Justin Timberlake features Prince tribute in Super Bowl halftime show

He stuck to some of his most popular hits such as Mirrors, Cry Me A River and SexyBack, but it was a short tribute to Prince in between that made Justin Timberlake's Super Bowl halftime performance stand out.

Video of late Minneapolis-born musician was projected on screen as Timberlake sang I Would Die 4 U

Justin Timberlake performs during the Super Bowl halftime show at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday in Minneapolis. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

He stuck to some of his most popular hits such as Mirrors, Cry Me A River and SexyBack, but it was a tribute to Prince in between that made Justin Timberlake's Super Bowl halftime performance stand out.

In the 13-minute medley, Timberlake spent one minute paying homage to the late Minneapolis-born musician. Timberlake sat at a piano and sang a medley of his own song Until The End of Time and Prince's I Would Die 4 U.

Footage of Prince in Purple Rain was projected on a giant screen in the background. An aerial shot of the city showed it bathed in purple light forming the shape of Prince's insignia.

"Minneapolis, this is for you," said the singer before it started. 

An image of Prince is projected as Justin Timberlake paid tribute to the late Minneapolis-born musician during the Super Bowl halftime show. (Getty Images)

Timberlake opened the show with his new single Filthy. He also sang Rock Your Body, My Love and Suit & Tie, ending with the uplifting dance track Can't Stop The Feeling. In between, there was a marching band, selfies with the audience, giant reflecting mirrors and a lot of dancing. 

As expected, there were no guest appearances. Timberlake had said previously that his former boy band members from 'N Sync and Janet Jackson wouldn't be there. Timberlake was Jackson's guest onstage in 2004 when the disastrous "wardrobe malfunction" happened with Timberlake ripping off a piece of Jackson's clothing at the end of the act, revealing her breast.

Polarizing performance

While Timberlake kept the energy high, the performance drew a mix of praise and condemnation online.

Some fans pointed out Prince's own words during a 1998 interview describing the ideas of a dead artist's digital likeness as "the most demonic imaginable."

Prince's family, however, seemed to approve. The Twitter account managed by his brother, Omarr Baker, gave a thumbs up.

The performance also got props from Nick Jonas and Diana Ross, among others.

Big shoes to fill

Timberlake had big shoes to fill, after Lady Gaga dazzled the audience last year. So much so, in fact, that more people on average tuned into the 2017 halftime show than the Super Bowl itself. The NFL stated that 117.5 million people tuned in to the performance, while an average of 111.3 million people watched the game, according to Nielsen.

It was among the most-viewed performances in the event's history.

Lady Gaga's halftime show in Houston last year was one of the most viewed in Super Bowl history across all platforms. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Return to the stage

Timberlake returned to the halftime show 14 years after his performance with Jackson ignited controversy. It led to a fine (later overturned) from the Federal Communications Commission.

Timberlake's performance included a marching band, audience selfies and giant reflecting mirrors. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Timberlake made reference to it as he sang Rock Your Body this time around, the same song he had performed with Jackson. He removed the lyrics that originally preceded the infamous incident: "Bet I'll have you naked by the end of this song."

The hashtag #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay was trending on Twitter on Sunday before the performance to celebrate the icon's influence on pop music and to acknowledge that her career unfairly suffered more than Timberlake's as a result of the fiasco. 

With files from the Associated Press