So About That NFL Halftime Show...
by Noah Adaikkalam
This year's Super Bowl halftime show was a rollercoaster from start to finish. Most of the headliners that the NFL would have liked to perform declined because of the NFL’s handling of Colin Kaepernick and that whole situation. I can only assume that the cumulative bad karma that comes from what they did to Kaep is the reason for this flop of a halftime show.
The first, and perhaps biggest, misstep of the show was having Maroon 5 as their main event. During the entirety of his performance, Adam Levine looked incredibly uncomfortable. Perhaps there was a level of stage fright or just a general discomfort with being in a setting with where, for the first time in over a decade, he may have had something to prove. Maroon 5 has been gliding steadily off of their popwashed LP releases since 2010. Their core audience has grown slightly in that period, but announcements of their Super Bowl performance were met with, to put it gently, mixed reviews. Whatever the cause of his visible uneasiness, the result was a collection of awkward attempts at sexy dance moves and singing that drifted off-pitch for the first couple of songs.
Then, Travis Scott baited us in with the cut of the intro to “Sweet Victory” from the Spongebob episode “Band Geeks,” only to have him come crashing into the stadium on a meteor and start singing Sicko Mode. At this point, I asked myself, “If they had Travis Scott, who is arguably at the biggest point in his career, why isn’t he the headliner?” Either way, “Sicko Mode” of his latest project Astroworld (2018) got the audience hooked. He looked genuinely happy to be there, and, unlike Adam Levine, he engaged with the crowd beyond throwing his clothes at them. While I was upset that he used the Spongebob reference without following through, it shows that he is aware of and attempted to reference what his listeners want. Travis Scott disappeared stage diving backward into the crowd, and Maroon 5 slowed it down with some vintage cuts from Songs About Jane (2002).
It’s important to note that in-between the vintage cuts and Travis Scott disappearing, a drum line and all black gospel choir appeared out of the back of the stage and sang/played with Adam for a hot minute before disappearing just as quickly as they arrived. It lacked a level of incorporation with the rest of concert that made it almost seem like they were trying to include people of color into a performance at the African-American capital of the United States because there were more white people on stage than people of color.
Anyways, Maroon 5 went back to the slower tracks to really match the pace of the lowest scoring super bowl in NFL history. Nailed it Adam. Somewhere in these two songs, maybe when he went for a high note on “She Will Be Loved,” he lost his jacket.
Big Boi, in a Cadillac, rolled through the crowd, up to the stage. He got up there in a massive fur coat to sing “The Way You Move.” This track, probably his biggest hit off of the joint Andre 3000, Big Boi album Speakerboxx/The Love Below (2003) was really refreshing to hear. It’s one of those early 2000’s tracks that you don’t realize you know until you hear them. His performance was alright, again he looked a bit out of practice, but his band looked a lot more organized in their matching “Atl-ien” jackets. Big Boi is unapologetically Atlantan, and he was not about to give his hometown crowd anything less than his best. He tried to bring back that aesthetic from his prime, with the Coupe De Ville’s and fur coats, and while it was a bit outdated (as we would expect) he was prepared.
The issue with this lineup is that the headliner has no musical connection to his two supporting acts.
Short of the hated 2012 single “Payphone,” Maroon 5 doesn’t really perform with rap artists. Maybe some chemistry would arise between Big Boi and Travis, but since Mr. Scott was MIA-- I’m assuming the crowd he surfed into just devoured him-- we didn’t get to see that. There was no cohesiveness between the three acts at all, short of Adam awkwardly dancing with Travis and then singing the high part on “The Way You Move.” Additionally, this was doomed to fail because nobody who listens to Travis Scott also listens to Maroon 5, nor was anybody awaiting a collaboration between the two of them.
The performance wrapped up with “Moves Like Jagger” off of Hands All Over (2010), during which Adam took the opportunity to take his shirt off, ending his performance completely topless. All in all, they only played one new song. I interpret this as their way of letting us know that their biggest hits are behind them.
In short, the Super Bowl halftime show was beyond underwhelming. I expected the three musical acts to be as clunky as Super Bowl performances have been in the past, and by the end, the millions watching would be happy that it was over. Instead, it was an utter failure. The supporting acts disappeared after short bursts of their songs, Travis Scott faked his fans out by using the Spongebob clip, and Adam Levine took his shirt off to keep trying to seduce the audience with his washed-up dance moves. The best parts, in my opinions, were the entrances of the two supporting artists, who looked like they enjoyed it more, prepared more, and affected the crowd more, yet they were shut down after performing for three minutes maximum. The worst part was watching an uncomfortable, unprepared and outdated, Maroon 5 monopolize the M shaped stage and do the bare minimum to collaborate with their supporting artists.