Why Justin Timberlake Owes His Super Bowl LII Halftime Performance to Michael Jackson

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When Justin Timberlake takes the stage in Minneapolis for the Pepsi Super Bowl LII Halftime Show, as with most things in his career, he has one very important person to thank: Michael Jackson.

In fact, every music superstar who’s been drafted to take the stage for what is arguably one of the biggest concerts in the entire world since the King of Pop brought the Rose Bowl to its feet on January 31 at Super Bowl XXVII owes Jackson a debt of gratitude. Why, you ask? Because 25 years ago, MJ single-handledly turned the halftime show into a thing, a spectacle capable of drawing in more viewers than the game itself. Without him, the Super Bowl would merely be an opportunity to see some neat new commercials punctuated by an arduous and entirely too long game of keep away.

To understand what Jackson did, we have to go back to the year prior to his paradigm-shifting performance. The year was 1992 and the Washington Redskins were facing off against the Buffalo Bills in, coincidentally, Minneapolis. The halftime show? Something called “Winter Magic,” which featured a celebration to the winter season and the Winter Olympics. Dancers and the Pride of Minnesota marching band were joined by former Olympic champions Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill, who skated on sheets of Teflon atop platforms placed on the field. Gloria Estefan sang during the finale. It was, well, as exciting as it sounds.

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