Justin Timberlake is returning to the Super Bowl halftime stage for the first time since that stuff happened with Janet Jackson and the wardrobe malfunction. It’s all anyone’s talking about, with people even asking if Janet’s gonna show up on Sunday.
But what’s getting lost is the groundbreaking Super Bowl halftime that was JT’s first trip to the Super Bowl.
In 2001, MTV got the job of producing the Super Bowl and they did something revolutionary, bringing in NSYNC and Aerosmith.
As much as people might have thought of Aerosmith as old guys by 2001, they were only a few years off of their only No. 1 ever: “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” featured on the Armageddon soundtrack. And they were in the middle of promoting an album that was about to go platinum.
Meanwhile, NSYNC was at their peak, bringing in young audiences and adding crossover appeal to older audiences with impressive dance moves, humor in other media, and stylistic music videos.
Combining them was nothing short of magic.
MTV made the show better by making this the first time the audience was allowed on the field for the artist’s performance. It was a rock show that had great pace with special guests that came in at the perfect time and the mixture couldn’t have worked better.
NSYNC started with “Bye Bye Bye” followed by Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” NSYNC played “It’s Gonna Be Me” with Steve Tyler bringing Aerosmith back by singing the titular line as they went into their top 10 hit “Jaded.”
Timberlake song the last line and that’s when the show climaxed, as both bands broke out into “Walk This Way.”
As the song started, the performers truly mixed across the stage and Britney Spears joined the gang. It was an open secret that Timberlake’s then-girlfriend would be there but that didn’t’ make the moment any less awesome.
Mary J. Blige joined the group the next verse and Nelly even jumped in with a rap, Run-DMC style.
And what ultimately sets this performance apart is what happens during “Walk This Way.” There isn’t any advanced choreography that needs to be executed. There isn’t a light show to complement the performance. There aren’t any backup dancers to add gravitas.
It’s just a bunch of talented artists rocking on stage and playing to the audience on the field and on the stage.
Among the many ways that MTV went all-out for this show was that they produced a short film that ran before the concert started in which Ben Stiller played a roadie that prepared NSYNC and Aerosmith for the show with cameos from Adam Sandler and Chris Rock.
The mockumentary style of the film was along the lines of something you'd regularly see on the MTV Movie Awards or VMA's.
Also, shortly after the show, MTV aired an hour-long documentary about how the show came together. What I'll always remember about this special from watching it when I was younger (not a kid, I was in high school) is that Timberlake was really nervous going in because during the dress rehearsal the day before, his mic went out.
In fact, if you go back and watch the beginning of the halftime show when it aired, you can hear someone blowing into a microphone. That's Timberlake making sure his mic is working.