The Super Bowl, hereafter spelled Superbowl because I’m lazy and I also think that’s the way it should be spelled anyway, has had an alarming number of truly terrible halftime shows. Looking through the history of them on Wikipedia is like a horror film, except instead of tense musical swells and stings you have images of overwrought performances, makeup-caked has-beens, and (eugh) bell bottoms. (Eeeugh.) I’m thankful for many things in life, but among them is that I am too young to remember the many, many times Up With People performed, and in some cases I wasn’t even born yet. Before I get to the meat of my point, I present the hall of shame from the ones I can remember:
Superbowl XXVII: Michael Jackson heals the world. Acknowledged: He was a great entertainer and had a truly impressive catalog of music. His legacy lives on. That said, Heal the World was pants-crappingly awful and I’m ashamed to have seen it. What amazes me is that this apparently was a turning point in halftime shows and the ratings for them actually went up in later years. Good gads, why?
Superbowl XXVIII: Rockin’ Country Sunday. Nothing wrong with the performers or their performances, actually, except that the Judds were always so freaking maudlin. But as I have mentioned before I have a severe allergy to country music. Not forgiven. Bonus shame: My beloved Buffalo Bills lost in their fourth consecutive and final (apparently, ever) appearance. To Dallas. Again.
Superbowl XXX: Diana Ross. Or perhaps the late Diana Ross. What was onstage that day was a shell of the performer, and this was a portent of things to come in many later halftime shows. At least the show was better than the game. I’m convinced the official stat that Neil O’Donnell completed 28 out of 49 passes (31 out of 49 if you count completions to the other team) is somehow wrong because I distinctly remember a lot more drops than that. I feel like it was closer to 2 out of 91. Unexpected geek bonus: Twice during that game, a throwaway prediction from a first-season episode of Quantum Leap seven years earlier came true.
Superbowl XXXVIII: MTV’s Parade O’ Crap and the Wardrobe Function. I refuse to call it a malfunction, because come on, that was planned. They wanted to show a nipple on live TV with millions of families and kids watching, and they largely got away with it. I missed it because I was in the kitchen; walking out on a Justin Timberlake performance made me a better person.
Superbowl XLII: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Nothing against him, although frankly I hate his music, but his relevance was staler by then than any Twinkie you can currently find on eBay. Also, not much significantly wide appeal, when you think about it.
Superbowl XLIII: Bruce Springsteen. Mostly the same comment.
Superbowl XLIV: The Who. Okay, Baby Boomers, now you’re just screwing with us. Just for that, we’re gonna let Social Security go bankrupt. (Ha!) Seriously, their heyday is older than I am. Most of the audience probably wasn’t even familiar with any of their songs at all unless they’ve watched CSI.
Superbowl XLV: The Black Eyed Peas. Overcorrection! Steer back! Steer back! Now maybe you’re a little too relevant. But still, not as much mass appeal as one would hope. I can’t stand the Peas anyway, nor can any of the artists whose music they’ve blatantly ripped off. The technical difficulties during their performance were a blessing, and far less embarrassing than the show. Bonus shame: Christina “Derp!” Aguilera burfing the lyrics to the national anthem.
Superbowl XLVI: Madonna. Featuring the unfathomably obnoxious LMFAO, the execrable Nicki Minaj, Cee Lo Green, and several others. Supposedly M.I.A. (whose very name is pretty horrible, really) did something that royally ticked people off, but I didn’t notice because I was too busy trying to hold back a torrent of profanity. The same old relevance problem was back, but made worse by Madonna trying to reinvent herself with new music, made even worse still by her retinue. I had only heard about her, not the others. LMFAO has a special place on my List for aggravated assault to the good name of bad music, so being ambushed by them was not a thrill. Then, since I always changed the station on Madonna’s horrible new song, I didn’t realize the execrable Nicki Minaj would be performing either. On the rage scale I named especially for her, I rate the whole show about an 18. Cee Lo was okay. (Cee Lo has a famous song whose title sums up my feelings about the experience. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.)
This year we’ll get a show from look-ma-no-stretch-marks Beyoncé. I’m not a fan, but I can live with it. Probably. But Halo is annoying. Also, if she sings No No No with or without her former Destiny’s Child bandmates, I am very likely to do what I traditionally do during the end of the song if they make it that far: howl along. Yes, literally howl; if it’s good enough for her it’s good enough for me. It’s how I made it through their accursed radio run with my sanity mostly intact. This is likely to be a bad idea in a house with dogs, but hopefully they’ll just move on to another song in the medley before they get to that part.
Now, onto the pointless controversy, assuming none of my above picks were controversial enough. (For the record, I’m sorry I couldn’t think of meaner things to say about LMFAO or Nicki Minaj. I’ll try harder next time.) Feel free to disagree with me, but do it quietly because you’ll be wrong and you’ll only embarrass yourself. Superbowl XXXI’s halftime show was the greatest halftime show in the last 20 years, perhaps the greatest of all time.
During halftime that year, we were treated to performances from the Blues Brothers revue, ZZ Top, and the great James Brown. It was all-around fun music, well-liked by most. Sure ZZ Top had faded from fame a bit, but by far less than Tom Petty had when his turn came around, and their upbeat rhythm was just plain infectious. Come on, you can’t hate on the bearded bards. And what could be said against James Brown except that he was too awesome? Or the Blues Brothers? Sure it was Jim Belushi instead of John (for obvious and sad reasons), but the boys had moves and they brought good tunes with them. I had a blast.
On top of that, Superbowl XXXI was just a stupendous game. And with the Internet booming, the commercials were some of the best in ages. Everything about that game from beginning to end was a blessed experience, and every game since has paled in comparison. Every halftime show since has positively sucked, even without the comparison.
You know I’m right about this one.