Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show review: A call for change

Bruno Mars performing during halftime. Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP

Bruno Mars performing during halftime. Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP

After the abysmally boring show that was Super Bowl XLVIII, with the Seattle Seahawks obliterating the Denver Broncos, let’s review the only enjoyable part of the game: the halftime show with Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The show was a high-energy delight, and Bruno Mars proved his talent as a performer. The biggest critique against it is how fast it was, but there’s a different kind of critique that should be made as well. That is of the genre selection as a whole. Pop has been the theme in the last few years, and prior to that it was oldies—bands/performers whose primes were mostly in the 80s or earlier. The genre that should take over in the future is country.

But before getting into that, here’s a recap and more in-depth review of the 2014 halftime show:

Mars started out with two of his current biggest songs, Treasure and Locked out of Heaven, and introduced the Red Hot Chili Peppers shortly thereafter, with their hit Give it Away. The well-dressed, suave Mars sang with his shirtless, crazy co-performers, and then came an army tribute video, followed by Mars closing out the show with Just the Way You Are.

The show was a success, as the collaboration between two very different artists/bands worked well and Mars was energetic as ever, showcasing his strong dance skills in the process. It had a variety of traits that make a performance great, including exciting, heartwarming and charismatic.

However, it was incredibly fast and a bit anticlimactic, much like the game being played amidst it. It seemed like the quickest show ever—at least a good amount shorter than last year’s performance by Beyonce; as soon as you were getting into it, it was over. Although it was disappointingly short, at least it was also sweet.

Now for the critique about the genre selection.

Bruno Mars is a pop culture, radio sensation right now, so many were pleased with his appearance. But was he the right guy for the job?

My answer is no. Not because he wasn’t great—he was—but because the Super Bowl halftime performer should be a country artist.

With the Super Bowl being a television program, the network airing it naturally wants as viewer-drawing  a halftime entertainer as possible, so it makes sense that big names, often whoever is most “in” at the time, are going to be chosen.

Past performers besides Beyonce, whose performance was lauded as one of the best, include Madonna, U2, and Britney Spears. After the infamous wardrobe malfunction of Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson, it seemed that networks shied away from using pop artists, and an age of throwback musicians began; Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen, and The Who all performed. Pop returned in 2011 with the Black Eyed Peas’ performance.

All the aforementioned artists are legends in their own rite, with plenty of loyal fans. But what about country?

Although country musicians—big stars even—usually perform for the pregame festivities, in the history of the Super Bowl halftime shows, country artists performed the big gig only two years: Shania Twain in 2003, and a combination of Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, and Wynonna and Naomi Judd in 1994. This just doesn’t seem right.

Why is it strange, you ask?

Because football and country music go together like peanut butter and jelly. No two things scream tailgate party and all-out fun like the Super Bowl and a country music concert. The genre comes from down south, where football is life and the ones who play it are considered otherworldly.

Countless country songs either center around or include a lyric about the sport. For example, Kenny Chesney’s Boys of Fall is all about the bond formed between teammates on a high school football team in a place where the entire town adores them. Lee Brice’s Parking Lot Party is the perfect football tailgate anthem. Hank Williams Jr. had a song called Are You Ready for Some Football?. And when the NFL wanted a song for their game introduction sequence, they went to country stars—first Faith Hill and now Carrie Underwood, with her theme song Waiting All Day for Sunday Night.

Country music is literally the genre of football. So why not give them the halftime show?

Selecting a country artist may not have been good business sense in previous eras, since the genre had never really garnered mainstream interest. But in recent years, it has acquired a bigger fan base than ever before. Carrie Underwood put country music on the map after winning American Idol, and Taylor Swift helped make it mainstream by blending it with pop and getting her songs on the radio. Now, their peers like Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and the Band Perry are names known to people across the nation, whether they’re country fans or not. The television network ABC created a show all about the music, Nashville, that has found widespread success. Artists are appearing in shows and movies and crossing over into other genres—successfully (re: Jason Aldean’s part rap song Dirt Road Anthem).

Now is the time. Country fits with football better than anything. It’s a feel-good genre and there are artists whom audiences will enjoy, even if they don’t consider themselves country fans. A collaboration of a country and rap/pop star could be dynamite. The country stars of today deserve an opportunity to share some of the big gig spotlight, and viewers deserve a performance that ignites them and meshes perfectly with the game the show is for, which as shown tonight, could sometimes use spicing up. Country music can deliver that spice.

However it’s done, and whoever is chosen, one thing is certain: Country music needs to be brought to the halftime show—for the artists and for the viewers, from the diehard football fans to the one-game watchers and all who are in between.

Perhaps 2015 will be the year.

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