At some point, the halftime entertainment at the Super Bowl became a national referendum on the state of popular music.
Or, as the debate has boiled down to in recent years, “Stuff I like (which is great) or that garbage you like.”
We have no room for compromise or acceptance anymore. Everything geared toward anyone needs to first and foremost be geared toward us. And if we don’t get that, or if we get it and still don’t like it, then we turn into oversized children. It “sucks.” It’s “terrible.” It’s something that represents “no talent.”
My favorite major market radio talk show host is Dan Bernstein from Chicago’s The Score. His Tweet as Beyonce concluded her halftime performance — praise from a man not prone to handing it out lightly or often — seemed straight on the mark:
“Only a hopeless curmudgeon would think that was anything less than spectacular. Major star, perfectly produced. #Beyonce #SuperBowl”
And that, one though, was that. A positive endorsement. As Bernstein wrote, only killjoys and wet blankets would complain about that kind of performance.
Until the social media fallout began, and others begged to differ.
n “best part of this halftime will be? The end!”
n “The NFL used to have musical acts at halftime.”
n “when a fav group of mine gets on stage, I like to hear them actually perform it.”
n “The top girl at any strip club could have pulled off this performance.”
n “dude I want some rock in the Super Bowl”
Beyonce isn’t exactly an unknown entity. She’s the most successful female recording act of the century, she’s done television and film, and her songs have reached deep into American playlists — as long as you’re paying attention. What she is should not be a surprise.
Yet she’s not musical? She’s a stripper? She doesn’t rock?
Well, OK, the latter is true — she definitely doesn’t “rawk.” And past performers like Bruce Springsteen and U2 don’t do R&B-based dance songs. This isn’t news to anyone paying any attention.
But that’s just it. There’s a portion of the audience that doesn’t want to pay attention until it does. So it’s far easier to complain about geezers onstage playing grandpa rock, or strippers onstage not being musical.
Very rarely do entertainers on huge national stages prove to be anything other than what they are. Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys performed the national anthem in their style. Their fans thought they were fantastic. Their detractors thought they were un-American. And those in the middle wondered exactly what was expected of either.
When singing the anthem, if performers do a straight-forward reading, the question becomes “Why did you get them in the first place?” And if they dare to tattoo any personality on the two-century-old tune, they’re criticized and told to “just sing the song.”
Beyonce wasn’t going to come out and do anything other than dance and sing a few songs. That’s her thing. Tom Petty and The Who weren’t going to do anything other than come out, plug in and play their major hits. To criticize Bruce Springsteen for not playing “I’m On Fire” or whine because Paul McCartney didn’t play “No More Lonely Nights” or whine about the senior citizens from The Rolling Stones to do anything other than play their “geezer rock” broadly misses the point.
The one thing we should know about Super Bowl acts is they’re going to give us largely what we expect. (Prince being the exception that proves the rule.) In 13 minutes, we’ll get four or five hits, and that night and the next day have to listen to too many sudden experts talk about how great or lousy it was.
Yeah, 13 minutes. All this fuss over 13 minutes of nonsense in the middle of a football game.
It should have been easy enough early on to determine whether Beyonce “sucked” or “ruled” to your taste. If the former, then you had 10 minutes for a bathroom break, a smoke, a reload from the buffet — anything to remove yourself from the hell to which you’d been transported. If you forced yourself to sit a quarter-hour through the unbearable, then you’re the fool — no one else is.
It’s going to happen again next year. The NFL will make its announcement, people will be excited or complain, the four or five songs will come and go, and too many of us will be wide-eyed and demanding something … well, something different, at least. And we can start it all up again.
It’s never too late to come up with creative insults toward those whose art is different from our taste. So, go!