“Look, I’m not saying she’s a bad singer, it just wasn’t a good show, okay? It’s my right to not like something.”
Was that someone’s opinion about the performance of megastar Rihanna during Super Bowl LVII’s halftime show on Sunday night? Yes, but you also could take that exact quote, plug in the name of the halftime star of an older Super Bowl (insert your preferred roman numeral here), and it would still hold up.
Because a good portion of the country could never possibly hate the annual Super Bowl halftime show more if the NFL decided to have someone from one of America’s two major political parties host a town hall meeting, instead.
Maybe it’s not a good segment of the country that hates the Super Bowl’s halftime show each and every year. Perhaps it’s just a good portion of social media—I know, same difference. But in the days before social media, the NFL would simply announce its Super Bowl halftime performer, and that performer would perform at intermission of the Big Game. A good percentage of viewers may or may not have liked it, but we certainly never had to hear much about it, before, during or after.
Now, we hear about the outrage the moment the darn performer is announced in the months leading up to the Super Bowl. People have to tell us they won’t watch. They have to remind us that they’d rather be doing other things during the halftime show...like answering Mother Nature’s call. Of course, they also take to social media to remind us all of this during the halftime show. They then remind us again about how awful the whole thing was—and how enjoyable Mother Nature’s call was—the next morning.
But hearing about a person’s bathroom habits may actually be more pleasant than the alternatives many of these folks suggest for the halftime performers.
What is it with people and Metallica? Metallica, seriously?
Most people may or may not know who Metallica is, but their songs certainly aren’t omnipresent. You’re not going to hear Enter Sandman while sitting in the dentist's office.
However, there’s a decent chance you may hear Rihanna’s We Found Love.
You may also hear Umbrella, one of Rihanna’s biggest hits (and that’s saying something), while shopping at your local supermarket. But I doubt you’ll ever hear...man, I can’t think of any hit songs from country music star Chris Stapleton, well, except that duet he did with Justin Timberlake.
I guess I’m not much of a country music fan, but I am a 50-year-old man who just happens to know a lot of songs from both Rihanna and Justin Timberlake.
I’m guessing the vast majority of the country—even the segment that loves hard rock and/or country music and can’t stomach “THAT POP CRAP!!!!!”—also knows who Rihanna and Justin Timberlake are.
And that’s why the pop world—and not legacy acts or country music stars—dominates the halftime show each and every year. Sure, you can say that Rihanna and Timberlake are now legacy performers, but they’re legacy performers who still get tons of airplay on top 40 radio.
You can’t say the same about Metallica, and you’re probably never again going to say that about Chris Stapleton.
The NFL knows this, and that’s why it hires pop superstars to perform at its annual Super Bowl halftime show. Also, pop superstars aren’t just huge in America, they’re usually pretty big internationally, too. The Super Bowl has become a worldwide spectacle, with over 100 million people tuning in in America, alone.
That’s a lot of eyeballs to appeal to.
People in Istanbul, Turkey, know who Rihanna is. However, I wouldn’t recognize Chris Stapleton if I saw him walking through downtown Pittsburgh with a turkey under each arm.
This is no knock against bands like Metallica or country music singers like Stapleton. And there is no shame in being a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen—he was once a pop and rock megastar—but the last time Springsteen starred in a halftime show—February 1, 2009, when the Steelers outlasted the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII—he was already pretty darn old for a musician. The Boss is now in his 70s. Do you really think he’s going to appeal to the majority of Super Bowl viewers in 2023?
Let me answer that question: He’s not.
Going on social media and demanding that some niche rock band (Metallica), country music singer without any real crossover appeal (Chris Stapleton) or a 70something rock legend (The Boss) be the star of a Super Bowl halftime performance is like attending a Friends reunion show and booing because the guy that played Mr. Heckles isn’t sitting on stage next to the six main cast members.
Next, you’re going to tell me that the production of the Super Bowl LVII halftime show was subpar.
Don’t we say that every year? I mean, it’s a concert inside a huge football stadium that you’re watching on your television. While it may not sound the best in your living room, I’m sure the production value of your average Super Bowl halftime show is much better for those in attendance.
It sucks that it can’t be better for the folks watching at home, but that’s why YouTube was invented—so we can hear quality music whenever we want.
The bottom line is this: The NFL wants you talking about the Super Bowl halftime show, and it probably doesn’t care all that much if a lot of the reactions are negative.
Pop singers like Rihanna, Timberlake, Eminem and Dr. Dre generate much more buzz than Brooks and/or Dunn.
My 72-year-old mom, who listens to AM talk radio all day long, knows who Miley Cyrus is, but she has no idea who Chris Stapleton is.
Again, that is exactly why the NFL books its Super Bowl halftime show with the type of talent that it does every year.
You don’t like the halftime show? Nobody told you you had to. You always say you’re not going to watch, so don’t.
But if you’re going to crap all over it on social media, at least give us all the benefit of a courtesy flush before you’re done.