With the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, there was a good chance fans would see a nod to Prince during Sunday’s game. An NFL source confirmed to the Star Tribune Saturday that Prince indeed was planned as a big part of Justin Timberlake’s halftime show — appearing as a hologram.
That notion proved instantly controversial with Prince fans and associates, with many saying their outcry stemmed from Prince’s own opposition to the technology.
It appeared late Saturday, however, that the plan was being dropped after Sheila E., Prince’s longtime friend and drummer, raised objections.
She tweeted she had talked with Timberlake, and he “shared heartfelt words of respect for Prince & the Purple fans,” adding, “There is no hologram.”
In an interview Sunday with the Associated Press, she said, “Justin’s people reached out to my manager and wanted to talk to me about it and we had a great conversation.” She said she was assured there will be no hologram of the late superstar at Sunday’s Super Bowl, according to AP.
Timberlake, who considers Prince a big influence, called Prince “the greatest all-around musician I can think of” during a news conference Thursday, and said he would cherish the memories of the times they spent talking music.
While declining to give specifics of the show, Timberlake teased, “We’re doing a few things with this halftime show they’ve never quite done before.”
A Friday rehearsal included a hologram as part of the show, the NFL source said.
Prince himself had objected to the technology. In a 1998 interview with Guitar World magazine, he was asked about the ability of using it to make posthumous collaborations possible.
“If I was meant to jam with Duke Ellington, we would have lived in the same age,” Prince replied. “That whole virtual reality thing, it really is demonic.”
After word spread of the halftime plans, Sheila E. tweeted in opposition.
“Prince told me don’t ever let anybody do a hologram on me. He meant it,” she said in an interview Saturday. “I don’t think it’s cool at all. You can’t bring him back. He did the best Super Bowl halftime ever. You can’t top that.”
Prince’s 2007 performance in the pouring rain at the Super Bowl in Miami is considered one of the best halftime shows ever.
Some of Prince’s heirs chimed in on social media. Prince’s sister, Sharon L. Nelson, tweeted Saturday night that “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES did we approve of this!” (Prince’s estate administrator can make decisions without the heirs.)
Musical holograms have become a minor trend in recent years. In 2007, a hologram of Elvis Presley was featured in a duet with Celine Dion on “American Idol.” In 2012, a hologram of Tupac Shakur appeared at the Coachella festival. In 2014, Michael Jackson moonwalked via hologram at the Billboard Music Awards.
Last April, on the final day of the Celebration festival at Paisley Park, various former Prince bandmates performed two songs live with Prince singing in video images on a giant screen behind the stage.
Meanwhile, Prince’s estate has authorized a video concert of him performing, accompanied by live musicians, at Target Center on April 21, the second anniversary of his death.
Longtime fan Heidi Vader of Minneapolis seemed torn about the possibility of a Prince hologram. “It breaks my heart,” said Vader, co-founder of the Purple Playground, a nonprofit to honor Prince. “He didn’t want it. I’d much prefer videos of him that already exist. But I understand the need to make money. And if this helps bring him into more lives and homes and people get inspired by it, then so be it.”
Staff writer Chris Riemenschneider contributed to this report. Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719