For the past six years, the Super Bowl halftime show has featured real rock heroes to wash away memories of 2004’s infamous wardrobe malfunction. Ready to mix things up again, the NFL threw some TRON attire on the Black Eyed Peas to capture the largest demographics possible. The Peas performed an uninspired medley of their hits with the help of some live auto-tune processing–best to play it safe with the singing, especially after Christina Aguilera messed up the lyrics to the national anthem.
There was little spectacle tonight: minimal dancing and a partially unlit stage spelling “love” were especially disappointing when compared to the grandeur of Prince or U2. To make things stranger, legendary guitarist Slash rose from the stage to play “Sweet Child of Mine” with Fergie, a song terribly unsuited to her vocal range. Then adding insult to injury, the Peas continued playing their own songs (“Pump It”) to a backing track, leaving Slash and a full horn section with nothing to do. Thankfully, Usher came out to save the day with true stage presence. And, if you listened carefully, you could hear his world-class band playing from some hidden location. The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica put it best when he noted that “Usher’s spectacular choreography, including a high leap over a kneeling will.i.am, landing in a split, only highlighted the headliners’ weaknesses.”
Canned chart-toppers with no spectacle, no clever collaboration and no value beyond that of pop radio. To everyone else who enjoys the ads and halftime show as much (or more than) the football: better luck next year.