SuperBowl Halftime Performances: Shock & Awe
Written by Miguel Lantigua
When it comes to spectacle, we Americans are hooked to it. We love our fireworks, our big guns and just about anything loud, dangerous, and fun. We love the circus, the lions, tigers, and acrobats. No sports event is bigger than the Superbowl and by extension, no other musical spectacle is bigger or more watched than the Superbowl halftime show.
Surprisingly enough, the Superbowl halftime shows were seen more as a celebratory tradition where regional marching bands would perform or jazz performers like Louis Armstrong and Rhythm and Blues Chubby Checker.
It was only up until the mid-to-late ’90s where we would see the beginning of the halftime shows the transformation from an almost traditional anthemic intermission to where it is now: an all-out musical performance.
As cable TV became ubiquitous in American homes, more and more eyes were fixed to the nation’s biggest sports event. Advertisers and record companies needed to get in on the game. Historically you would point the finger at New Kids On the Block as they appealed to a much younger demographic and the soon to be MTV-Gen-Xers but categorically it would be Prince and Michael Jackson who would set the standard of the modern Superbowl Halftime Show with their elaborate sets, lights, pyrotechnics, fireworks, and most of all, incredibly tight and entertaining performance.
I simply cannot even fathom the amount of pressure to perform in a football stadium, usually packed with hundreds of thousands of people in addition to the probably millions watching at homes and Buffalo Wild Wings across the country. Make no mistake, I doubt the Superbowl Halftime show is a coveted gig at this point and each performer is trying to out-do the last. Whether its bombastic fireworks or complicated stage setups or special guests so vastly different you’d think the show switch performers, the recent shows have been such a stimulation overload that I feel we have reached the limits of our spectacle tolerance for Superbowl halftime shows and we just want something bigger. Why isn't the stage brighter, why aren't there more fireworks, why can't the whop stadium light up? Drones again? Why can't they explode?
Five months after 9/11 the NFL had a tough call to make on who will be performing the halftime show on a day of celebration in a still-grieving country. While possibly your average pick to perform, U2 delivered a subdued but powerful statement with the names of the victims projected on a scroll during their emotive anthem “Where the streets have no name” to Bono flashing his jacket lining to show the American flag. It was cathartic. Bruce Springfield and Bruno Mars delivered powerful stage presence with their swagger and just mesmerizing confidence.
This is the gig of all gigs, so when you come to it, you have to think about the legacy that came before you and what you plant ot leave behind.
What did Maroon 5 leave behind? Besides memes and disappointed SpongeBob fans, not much else.
While pretty forgettable musically, Maroon 5’s performance generated memes across the internet, whether its the frontman’s tattoo choices to how Travis Scott could barely keep the melody to a song with barely a melody. The band started with their first hit “Harder to breather” then continued down their repertoire, almost in chronological order. To the point where I almost thought I was watching Maroon 5’s induction into rock and roll hall of fame for a minute. On a stage in the shape of a big “M”. While a big 5 would have been clever, it would have been a logistical nightmare maybe a Roman V? Nah, most people wouldn't get it.
Also, it’s almost painful how the NFL missed an opportunity to connect with internet culture by teasing Spongebob’s “Sweet Victory” just to ripcord us to Sicko Mode, minus Drake even? Was he busy? After Travis did a trust fall into the crowd, Adam and the boys continued to perform their soccer mom hits to the nation, with Levine stripping a layer after each song. By the time they played their number one wedding song “We will be loved”, they had drones flying above spelling LOVE. Where am I again? Isn’t this a football game?
The show concluded with a shirtless Levine humping the microphone stand surely getting the women in the front row pregnant.
A sweet victory it was not.