From the moment that Christina Aguilera decided to invent the line “What so proudly we watched, at the twilight’s last gleaming” and add it to the national anthem, it was evident that this year’s Super Bowl entertainment would be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Although Aguilera’s screw-up set the stage for the horrendous performances to come, the aspects of this year’s entertainment that were truly the most disappointing aren’t necessarily the ones that everyone is talking about. While Aguilera’s faux pas has been getting all the media attention, for instance, she butchered the Star Spangled Banner in a much more important way — with her singing. Actually, perhaps musical masturbation is a more apt term for what she provided viewers with. Aguilera’s incessant pop slides and haphazard swinging between her highest and lowest ranges degraded the tune well beyond recognition.
Of course, the meat and potatoes of this terrible year for Super Bowl entertainment was the halftime act, the Black Eyed Peas.
From the first word out of will.i.am’s mouth, it was clear that we wouldn’t be hearing a real, non-auto-tuned note from the group (aside from Fergie’s off-pitch wailing, of course). The band as a whole suffered from terrible mixing throughout the show — the balance was so poor that the audience was unable to hear the “music” behind the lyrics. Additionally, Slash’s much talked-about guest appearance must have killed a little part of Axl Rose with its lack of emotion, but let’s not blame Slash here — how could anyone get into a performance while Fergie is butchering one of your most famous songs?
Yet, like Aguilera’s performance, there was a much more disturbing travesty underlying the halftime show — one that occurred before the Black Eyed Peas even floated down onto the stage.
As I awaited the impending disaster that was the Black Eyed Peas, I noticed that something was gravely amiss: the fans that traditionally surround the stage were missing. As soon as this thought registered, people started filing in, but they certainly weren’t spectators — rather, they were a mass of light-up-suit-wearing dancers.
So not only has the Super Bowl entertainment sunk to a new low, but the treatment of the fans has as well. Try to put yourself in the position of someone at this year’s Super Bowl. You paid hundreds or even thousands of dollars for your ticket, an added perk of which has always been the potential to get up close and personal with the halftime artist. Then you get to the show and are told, “Oh sorry, the fan area on the field has been replaced with the LED jumpsuit brigade. To truly enjoy the effect you’ll have to remain in your seat.”
The Super Bowl has become as huge as it is because of the integrative experience that it offers the fans in attendance, from the casual to the die-hard. In the past, this has included the halftime show, but this year more value seems to have been placed on production and choreography.
So given the terrible fan experience from all angles, I don’t think it’s an unfair question to ask — was this the worst Superbowl entertainment in recent history? I vote yes — it was certainly worse than other recent disasters, including The Who’s performance (of which only half the members are even alive) and the infamous Nipplegate.
Part of the Super Bowl halftime show’s decline in recent years has been due to the fact that the coordinators always seem to pick either a terrible, albeit extremely popular, modern artist or a band whose members are all, well, on the verge of death. If they want an older artist who can actually still play, why not Rush? If they’d rather go with a more modern act, Daft Punk? And the perfect choice for the 2012 Super Bowl show? Red Hot Chili Peppers, all the way.
This year’s performances have taught us at least one very important lesson — the Super Bowl needs to get back in touch with the fans that make it what it is, which includes a halftime artist that actually plays music. Give football fans a reason to want to watch the show and, for God’s sake, let them back onto the field.