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Predicting Justin Timberlake's Super Bowl LII setlist

MINNEAPOLIS -- Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been to eight Super Bowls together since 2001. That's an incredible accomplishment, but here's a scorching hot take delivered to you straight from the North America tundra:

Justin Timberlake, making his third appearance in a Super Bowl halftime show since 2001, is even more impressive.

The shelf life for a top quarterback is usually about 12-to-15 years, give or take a TB12. But the expiration date of your average pop star? For most, it's a blink-and-you-missed-it affair. If you last five years at the top of the industry, you're a titan. Timberlake has kept himself in the spotlight forever, even as tastes and musical styles have continuously shifted beneath him. Lest we forget, Timberlake was a massive star with NSYNC when Tom Brady was *living in the dorms at Michigan.

Super Bowl LII represents Timberlake's first proper headliner turn in this realm, so expect his performance in downtown Minneapolis to serve as something of a retrospective celebration of a performer who -- like the star quarterback in the same building -- has seemingly defeated Father Time.

As we do every year on the End Around, it's time to predict the setlist. I'll add my annual disclaimer: I know nothing. I know less than nothing. I am not deemed a "trustworthy figure" amongst the Shadowy League Figures who organize this massive endeavor; as such, the halftime show is as big a mystery to me as it is to you.

My predictions (OK, guesses) are based off knowledge of JT's career, awareness of the traditional structures of prior halftime setlists, deductions from Timberlake's Thursday press conference, and generous dollops of guile, grit, and instinct. One last note: Timberlake has roughly 12 minutes to work with. Expect him to maximize that time by playing portions of songs rather than full versions -- in some cases, anyway.

OK, let's get to it.


The song of the summer of 2016 is the perfect way to open or close the set. I went with the former because it feels like "Can't Stop" -- found on the Trolls soundtrack off all places -- is exactly the type of hyper-energetic, universal pop anthem every artist wants in their arsenal when they're looking for instant lift-off. It's also 3-year-old Jack Hanzus' favorite song, so I'm sure he agrees with his old man about the placement here.


Lest we forget what this is really all about: Justin Timberlake is selling himself. More specifically, he's selling his new album, Man of the Woods, which comes out today. That's why we're going to hear "Filthy", the lead single from Woods and a electro funk dance track that posits Timberlake as not some pop dinosaur, but a forward-thinking artist with plenty of gas left in the tank.


It's the Super Bowl. Give 'em the hits. And according to Billboard, "SexyBack" -- the first single off 2006's Future Sex/Love Sounds -- is the biggest hit of Timberlake's solo career. It has a tonal connection to "Filthy" and -- most importantly -- it's an absolute banger. When I listen to it today, it makes me wonder what Timbaland is doing right now.

"Say Something"

Now that everyone has retrieved their sexy, this would be the spot Timberlake temporarily pulls back the reigns, picks up an acoustic guitar and gives everyone a taste of "Say Something", his newest single. JT seems to be going for a rootsy, rustic feel with this album, and this song showcases that direction. I originally believed this would present a cameo from country superstar Chris Stapleton (who performs on the album track and appears in the music video), but Timberlake told us Thursday there will be no special guests. So don't expect to see Stapleton, *NSYNC pals or (sigh) Janet.

"Purple Rain" (Prince cover)

During Thursday's press conference, Timberlake remembered Prince as "the greatest all-around musician I can think of in popular culture." Given his adoration of the late pop icon, the setting in Prince's hometown, and Prince's own celebrated history in this realm, this feels like the perfect feel-good closer. Timberlake is an artist who traffics in the dance music realm, which made me wonder if he'd go with something upbeat like "Let's Go Crazy", "1999" or perhaps "I Would Die 4 U". But the most likely choice is "Purple Rain", Prince's epic anthem and a powerful way to close out any show. There will be purple.

Final prediction:

  1. Can't Stop The Feeling!
  2. Filthy
  3. SexyBack
  4. Say Something
  5. Purple Rain

Dan will author a follow-up post immediately after the Super Bowl LII halftime show to lament what he got wrong or gloat about prognosticating perfection. Follow him on Twitter @danhanzus.

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