Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show headlined by Katy Perry was in some ways the most perfect marriage of a pop world star with Football’s Biggest Day, the former cheerleader mining a trove of hits often built on “push-‘em-back, push-‘em-back, waaaaaay-back”-inspired choruses.
As colleague Mikael Wood points out in his assessment of the nearly 13-minute production, which also featured drop-ins by rocker Lenny Kravitz and rapper Missy Elliot, there was little effort wasted on subtlety or nuance.
For the opening number “Roar,” Perry road in on a gargantuan puppeteered lion, drafted Kravitz to shred on “I Kissed a Girl,” cavorted with animated beach balls, dancing sharks and gyrating palm trees during “California Gurls” and “Teenage Dream” and wrapped things up by turning into a human skyrocket for “Firework.”
Kravitz appeared to be along for the ride to give something for the millions of old-school rock fans who presumably make up a big chunk of the Super Bowl audience, and Elliot surfaced to balance the scales with a generous medley of her gritty hip-hop hits.
Perry's moment at the Super Bowl adds to the near half century of performances that cut across a broad swath of the music world, from university marching bands in the first three contests to 1972 when jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald and trumpeter Al Hirt teamed up through more recent appearances by old guys who still rock such as Paul McCartney (2005) and the Rolling Stones (2006).
It took 20 years for Super Bowl entertainment mavens to start tapping pop stars for the halftime show, and even then it took a while for talent bookers to get up to speed. In 1988, the first postwar pop act to star in the halftime show was Chubby Checker, whose claim to fame hit “The Twist” had been on the charts a quarter century earlier.
Then in 1991, the Walt Disney Co., which had been producing the halftime show periodically in the 1980s, brought in pop band New Kids on the Block. From there the ante bumped up a notch with Gloria Estefan the following year, and then the show turned to the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, in 1993.
For the last decade, pop’s biggest guns have been the rule, from Janet Jackson and her notorious wardrobe malfunction in 2004 to the parade of male rock and pop stars that followed in the next half decade in hopes of avoiding a repeat.
So far in the ‘10s, the Super Bowl has been declared safe for the women of pop and R&B once again, with performances given over to the Black Eyed Peas and Fergie, Madonna, Beyonce and, on Sunday, Santa Barbara’s own Perry.
And who should be the star of next year’s monumental Super Bowl L? May we go out on a limb early and nominate, who L-se? LL Cool J.
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