ATLANTA — Maroon 5 edged into the Super Bowl with a whimper, but left the stage with a bang. Or, at least, plenty of fireworks.
The festivities began with Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine taking to a gargantuan MV-shaped stage as quickly deployed lights all over the field flashed in time and flames lit up the edges of the stage. A crowd of conveniently cheerful extras thronged the stage for some of Maroon 5’s pleasingly competent power pop.
Levine had hinted that there would be some sort of nod to social justice in the performance, but that wasn’t immediately apparent in the show. Levine didn’t wear, say, a Kaepernick jersey, and none of the performers appeared to make any overt political statements … which, to be honest, is surely exactly how the NFL preferred it.
A bit of out-of-context SpongeBob peppered the show as Travis Scott entered the arena and began rapping alongside the Maroon 5 lads. Then Big Boi took the show to another level, rolling up in a sweet Cadillac and sporting a fur coat big enough to hide Ndamukong Suh. His slick, all-too-brief snippet of Outkast’s “The Way You Move” was the show’s musical highlight. The set closed with “Moves Like Jagger” and enough fireworks to detonate a city block.
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The Super Bowl halftime show is one of the music world’s most prized gigs, considering that each performance brings with it a guaranteed nine-figure viewing audience. So when Maroon 5 got the job last year, the reaction was a resounding, “Them? Really?” After all, there are plenty of other, more notable acts that could carry the night; we named 10 of them right here without even breaking a sweat. Plus, the initial omission of any Atlanta-centric artists seemed to ace out the host city’s substantial contribution to musical culture.
Then there was the petition to have the SpongeBob SquarePants anthem “Sweet Victory” played at halftime in honor of the show’s creator, who died in November. Soon afterward, the NFL announced that Big Boi, one half of ATL’s Outkast, and Travis Scott would join Maroon 5 onstage. The halftime show, always a bizarre dog’s breakfast of slapped-together talent, seemed in danger of careening off the rails entirely.
Then add in reports that many notable acts, including Rihanna, Jay-Z and Common, declined to participate or put pressure on Scott to withdraw out of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick’s social justice causes, and you’ve got the makings of a full-on PR crisis. Almost surely recognizing the possibility for Kaepernick to flare up as a story once again, the NFL abruptly canceled the traditional halftime act’s press conference:
Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine noted that he was aware of the swirling social justice drama behind the scenes, and said that voices for change like Kaepernick advocates would be heard during the show.
“They will be [heard] — that’s all I want to say because I don’t want to spoil anything,” Levine told Entertainment Tonight earlier this week. “I like to think that people know where I stand as a human being after two decades doing this. I’m not a speaker. I’m not a public speaker. I do speak, but it’s through the music. My life’s work and what I put out into the universe has been positive and hopefully inspiring.”
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