First off, let’s get the disappointments out of the way: there was no hologram Tupac on Sunday night.
As “California Love” kicked in during the Super Bowl halftime show, I was positive that we were going to see a hologram Tupac Shakur and I was going to lose my fucking mind about it. My wife, even more excited than I was, was thinking that perhaps all of the “Pac is secretly alive” rumors were true and he was going to come onstage and melt everyone’s mind. Sadly, neither of those things happened and I was a little let down.
That would be the only time during the halftime show I would be disappointed.
Each of the names who performed on the halftime show last night are, in their own right, massive stars. However, the sun whose gravity ties them all together is Dr. Dre.
Pepsi and NBC’s decision to leave their halftime show in Dre’s hands is both expected and surprising. This year’s Super Bowl was played in Los Angeles’ Sofi Arena, and there are few people more synonymous with that city than the brilliant producer and performer, even with only three studio albums to his name (and his last album, the underwhelming Compton, was released in 2015). Dr. Dre is also, at times, a King Midas producer as evidence by the people who were onstage with him last night: Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar- that’s a who’s who of hip hop & R&B. I mean, when Anderson .Paak shows up unannounced and uncredited just to play drums for you, you can rest assured that you’re a pretty big name.
That being said, this felt like a risky choice for the Super Bowl, who has always seemed to have the slogan of, “Our halftime acts better make white people feel safe!” This is the first time in LVI (56) halftime shows that the lineup was marketed so aggressively to fans of hip hop (I am not counting 2011 despite the fact that the main act was the pop-friendly Black Eyed Peas). It’s important to point out that for the first XXV (25) years of Super Bowls, the show involved either a marching band or the uber-dorky group Up With People. And I get that we’re talking about shows from over XXX (30) years ago, but for the NFL, this is a drastic change.
I imagine there were some who attempted to bring up the sordid past of the artists performing. After all, when Dr. Dre’s N.W.A. told us to “F*** The Police”, removing the asterisks doesn’t spell out the word “fund”. Eminem, who kneeled during his performance as an honor to Colin Kaepernick, rapped his Oscar-winning “Lose Yourself”, one of the few songs he has that isn’t homophobic, misogynistic, or glorifying violence. 50 Cent has lyrics about being shot 9 times, and none of those seem accidental. And I’m not sure if you have heard, but Snoop Dogg has been frequently linked with cannabis use.
And if you want to know what the biggest effect Dr. Dre has had on our culture, here it is: he made these things Super Bowl-appropriate.
Dre took a spotlight and shined it on Compton and said, “Here are important voices and stories that I will provide beats to. And these songs will be so special that you will have no choice but to want to listen to them. This is America, even if you’re too scared to look at it.” And over three decades, he unapologetically brought the zeitgeist to him. Last night was a celebration of Los Angeles and these amazing artists, but also the man who helped bring it all together.
Of course, some silly white people were still going to be terrified and that brings up to Charlie Kirk.
Kirk is the founder of Turning Point USA, and that kind of makes him like Dr. Dre. Except where Dre brought music and culture to suburban youth, Kirk is trying to ram white conservatism and Reaganomics into their DNA. Ever see a kid with a punchable face talk to you about family values? I’d bet he found himself in a Turning Point USA conference.
Anyways, Kirk watched the show last night and then tweeted this:
Now, I’m not sure exactly what he meant by this, particularly because I would not describe this year’s halftime show as especially sexy. Perhaps Kirk was remembering when Shakira and Jennifer Lopez brought their hip-shaking to the stage two years ago. Or perhaps he just saw Mary J. Blige, who looked DYNAMITE, and had a weird feeling in his pants. Hopefully, he will not call Ben Shapiro to as about what WAP means. Honestly, it just feels like he is conflicted about which side he would take in the movie Footloose.
I have no idea what “sexual anarchy” means, though it sounds dope as fuck. What I’m guessing is that it’s just code, the same way people called Beyoncé’s 2017 appearance during the Coldplay halftime show “militant”. Charlie Kirk probably saw a lot of people on screen who didn’t look like him and that scared him. Kirk needs MAGA to be a thing because that’s the only place he feels safe; probably because loud crowds of white people not worried about consequences for their speech is the only thing he’s ever known. Still, I e-mailed Turning Point to ask exactly what “sexual anarchy” was and where it was visible during the halftime show. I have yet to receive a response but will update if I hear anything.
As great as this halftime show was, it was nothing compared to the show Prince put on in 2007. Here are two stories that you NEED to know about from that show. Here’s the first story:
Prince is performing on a slick stage and it becomes even more slippery as it begins to rain before halftime. Also, dude is in heels because, well, he’s goddamned Prince. A show producer walks up to Prince and mentions that it’s raining pretty hard. Prince turns to the producer and asks, “Do you think you can make it rain HARDER?”
