After a fun and seemingly fruitless game of “will they or won’t they?,” pop sensation Justin Timberlake and country music star Chris Stapleton finally gifted fans with another live television collaboration. The pair closed out a post-Super Bowl broadcast of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon after passing up on multiple opportunities to reunite over an eight-day span.
The previous Saturday (Jan. 27), Stapleton appeared as Saturday Night Live‘s special musical guest. SNL thrives on Timberlake’s singing, dancing and comedic timing, so it seemed like as good a time as any for two old friends to promote recent collaboration “Say Something” from Timberlake’s Man of the Woods album. Stapleton opted instead to bring along fellow Kentucky-born country singer Sturgill Simpson.
A night later, Stapleton won multiple Grammys and participated in a dream duet with ageless songbird Emmylou Harris. A Timberlake appearance was slightly less likely, but there was still ample reason to hold out hope.
Timberlake headlined perhaps the biggest live performance of the year a week later, appearing during the Super Bowl halftime show. Oddly. there was no Janet Jackson appearance or ‘N SYNC reunion. Nor was there a bearded country singer with a shirt matching Timberlake’s silky elk ensemble.
With hope fading for Stapleton fans, Timberlake pulled off a last-second move. You might call it the musical equivalent of that strip sack of Tom Brady. Fallon hosted the two performers in a post-game broadcast as they finally offered up a live television version of their new song.
Why should hard-nosed, pop music-hating fans of “real country music” care? Timberlake gave Stapleton an incalculable career boost at the 2015 CMA awards. A friendly reminder that a genuine multimedia celebrity recognizes and appreciates one of the best old-school country singers and blues-rockers going brings even more ears to a career that’s already reshaping the charts.