Super Bowl halftime: The collapse of a pop-culture institution
However the Super Bowl broadcast unfolds on Sunday, “this year’s halftime show is already an epic failure,” said Steven Hyden in Uproxx.com. Long a crowning honor for every artist offered the chance to entertain an audience of 100 million, the gig suddenly threatens to stain any artist who takes it. Just ask Maroon 5, the band that apparently agreed to headline back in September, only to be humiliated by reports that bigger acts had rejected the offer and other artists refused to join the group onstage in Atlanta. Rihanna started it all when her team revealed that she’d turned down the job to support Colin Kaepernick and other players who’d been effectively prohibited from kneeling during the national anthem to call attention to police shootings of black Americans. Jay-Z, Cardi B, Usher, and Pink have since been identified as fellow boycotters—and they should be. “In this year’s game, the only winners are those sticking to the sidelines.”
Maroon 5 must have developed cold feet, too, said Gil Kaufman in Billboard. Petitioned by fans and urged by other entertainers to walk away, frontman Adam Levine and his bandmates minimized their exposure to bad press by waiting until three weeks before kickoff to confirm they’d be taking center stage in modern hip-hop’s capital. By then, they’d finally roped in two black artists: Atlanta native Big Boi and rapper Travis Scott, both fellow clients of Maroon 5’s powerful talent agency. Scott signed on only after huddling with Kaepernick and forcing the NFL to donate $500,000 to a social-justice charity, but the attempted inoculation failed: People close to Kaepernick deny that the blackballed quarterback gave Scott his blessing to perform.
Even the legendary Gladys Knight is taking heat—because she agreed to sing the national anthem, said Mark Anthony Neal in CNN.com. But as disappointed as some fans are, the 74-year-old Empress of Soul, who once participated in civil rights marches, “has earned the right to decide how she can best contribute her talent at this critical moment in American life.” She says she wants the anthem to once again be a song that unites Americans, and I, for one, look forward to hearing her try. An hour or so later, it’ll be Maroon 5’s turn, said Maeve McDermott in USA Today, and perhaps nothing they can do can save the institution of the halftime show. Sure, “as long as the Super Bowl survives,” a performance of some kind will be staged. “The question is whether that show will be any good after the near-fatal blow its reputation was dealt this year.” ■