Finally, Justin Timberlake got his big chance in the Big Game.
In 2004, he infamously played second banana to Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl halftime performance. Back in 2001, his then-boy band N' Sync shared the halftime stage with Aerosmith, who walked away with the show.
On Sunday, Timberlake, the most well-rounded entertainer of his generation, had the show to himself, and his theme was undoubtedly bringing "busy" back.
He must have set a Super Bowl halftime record for most song settings in a single performance. Covering 10 tunes in 13 minutes, he traversed ramps, runways, stairways, stages and the field itself, and ended up romping up an aisle in the stadium, slapping hands with fans and taking selfies as U.S. Bank Stadium rocked with "Can't Stop the Feeling," the biggest selling song of 2016 and arguably his signature tune.
The show was dizzying and not in a good way. Too busy. The vocals weren't loud enough. Timberlake kept moving, but it was more about finding new settings rather than showcasing his fancy dancing. By the end of his set, he must have accumulated as much yardage at U.S. Bank Stadium as Tom Brady and Nick Foles did passing.
JT kept switching songs, squeezing in such solo hits as "Rock Your Body" (the one that resulted in the wardrobe malfunction with Jackson), "Cry Me a River," "Mirrors" (dancing amid mirrors on stage and a crowd of young people on the field holding mirrors) and, of course, "SexyBack," which is still sexy if a little bit understated for a massive football stadium.
Near the end of the set, Timberlake declared: "Minneapolis, this one's for you."
He sat down at a white grand piano on yet another stage on the field. On a tall cylindrical scrim next to the piano, a giant Prince appeared via projected video from "Purple Rain," singing "I Would Die 4 U," with a timid Timberlake kind of singing along as he plunked at the keyboard.
It was a moment, but one that fell short of its potential emotional and musical impact, because it was just another hurried-through segment in a hyperkinetic halftime. Breathe, don't be breathless.
Unlike some other halftime stars, Timberlake didn't take full advantage of the opportunity to plug his latest album, although he did open with his current single, "Filthy," which he seemed to brush over in a hurry.
Timberlake's latest album, "Man of the Woods," dropped on Friday. A celebration of fatherhood and funk, the disc arrived to inauspicious reviews. With his first album in five years, the 37-year-old singer/actor seems to be at a career crossroads. And he probably didn't help himself much on Sunday.
There was no question that the man in the high-end camouflage pants, plainsman print shirt and fringed leather jacket still has charisma. Oodles of charisma. But he didn't come across like a song-and-dance man. Better be careful, JT, because Bruno Mars is going to surpass you in the hearts of the masses — if he hasn't already.
With his frenetic performance geared for the ADD set, Timberlake seemed determined that bigger and busier were better. To paraphrase one of his biggest hits, "Get your busy on / Go ahead, be gone with it."