Michael Jackson was arguably the first extremely popular, A-list pop star to play the Super Bowl halftime show. He performed at the Rose Bowl in 1993 during Super Bowl XXVII.
TV ratings skyrocketed during the performance, setting a precedent for highly anticipated, extravagant halftime performances with star musicians on the bill.
Eleven years later, the Jackson family made halftime performance history again. You know, the “wardrobe malfunction.” It was shocking and unusual, but also incredibly hilarious and entertaining. People talked about it for weeks.
Since the fateful “Nipplegate” scandal, however, the NFL has been playing it safe and selecting their performers very carefully.
The year after the infamous incident, for instance, Paul McCartney performed. The Beatles are the most influential and respected pop group of all time, and McCartney is old and calm. Safe choice.
They are classic, timeless bands, bands that millions love and often pay hundreds of dollars to see perform. Basically, all safe choices as well.
People generally watch the Super Bowl for three reasons: the game, the commercials and the halftime show. These reasons are by no means mutually exclusive, as many people watch for the entire spectacle.
But the point is that, at least since MJ’s 1993 performance, the halftime show is one of the game’s main draws and thousands of people tune in to watch whoever is scheduled as the main entertainer.
Year after year, however, thousands of people are disappointed. Critics panned Bruce Springsteen for lip-synching, and people criticized The Who for being old and outdated and not performing in a grand way for such a large audience.
People condemned Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake after their scandal, but many consider it the most memorable halftime performance in the last 15 years. The duo definitely delivered with high-level entertainment, even if they received a bit of bad press for a while.
Now, for the first time since the world saw more of Janet Jackson than it ever really wanted to see, a modern pop group is set to take the halftime show stage again.
Classic rock musicians might be generally more talented and critically appreciated, but modern pop groups are meant for commercially focused global events like the Super Bowl.
That’s why this Sunday’s performance by the Black Eyed Peas should appeal to a wider audience and ultimately prove more successful than performances of years past.
The performance should be entertaining because, finally, the NFL has made an unsafe choice. The Black Eyed Peas appeals to younger fans and is certainly not considered a timeless or classic group.
The lyrics are relatively controversial, as they have a hit about Fergie’s body called “My Humps” and another song called “Let’s Get Retarded,” which was later changed to “Let’s Get It Started.” Fergie even has had a Janet Jackson-like moment of her own, when she appeared to pee her pants on stage.
For the unique choice alone, I commend the NFL. It finally realized that mass audiences want younger, more popular groups who know how to put on an extravagant performance.
But, inevitably, the Black Eyed Peas will not be a total success. Older football fans will think they’re too young and not relatable.
Others will complain that the show is not spectacular enough. People will nitpick the performance to death. Hipster music snobs will shake their heads and head to the fridge for another Pabst Blue Ribbon.
That’s the problem with mass entertainment. No single artist or piece of art is likely to appeal to every single person in the world, so no single performance is likely to appeal to every single person watching the Super Bowl.
Some people loved Prince’s awesome Foo Fighters cover a few years ago; others hated the performance. When thousands are watching the same concert, whether they really want to watch it or not, there are bound to be thousands of people who end up disappointed.
This Sunday, members of the Black Eyed Peas have the chance to represent the younger generation and prove that their group is at least somewhat entertaining and appealing on a global level. This is the Super Bowl, after all, not necessarily highbrow entertainment.
If they fail, oh well. We can only hope that Fergie has some sort of wardrobe malfunction.
Will Hagle is a sophomore majoring in narrative studies. His column, “Feedback,” runs Wednesdays.