Mary J. Blige shows why the Super Bowl halftime show needs female performers

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I’ve long maintained that the Super Bowl halftime show belongs to women, with a few exceptions. For those of us with no interest in football or any stake in the teams represented, such a stereotypically masculine and downright silly event is only made bearable by the knowledge that a pop diva will come rushing in the middle of the show to perform some of his greatest hits and frolic on stage in a ridiculous leotard. (That and, of course, party snacks.)

This year’s Pepsi Super Bowl LVI halftime show, featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, a surprise cameo from 50 Cent and Mary J. Blige, was less of a visual spectacle or show of sense of purpose. spectacle (unless most men) than a celebration of nostalgia and vibes. Despite an excellent setlist, I would have preferred 15 minutes of Blige’s iconic staggering in glittering thigh-high boots rather than a group of middle-aged men rocking stiffly. However, we managed to get Crip-walking out of Snoop, which certainly counts for something.

In all fairness, this year’s halftime show was noticeably different from anything the Super Bowl has held before. Similarly, there aren’t many role models these artists can pull from how easily pop and rock headliners can take notes from each other.

While the TV gig featured rappers like Nelly, Queen Latifah, Big Boi and Bad Bunny, Sunday marked the first all-hip-hop lineup — a choice that could only conceivably be made with the help of Jay-Z. , who signed a controversial deal. with the NFL in 2018 to diversify the halftime show and contribute to other racial awareness efforts.

Therefore, this year’s show comes with built-in baggage in addition to how viewers react to the actual performance. Ever since NFL player Colin Kaepernick was ostensibly blackballed by the NFL for protesting police brutality, the halftime show has become a controversial and even unwanted opportunity for performers like Cardi B, Rihanna and P!nk. Other artists, primarily those in the rap community, including most of this year’s lineup, have voiced their support for Kaepernick. But like most celebrity-backed protests, Kaepernick’s cause has lost a lot of steam in recent years, despite the NFL racking up other racial controversies.

Thus, the NFL welcoming black performers in unprecedented numbers seemed like a clear shield against growing accusations of anti-blackness and systemic racism in the organization. For the most part, judging from the internet, it doesn’t seem like anyone is buying the performative complacency of the NFL, instead taking the nostalgic hip-hop performance for what it is. In that way, it was refreshing that this year’s event didn’t come with some sort of mandatory shoutout or signposting to the Black Lives Matter movement or any black people killed from the performers. (Although the only white artist, Eminem, decided to kneel towards the end in the most cheesy way).

But let’s get into the show proper. The set began with West Coast legend and NWA member Dr. Dre performing “The Next Episode” on top of a series of connected homes and Los Angeles landmarks in the center of the lot. The staging was reminiscent of last year’s Grammys where the nominated artists performed back to back on different parts of a common stage and awkwardly shook their heads as they waited their turn. Yet these performances felt less static, despite taking place in one location, thanks to completely redesigned sets and backgrounds for each performer.

“Still, the visuals of the show, other than Mary J. Blige’s dazzling boots and cowboy hat, were of course lackluster compared to what we’ve seen in recent years.”

In the case of a halftime show captured in broad daylight, there are probably more technical difficulties in creating atmospheres that are representative of each performer’s aesthetic and ethos – and perhaps that is not the case. was never planned. Still, the visuals of the show, other than Mary J. Blige’s dazzling boots and cowboy hat, were of course lackluster compared to what we’ve seen in recent years.

In a catchy moment that probably should have been placed near the end of the show, Dr. Dre was joined by Snoop Dogg to perform “California Love,” thankfully without a 2pac hologram. From there, we cut rather sharply to the hilarious image of 50 Cent hanging upside down from a ceiling and looking extremely uncomfortable, recreating the music video for “In Da Club.” Once his feet were on the ground, he performed the hit to a room of scantily clad dancers.

So far, much of the show’s excitement has been down to the song choice and college flashbacks that these top 40 hits have evoked. But Mary J. Blige finally brought the theatrical aspect of the show with “Family Affair” and a moving rendition of “No More Drama” that ended with her collapsing to the ground, as any soulful live performance should prompt. . Her presence was certainly missed throughout the series, given her magnetism and the amount of success she’s garnered throughout her career. Plus, many of us watched her perform a jaw-dropping mix of hits at the BET Awards in 2019 when she received a lifetime achievement honor. It’s a shame the NFL didn’t think it deserved to have this moment to itself.

Mary J. Blige performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Kendrick Lamar’s efforts to host the show matched those of Blige, as he recreated what looked like a garden show with backup male dancers all rocking dyed blonde hair. He performed his most catchy hits “mAAd city” and “alright”, the latter of which the crowd went wild. Remarkably, the lyrics “and we hate po-po” were censored from the song, a disappointing and predictable bargain for a mainstream event like this. (On the other hand, Dr. Dre was able to say “still don’t like the police” on “Still DRE” later.) Rather ominously, Lamar ended his set by switching to “Forgot About Dre,” taking us into the one of the worst moments of the night.

Speaking of crowd reactions, SoFi Stadium seemed less enthused when Slim Shady showed up to perform the most predictable track he could pick, “Lose Yourself,” in the same old, worn-out hoodie. There really isn’t much to observe about this particular moment, as it was as boring and cringe-worthy as his last pre-pandemic Oscars ambush. Hopefully no more global disasters will occur after this performance.

For all the good memories it may have brought, this year’s halftime show was pretty mediocre and forgettable amid a previous decade of jaw-dropping performances and artists who went all out. . Plus, it’s unfortunate that a hip-hop landmark celebration had to include an artist with a well-known history of physically abusing women and another who was recently charged with sexual assault. If anything, tonight proved that going with female headliners is a safer bet on many levels.

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