Super Bowl Halftime Show Sacrifices Ambition for Safety
Even SpongeBob couldn’t save the show from mediocrity.
Feb 6, 2019
With all the controversy that surrounded the selection of musical acts for the Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show, it became clear very early on that the number one priority would be to remain as inoffensive as possible. While it admittedly succeeded at that goal, it failed to accomplish much of anything else. With bland performances from pop band Maroon 5 and rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi, the latest halftime show doomed itself to be depressingly forgettable.
For arguably one of the largest musical events of the year, the energy of the concert felt strangely lacking. Maroon 5 vocalist Adam Levine seemed especially lifeless, shifting about with an amount of kinetic energy roughly equivalent to that of a wooden board.
The live renditions of each of the artists’ most popular songs certainly weren’t poor, but there was little in the way of additional flair. Instead, the show tried to employ some sort of faux-provocativism to mask how bland it was. Scott attempted to crowd surf. Levine removed numerous articles of clothing as the show progressed, to the presumed delight of anyone who enjoys seeing heavily tattooed, muscled men belt out pop songs from 2002. Big Boi was there. The show felt like it was content with lethargically moving down a checklist of concert cliches instead of offering any genuine moments of passion.
The most notable moment of the show turned out to be an extremely brief cameo by popular cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. While fans had hoped for the inclusion of “Sweet Victory,” a song from the cartoon’s halftime show parody episode in 2001, it ended up making no such appearance. The inclusion of a performance that millions of fans petitioned for online could have made the show stand out in at least in one aspect. Instead, the lackluster inclusion of the cartoon feels more like a mediocre way for the organizers to pat themselves on the back for “listening” to the public without taking any actual risks. It’s also worth noting that the idea of having SpongeBob appear at the Halftime Show originated as a direct response to the death of show creator Stephen Hillenburg from ALS in late 2018. A split-second clip of the cartoon as a lead-in to a lyrically gimped rendition of “Sicko Mode” feels odd at best and blatantly disrespectful at worst.
There were a few moments that managed to elevate the show at least for a few fleeting seconds. The use of a live choir during Maroon 5’s performance of “Girls Like You” was a nice touch, and the spectacle of brightly-lit drones in the sky spelling out phrases like “One Love” was heartwarming enough. Even SpongeBob, despite how brief the cameo was, added at least a little bit of spice. Beyond these moments though, there’s not much else to comment on.
The Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show wasn’t anywhere near outright offensive, but it may as well should have been since that’s the only way it could ever hope to be remembered.
Email Ethan Zack at [email protected]