Music

Four ways to guarantee Super Bowl halftime show success. You’re welcome, Maroon 5

Kelly Rowland, Beyonce Knowles and Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Christopher Polk, Getty Images)


Here’s a look at some of the best halftime performances in Super Bowl history. USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Springsteen’s stage slide. Katy Perry’s “left shark.” Prince’s guitar’s silhouetteagainst a giant white sheet. An artist’s Super Bowl halftime show is often one of their career’s most enduring moments — which, as Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’sNipplegate controversy proved, isn’t always a good thing.

On Sunday, it’s Maroon 5’s turn, with their Super Bowl LIII halftime show serving as the culmination of months of drama, as artists publicly turned down the opportunity and fans urged the band to drop out of the appearance as part of the anti-NFL sentiment that has swept the nation post-Colin Kaepernick. Rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi also signed on to join Maroon 5 on the stage for a performance that will be meaningful for all three artists, for better or worse.

Crafting a mid-Super Bowl live spectacular that will entertain audiences and sidestep controversy is no small task for the bands and the NFL. But luckily, they all have years of precedent to learn from, with these lessons emerging as the constants of a successful halftime show.

1. Keep things PG

M.I.A. performs during the Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo: Christopher Polk, Getty Images)

The NFL has invited its fair share of provocateurs to the Super Bowl halftime show. Sometimes, the gamble pays off, like Prince’s suggestive-yet-electrifying 2007 performance. But, in cases like M.I.A. flipping the bird to the cameras during Madonna’s 2012 halftime show, taunting the censors can blow up in the artist’s face, if the NFL’s $16.6 million lawsuit against M.I.A. was any indication. The suit was later settled for an undisclosed amount.

And accidentally or not, artists who violate the broadcast’s decency standards and run afoul of the FCC during the most-watched TV broadcast of the year risk heavy penalties, as witnessed with Janet Jackson’s nip slip in 2004. The Jackson controversy was the absolute worst-case scenario for a halftime show performer and damaged her public image for years to come.

Besides, even when artists try to clean up their songs for the cameras, it can result in halftime shows like the Black Eyed Peas’ in 2011, in which the band tried to live-censor their songs’ expletives, which just added to their set’s awkward, disjointed quality. Artists should be mindful of crafting their setlist to be as undistractingly family-friendly as they can.

2. Be careful when making a statement

Bono, lead singer of U2, displays an American flag lining in his jacket after singing 'Where The Streets Have No Name,' during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. (Photo: Kvein Mazur, Kvein Mazur, WireImage)

If any of Sunday’s artists are intending to incite riots with their Super Bowl performance, they can learn something from Beyoncé, who courted controversy by performing her political anthem “Formation” at 2016’s Super Bowl, backed by dancers in Black Panther-referencing costumes.

More likely than not, considering how much more controversy the lead-up to the halftime show has generated this year, the three artists will be on their best behavior — unless one of them wants to come out in favor of Kaepernick’s on-field kneeling, the touchpoint issue that turned many of their artist peers against the NFL.

For a more inclusive message, they might look to U2’s 2002 performance. With the nation still reeling from the 9/11 attacks, the band sang “Where the Streets Have No Name” in front of a scrolling backdrop remembering the names of the victims, with Bono ending the song by opening his jacket to reveal an American flag.

Kelly Rowland, Beyonce Knowles and Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Christopher Polk, Getty Images)
Kelly Rowland, Beyonce Knowles and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Christopher Polk, Getty Images)

3. Make sure the guest stars make sense

Super Bowl performers often invite guests to join them onstage, whether to incorporate a different genre of music or make the show more memorable. What exactly Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Big Boi — three artists who don’t have any big hits together and don’t share many associations — will do onstage together remains to be seen. But the wrong cameo treatment can sink an artist’s set.

2001’s star-studded lineup of Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Nelly, Mary J. Blige and *NSYNC inspired too many celebrity-clogged performances in the following years, like 2003’s Shania Twain/No Doubt/Sting lineup, or Madonna’s cameo-filled 2012 show with LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A. and CeeLo Green. Sometimes, the guest stars feel laughably random, like the Black Eyed Peas inviting Slash onstage in 2011, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ cameo in Bruno Mars’ 2014 set. And Coldplay became an afterthought at their own 2016 performance after they invited the far-buzzier Beyoncé to join them last year.

The best guest appearances of recent halftime shows have largely played on an element of surprise. Beyoncé threw a Destiny’s Child reunion in 2013, inviting former bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams onstage, and Katy Perry’s 2015 performance featured a welcome appearance from the previously reclusive Missy Elliott.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform at the Bridgestone halftime show during Super Bowl XLIII between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo: Jamie Squire, Getty Images)
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform at the Bridgestone halftime show during Super Bowl XLIII between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo: Jamie Squire, Getty Images)

4. Simple often works best

Many of the past decade’s best halftime shows have focused less on filling the stage with elaborate sets or cameos and more on the performances themselves.

Justin Timberlake, unfortunately, took the opposite route with the opening to his 2018 halftime show, which featured an elaborate party sequence set to his then-new single “Filthy,” with the sound so bungled during the segment that audiences could barely hear what was happening.

Simpler-yet-inventive staging can make all the difference, from U2’s evocative backdrop to Prince’s iconic white sheet. And as Bruce Springsteen proved with his 2009 set, a successful halftime show can be as simple as a world-class band, a dynamic vocalist and a well-placed stage camera.

Source : usatoday