I’m genuinely curious about who makes these decisions. Is it a clueless cadre of rich white guys with absolutely no insight into current pop culture? A premeditatedly diverse group of third-party advisers and marketeers with their supposed finger on the musical pulse of the nation? A dartboard and a monkey?
Because any or all of those seem like possible candidates for having chosen many of the Superbowl acts in my viewing lifetime.
Case in pointless: According to the AP,
The Material Girl will be taking the stage on football’s biggest night.
Madonna, who has sold more than 300 million records, will perform at halftime of the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. The NFL and NBC announced Sunday during the Detroit-New Orleans game that the Grammy Award-winning singer will highlight the show at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 5.
Look, I realize that — regardless of your personal opinion of her — Madonna is a peerless cultural icon. And I readily admit to enjoying much of her music (though, to be honest, I can’t actually name anything she’s done since “Beautiful Stranger” from Austin Powers). But Madonna is emphatically not a Superbowl halftime act. For that matter, neither are half the acts that have appeared over the years? Why? Because the Superbowl is FOOTBALL!!!11!, and FOOTBALL!!!11! is not pop — it’s rock and/or roll. Arena Rock, Grunge Rock, Southern Rock, Brit Rock — it doesn’t matter what kind of rock, as long as it’s rock.
To borrow from the immortal George Carlin:
Football is played on a GRIDIRON, in a STADIUM…
Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting, and unnecessary roughness…
Football is played in any kind of weather: Rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog…can’t see the game, don’t know if there is a game going on; mud on the field…can’t read the uniforms, can’t read the yard markers, the struggle will continue!
And to add my own: it’s the only sport where the interactive object upon which the sport is contingent is also referred to as “the rock” (e.g.).
Now peep this list of Superbowl halftime acts from just the last decade:
- 2001: Aerosmith, ’N Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Nelly
- 2002: U2
- 2003: Shania Twain, No Doubt, Sting
- 2004: Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly [editor’s note: twice in four years? WTF?), Kid Rock, Justin Timberlake
- 2005: Paul McCartney
- 2006: The Rolling Stones
- 2007: Prince, Florida A&M UniversityMarching 100 Band
- 2008: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
- 2009: Bruce Springsteenand the E Street Band
- 2010: The Who
- 2011: The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Slash
- 2012: Madonna, Cirque du Soleil
See those underlined names? Those are the only performers who even remotely belong on stage at a Superbowl halftime show — and that’s a generous assessment, including, as it does, No Doubt and Tom Petty.
The biggest annual sporting and television event in the nation deserves better. Not necessarily bigger, mind you — it’d be tough to get a “bigger” name than Madonna — but I would gladly watch a lesser-known rock band like a Jet or…shit, I don’t know, even Nickelback over a withering pop star like stringy Ciccone there. Where are the Chili Peppers? Where are the goddamn Foo Fighters? Where are my co-editors to name a rock band that people actually listen to these days since I know jack about music?
UPDATE BY TOM: Sting deserves an underline here, as The Police are most definitely rock and/or roll.
As you were.
UPDATE BY TREVOR: Have you heard a Sting album in the last 15 years? The dude hasn’t rocked since The Police!