In just under one month, Justin Timberlake is set to take the stage during the Super Bowl halftime show, which is widely known to be the largest show any musician can star in. With an audience of well over 100 million people, it is many an artist's dream to headline, and the few who are given the opportunity don't take treat responsibility lightly.
While there is almost always one name that gets top billing, it has become customary for even the biggest stars to bring special guests into the spotlight to showcase new songs, old hits, and even for one-off collaborations that delight the millions tuning in.
Timberlake has a storied history of working with some of the most creative and successful artists in the world, and if he wanted, he could look at his past hits and pull a few friends to join him. So far, he's remained mum about any possible joint showings, but if he was going to select a few people that he's stepped into the studio with, who might they be?
The first and one of the most obvious options for an on-field collaboration is Jay-Z, who has long been a friend and collaborator of Timberlake’s. The two scored a serious hit and won a GRAMMY together for “Suit & Tie,” the song that introduced The 20/20 Experience to the world. Once that song is done, they could also do a bit of Jay’s “Holy Grail,” which features JT on the chorus and the hook. Jay has been long overdue for a cameo during the Super Bowl, though at least one report claims he turned down an offer to headline this year.
The hip-hop musician would likely love a chance to shine on a stage as large as the Super Bowl’s, as his career has been rather quiet lately, at least as far as the mainstream, Top 40 consumer is concerned. The two worked together on the song “My Love,” which served as the second single and the second consecutive chart-topper from Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, which millions still remember fondly. It has been a little while since T.I. scored a big smash, but he's still one of the best, and the audience would be lucky to see him.
If there is any musician that Timberlake has worked with the most throughout his lengthy, successful career, it’s Timbaland. The producer and artist has helped JT craft some of his biggest smashes, and he is also well-enough known to deserve some time on camera as well. The two are currently collaborating on Justin’s new album Man of the Woods (including new single “Filthy”), and if time allowed, Timbaland could also perform one or two of his own hits that he led the charge on that featured the star.
Speaking of Timbaland singles, how fun would a reunion between Timbo, JT, and Nelly Furtado be? The three worked their way to the top of the Hot 100 a decade ago with the dance-pop track “Give It to Me,” and while it’s not the most memorable tune from any of their discographies, showcasing it, even for a minute, would be a fun bit of nostalgia, and it would bring Furtado back for a well-deserved moment in the spotlight.
Before Timberlake collaborated with Chris Stapleton at the 2015 Country Music Association Awards, he was only well-known in the country world, but that showing changed everything. Not long after the unlikely pair showcased their talents, Stapleton’s debut album jumped to No. 1, and in no time, he was a certified star. JT has a song featuring Stapleton on his upcoming album Man of the Woods (which drops two days prior to his Super Bowl gig), and there’s no better stage to premiere a new single on!
Okay, this one would never happen, but wouldn’t it be wonderful? We miss Ciara, and the song she did with Timberlake, “Love Sex Magic,” remains her last top 10 hit. It’s still an awesome tune, and if the headliner was looking to do something completely unexpected from his past, this would be the perfect selection.
Timberlake doesn’t talk about his time in a boy band very much these days, but he can’t, and shouldn’t, ignore his past, as *NSYNC is the reason he is headlining this massive concert in the first place. The pop star did reunite with his four band mates a few years back at the MTV Video Music Awards when he accepted a lifetime achievement honor, so it's unlikely he repeats the fun.
The Queen of Pop headlined the Super Bowl halftime show just a few years ago, and she needs no do-over...but we’d still love to see her! Madonna and Justin collaborated on her single “4 Minutes,” which also happens to feature Timbaland (who we discussed should already be there), and the track was a global hit. While Timberlake likely doesn’t have any need to pull it out of his history, adding one of the most successful female singers of all time would add gravitas to his performance.
Since the rumors began swirling that Justin would appear in the halftime show once again, the biggest question that has been on everybody’s minds is, “Will he bring Janet back?” Of all the collabs that could happen, this is by far the least likely for a number of reasons. The NFL isn’t looking to attract, nor dredge up, controversy, and though there would surely be no wardrobe malfunctions this time around, tempting fate is never a good idea.
It is also worth wondering if Janet Jackson even wants to return. Not only was she embarrassed on national TV over a decade ago, but she received an inordinate and ridiculous amount of blame for something that was ultimately just a simple mistake. She has moved on in her life, and she doesn’t need Justin to validate her recent successes...though he could do something to properly, after all this time and in a very public way, apologize for not coming to her aid at the time.
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