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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Review: Super Bowl LVI’s nostalgic halftime show

A break from pop-centered artists, hip-hop prodigies take the stage, representing ‘90s music and Black culture


By SIERRA JIMENEZ — arts@theaggie.org


The Super Bowl halftime show — one of the biggest musical performances of the world, and an iconic American staple — puts pressure on the performers to go above and beyond expectations from years past. We all remember Beyoncé’s queen energy at Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 and dynamic duo Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s hip shaking performance at Super Bowl LIV halftime show in 2020. Will this year’s show go down in history the same way? 

Compared to halftime shows in the past, which seemed to cater towards a younger audience showcasing artists like The Weeknd, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry, this year’s hip-hop legend headliners, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent, were most popular in the ‘90s or early 2000s. 

Generation Z, including myself, have an appreciation for older hip hop tunes we would listen to with our parents on the drive to school, but older generations were exhilarated to hear something other than modern pop music on the halftime stage, dancing in front of the screen in reminiscence (we’ve all seen the Tik Tok videos). 

The show began with Dr. Dre, elevated into view with the foreseeable but classic “Da, da, da, da, da / It’s the motherf*****’ D-O-double-G” starting off with the legendary Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg song, “The Next Episode.” Snoop Dogg, wearing the colors of the Golden State, joins Dr. Dre atop the grandiose float resembling a large white mansion with convertibles parked out front. The set, a cliché Los Angeles image with city lights projected on the ground below and rooms filled with the stars surrounded by beautiful women, was fitting for the location of the SoFi stadium in Inglewood, CA and the stomping grounds for the SoCal locals Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg themselves. 

The camera then transitioned to 50 Cent, who transcended gravity by appearing in one of the stage’s rooms upside down. He performed “In Da Club” as if he was actually in da club instead of the middle of a football field. Mary J. Blige, atop the float in a captivating blinged-out fit, slayed her R&B classics, “Family Affair” and “No More Drama” showing off her incredible musical pipes by hitting all sorts of vocal runs. 

Kendrick Lamar then rises out of a box to begin his beautifully executed portion of the performance with a blend of his songs “m.A.A.d city” and “Alright” while dancing in fluidity with the background dancers and funny enough, not making eye contact with the camera whatsoever (which I found comical). The performance then transitions to Eminem and Dr. Dre’s “Forgot About Dre.” 

Exploding out of the set, Eminem levitated on stage with Dr. Dre on the ivories and rapper Anderson .Paak on drums, jamming alongside Eminem, ending the set with the “Still D.R.E.” performed by Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre himself. 

Despite these renowned names in rap music performing legendary nostalgic hits, I was disappointed in comparison to performances in the past. It seemed as though the physical set — the mansion moat — had the most time and effort put into the performance and not so much the performance itself. 

Despite my personal views, the 2022 Super Bowl drew the biggest viewing in five years, according to the New York Times, with an average of 112.3 million viewers tuning in on television and streaming. The halftime show itself averaged 103.4 million viewers, a seven percent increase from The Weeknd’s performance last year.  

With a $13 million budget from the NFL, Dr. Dre matched The Weeknd by spending $7 million out of pocket on the performance, according to CNA Luxury, capping this year’s halftime show at $20 million. While this year’s show cost more than The Weeknd’s in 2021, I felt as though the performance didn’t quite match the enormous amount of money put into it. 

The dancers were sporadic and there seemed to be no continuity between performers. Where were all the matching outfits? Where was the flashiness of fire, lights and coordination of dancers? The performance was, dare I say, messy? Kendrick Lamar’s bit was the most put-together out of the whole performance, and Eminimen’s appearance was the most extravagant part of the show. 

For viewers who were looking for the spunk and pazazz from previous halftime sets like Lady Gaga atop the peak of the stadium or the geometric lion Katy Perry wrangled, this performance was subpar in presentation to shows in the past. Although I found the overall performance less than desirable, I appreciated, and will not overlook, the messaging and sentiment of the show’s presentation. 

Amidst the recent political climate, perhaps this year’s halftime show was focused more on racial awareness and Black celebration than your typical flashy pop-driven halftime show. In the history of the Super Bowl halftime shows, this year’s performance will be the first time hip-hop took center stage, according to New York Times. An overwhelmingly Black genre, hip-hop has its roots in rebellion and expression of discontent from its origin in the Bronx, NY and lower income communities of color. Dr. Dre, “gangsta rap pioneer,” according to Discover Music, was an ideal lead for this year’s halftime show.  

Grappling with racial controversies in recent years, the NFL likely wanted to represent Black artists to showcase diversity. This recognition of Black artists was a long time coming; it took deliberate racial controversy to bring these artists to center stage at the halftime show in which everyone across the country tunes in. 

Controversy, from Eminem’s kneeling in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick — though the NFL is reported to deny Eminem permission to do prior to performance — to Dr. Dre’s lyric “still not loving the police” in his song “Still D.R.E,” according to Vanity Fair, and not to mention Snoop Dogg’s allegedly “gang-related” bandana jumpsuit, this year’s halftime show was a balance of celebration and protest. 

Whether the actual performance was considered “good” or not, it was an important cultural shift in NFL and American history as a statement to the racial discrimination in the fabrics of American culture and politics. Black artists were finally given a spotlight and those who grew up on ‘90s rap were able to reconnect with the oldies but goldies. 


Written by: Sierra Jimenez — arts@theaggie.org



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