I love that story. But not as much as this one:
Prince is notoriously fickle with the media. One of his common practices was to not allow reporters to record their interviews or take notes. Reporters would only be allowed to write about what they felt like Prince was talking about. This sounds crazy, but Chuck Klosterman pointed out that it’s actually genius. So many articles are bad news for people because a quote is taken out of context and put in the worst possible light. But, if you take out the quotes, then all you have is context.
So, anyways, it’s days before the Super Bowl and Prince has to do a press conference. Every other artist has just sat down and answered questions, but none of those people are Prince. Dude brings a full band to the conference, announces he will take questions, then as the reporter asks the first question, delivers a blistering set that was better than some of those Up With People performances from earlier Super Bowls. Then he leaves.
I’m not doing this justice, so please just watch it:
Prince fucking ruled, you guys.
This century has featured a weird pile of halftime show performers. Following 2004, where Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s nipple, we were given a series of very “safe” acts your parents would enjoy (Prince being the notable exception). Safe pop returned in 2011 with the Black-Eyed Peas, but you could see Pepsi and the Super Bowl trying to bring their shows to a younger demographic, which is what gave us people like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga and last years’ Weeknd show.
Here are the top 10 halftime shows we’ve gotten since 2000. I was going to post the video links, but the stupid NFL won’t let me embed them because I don’t have expressed permission, so go look them up.
10. U2 (2002)
SONGS: “Beautiful Day”, “MLK”, “Where The Streets Have No Name”
9. Shakira & Jennifer Lopez (2020)
SONGS: “Dare (La La La)”, “She Wolf”, “Kashimir”, “Empire”, “Ojos Asi”, “Whenever, Wherever”, “I Like It”, “Chantaje/Callaita”, “Hips Don’t Lie”, “Jenny From The Block”, “Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix)”, “Get Right”, “Waiting For Tonight”, “Booty”/”Que Calor”/”El Anillo”/”Love Don’t Cost A Thing”/”Me Gente”, “On The Floor”, “Let’s Get Loud”/”Born In The USA”, “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)”
SPECIAL GUESTS: Bad Bunny, J. Balvin, Emme Muñiz
8. Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, Justin Timberlake (2004)
SONGS: “The Way You Move”, “All For You”, “Bad Boy For Life”, “Diddy”, “Hot In Herre”, “Mo Money, Mo Problems”, “Bawidtaba”, “Cowboy”, “Rhythm Nation”, “Rock Your Body”
SPECIAL GUESTS: Spirit Of Houston & Ocean Of Soul Marching Bands
7. Katy Perry (2015)
SONGS: “Roar”, “Dark Horse”, “I Kissed A Girl”, “Teenage Dream”, “California Gurls”, “Get Ur Freak On”, “Work It”, “Lose Control”, “Firework”
SPECIAL GUESTS: Lenny Kravitz, Missy Elliott, Arizona State University Marching Band
6. Bruce Springsteen (2009)
SONGS: “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”, “Born To Run”, “Working On A Dream”, “Glory Days”
SPECIAL GUESTS: The Miami Horns
5. Lady Gaga (2017)
SONGS: “God Bless America”/”This Land Is Your Land”, “Poker Face”, “Born This Way”, “Telephone”, “Just Dance”, “Million Reasons”, “Bad Romance”
4. Beyoncé (2013)
SONGS: “Run The World”, “Love On Top”, “Crazy In Love”, “End Of Time”, “Baby Boy”, “Bootylicious”, “Independent Women, Part 1”, “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”, “Halo”
SPECIAL GUESTS: Destiny’s Child
3. Bruno Mars (2014)
SONGS: “Billionaire”, “Locked Out Of Heaven”, “Treasure”, “Runaway Baby”, “Give It Away”, “Just The Way You Are”
SPECIAL GUESTS: Red Hot Chili Peppers
2. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar (2022)
SONGS: “The Next Episode”, “California Love”, “In Da Club”, “Family Affair”, “No More Drama”, “M.A.A.D City”, “Alright”, “Forgot About Dre”, “Lose Yourself”, “Still D.R.E.”
SPECIAL GUESTS: 50 Cent, Anderson .Paak
1. Prince (2007)
SONGS: “We Will Rock You”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Baby, I’m A Star”, “Proud Mary”, “1999”, “All Around The Watchtower”, “Best Of You”, “Purple Rain”
SPECIAL GUESTS: Florida A&M Marching Band