This year, the NFL has decided to give us the Black Eyed Peas for our halftime entertainment during Super Bowl XLV. This is basically a knee-jerk reaction to last year's act, with geriatric The Who performing. The Who weren't awful - but they weren't particularly entertaining, playing a five-song medley, with "Pinball Wizard" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" serving as the opening and the closing, with a trio of abbreviated songs sandwiched in-between.
Thanks to the collective yawn for a reaction to last year's halftime show, the NFL is going in the polar opposite direction with the Black Eyed Peas. If the NFL felt they alienated the younger part of their audience with The Who last year, they're going to feel like they alienated the older part of their audience come Monday. The Black Eyed Peas aren't awful - they're pretty harmless. Their music is more appropriate for dance remixes found at bars than it is at a halftime show; it's heavily processed, mainstream music that just isn't terribly conducive to a live setting. Also, it's not very good. Harmless, yes, good, no.
That's not to say the Black Eyed Peas can't be entertaining and produce a good halftime show. The Black Eyed Peas should be able to fit right in with previous acts as the NFL typically has had schizophrenic halftime shows, specifically during the past decade.
Super Bowl XXXV's halftime show featured N'Sync, Aerosmith, Nelly, Mary J. Blige and Britney Spears. Oh yeah, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and Chris Rock filmed the introduction. While it may have been entertaining to some - I mean, they did have almost every demographic covered there - it still was all over the place, playing an abbreviated version of five different songs with five different artists contributing.
Still, that performance was eons better than the NFL's attempt to recreate a gigantic, widely appealing halftime show as they attempted in Super Bowl XXXVIII with Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock and Justin Timberlake. Does anybody actually remember the performance at all? Try to think of a song that was played without checking on YouTube - you might come up with one, since they did play parts of seven songs. All that is remembered from that halftime show is the "wardrobe malfunction" which left Janet Jackson's ninja star (seriously, what the hell was that?) on her boob exposed.
The NFL since scaled it down, bringing Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty & the Heatbreakers, Bruce Springsteen, Prince and the Who on board. Prince's performance stands out among those - but playing seven abbreviated songs? One of which belonged to the Foo Fighters, and another being a bluesy verse of All Along the Watchtower. Overrated.
The Black Eyed Peas can conceivably match the aforementioned shows in terms of entertainment - but that doesn't mean the music is actually good. The energy should certainly exceed that of The Rolling Stones, the Who and Tom Petty - combined.
It will be impossible, though, for the Black Eyed Peas to have the best halftime show - that will almost certainly always belong to Super Bowl XXXVI. After seeing an Elevation Tour concert in October, NFL officials decided to select U2 to perform in New Orleans for the halftime show, just months after the September 11th terrorist attacks - and it was perfect.
Why was it perfect?
It was simple. The stage, a replication of their stage used for their recently concluded Elevation Tour, was simple - heart shaped, with a few hundred lucky people inside and outside of it. U2 came out playing a recent hit in "Beautiful Day," a song that was most certainly fitting for the Super Bowl, and especially for Patriots fans who saw the birth of New England's dynasty that night.
What sets U2 apart from all the other halftime shows, though, is what happened next. Instead of playing another stadium anthem following "Beautiful Day", such as "Pride (In the Name of Love)," or a high energy rocker such as "Desire" or "Elevation," U2 decided to sober the crowd.
A backdrop fell behind the stage with the names of the September 11th victims scrolling down from it as Bono sang "MLK," which is essentially a somber lullaby.
"Sleep, sleep tonight, and may your dreams be realized, If a thunder cloud passes rain, so let it rain, rain on me."
The organ outro from "MLK" quietly faded out while The Edge started to play his most recognizable riff, the intro to "Where the Streets Have No Name," while Bono recited Psalm 51 before U2's best song kicked into full gear. It was perfectly fitting for the time both lyrically and musically - capturing a sense of optimism drawn from a better place, a place where, well, the streets have no name.
Not one to shy away from the spotlight, Bono, as "Streets" came to a close, opened up his jacket to reveal an American flag - despite being Irish, of course. It was just another reminder that we were all, for a brief time anyway, united as Americans. Fitting, too, that the Patriots won that Super Bowl.
So, good luck Fergie, Will.i.am and the rest of the Black Eyed Peas. You won't reach U2's level on Sunday - and you probably won't even reach Prince's - but you should still be able to entertain us, even if your music does suck. Just give us something cohesive and energetic and not a random mish-mash of thirty-seven songs pieced together to try to appeal to the Justin Bieber and Bob Dylan demographics and everything in between.
And hey, if the Black Eyed Peas do suck - let's face it, a realistic outcome - most of us won't even notice. It'll almost be expected. Let's just hope the Steelers don't win to compound problems.