It wasn’t a hologram, but Justin Timberlake still found a way to pay tribute to the late Prince during his Super Bowl halftime show.
During the halftime show, the 37-year-old singer honored Prince by performing alongside a projection of the late singer live in concert. Midway through his 13-minute performance, Timberlake made his way over to a white grand piano and proceeded to sing a virtual duet with Prince on the crooner’s 1984 ballad, “I Would Die 4 U.”
During the “duet,” the cameras went outside the confines of U.S. Bank Stadium to show that the entire downtown area of Minneapolis lit up in purple, as an homage to the “Purple Rain” singer, who died in April 2016 at age 57.
Rumors circulated before the big game that Timberlake would be honoring Prince in his Minneosta hometown, by performing with a hologram of the singer, which caused an uproar online.
Sheila E., Prince’s longtime collaborator, was among those who was unhappy over the possibility that that could be true. She later tweeted after speaking with Timberlake ahead of his halftime performance, confirming that that wasn’t going to be the case.
“Family, I spoke w/Justin 2nite and he shared heartfelt words of respect for Prince & the Purple fans,” she wrote. “I look 4wrd 2 seeing what I’m sure is going 2 be a spectacular halftime show. There is no hologram.”
Watch the Timberlake’s full halftime performance below. The Prince tribute begins at the 8:52 mark.
In a 1998 Guitar World interview, Prince called the idea of performing with a hologram as “demonic.”
“That’s the most demonic thing imaginable,” the singer said at the time. “Everything is as it is, and it should be. If I was meant to jam with Duke Ellington, we would have lived in the same age. That whole virtual reality thing… it really is demonic. And I am not a demon.”
Timberlake has been a fan of Prince since he was 4 years old and was devastated to hear of the music legend’s passing in 2016.
“[Prince is] somewhere within every song I’ve ever written,” the Man of the Woods singer said. “I am sad, but I will smile when I think of every second that I had the fortune of being in his company. We have lost our greatest living musician. But his music will never die.”