On Sunday’s live episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the 37-year-old singer revealed why he made the decision to pay homage to the late singer in Prince's hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, during the big show.
“It’s a moment for me, if I’m being quite honest, because he’s always been the pinnacle of musicianship for me," Timberlake revealed. "And when we decided that [we were going to do a tribute], like the serendipity and the synergy that we would be Minneapolis, and that he’s such a special thing here aside from what he is all over the world.”
“I just felt like I wanted to do something for this city and something for him that would just be the ultimate homage to what I consider the G.O.A.T. of musicians,” he continued.
Midway through his 13-minute performance at the Super Bowl, 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." The cameras also panned outside U.S. Bank Stadium to show the entire downtown area of Minneapolis lit up in purple.
Timberlake admitted that he was nervous performing a virtual duet with Prince, but one person’s stamp of approval made it all worthwhile.
“And, also, I’m not going to lie to you guys, because Questlove is the encyclopedia on music -- I feel like a gatekeeper on Prince. [If] I got the thumbs’ up from Quest, I’m good,” he said, to which The Roots drummer and bandleader nodded: “It was good.”
Timberlake explained how the moment all came together, saying that they got the original recordings from Prince’s performances, which miraculously lined up to make the performance even possible.
“You have to understand, we got the actual vocal stems from ‘I Would Die 4 U’ -- the actual recording -- and then we got the uncut version of it and ‘Purple Rain’ and some way by the grace of Prince looking down on us, it synced up,” Timberlake explained. “It was like this crazy, serendipitous moment. I wanted to use that opportunity to do something special for this city but also my favorite musician of all time.”
Just hours after taking the Super Bowl halftime stage, Timberlake opened the Tonight Show with a rollicking performance of “Supplies,” switching out his custom Stella McCartney camo-inspired halftime outfit for a casual orange sweatshirt with “Man of the Woods” emblazoned on the sleeve, denim jeans and a brown beanie. He returned to close out the show with the first live television performance of his duet with Chris Stapleton, "Say Something."
Amid his Super Bowl preparations, Timberlake also found time to take part in a “#Songversation” sketch with Fallon, where they dad-bonded over their young kids, dished on Riverdale and marveled over the Nickelodeon kids program PAW Patrol. According to the pals, though the segment was only two minutes long, it actually took them two hours to film, and the blooper reel was nearly seven minutes long.
Timberlake also revealed an onstage secret that may be surprising to fans. When Fallon brought up that he held his breath when Timberlake did his mic flip onstage, the singer revealed why he does that during live performances.
“I’ll be honest, no one knows this -- that’s my nervous tick on stage. I flip the microphone," Timberlake admitted. "I don’t know where I started doing that, but I haven’t dropped it yet."