prince or his family might be cool with him using his image.

3 — And that leaves us with this: JT did it on purpose, kind of because he thought it would garner attention for his new album, “Man of the Woods,” and kind of as a last laugh at Prince.

Whom he hated.

Did it make JT’s show bad? Most of the music was fantastic.

Does it reveal what lots of folks have thought about JT for a long while? Yep.

It revealed everything.

And for the record, as talented as Timberlake is — and he is — he’s not even in the same conversation as Prince. Very few people were, are or ever will be musically.

Not. In. The. Same. Conversation.

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