Maroon 5, Big Boi and Travis Scott aren’t enough to save the NFL from itself
The Santa Clara
February 7, 2019
To survive the glare of the Super Bowl spotlight—and a stadium filled with tens of thousands of screaming fans—performers need larger-than-life personalities and equally impressive vocals. But who did the NFL tap for the honor of hosting Super Bowl LIII’s halftime show? Maroon 5—a group whose music is made to play in the background of a department store, not the biggest concert of the year.
Even the morally questionable holographic Prince at last year’s halftime show outplayed Maroon 5, with Prince’s trademark distorted guitar and unimpeachable personality packing more emotion into the brief performance of “I Would Die 4 U” than the entirety of this year’s outing. The safe Levine and his vanilla voice couldn’t even pull the same punches as the pre-recorded Prince production.
Fittingly for the lowest-scoring Super Bowl on record (and to some, one of the all-time most boring games), lead singer Adam Levine kicked off his performance with the instantly forgettable “Harder to Breathe,” scoring no points with the audience. His metro voice wafted toward the massive stadium rafters, barely hitting the microphones as it dissipated.
With their bland, coffee-shop instrumentation, Levine and the other four Marooners seemed incapable of providing the booming stadium music the Super Bowl demands. Unlike anthem artists such as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga or Queen, Levine’s pipes just couldn’t fill the enormity of the venue.
As the first part of the underwhelming set wrapped up, a surprising Spongebob cutaway announced the arrival of Travis Scott, who “crashed” into the M-shaped stage in a show of meteor special effects that mustn’t have impressed anyone at the actual Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, despite its fun, campy quality on the TV.
Performing “Sicko Mode,” Scott seemed keen on injecting some adrenaline straight into the heart of the comatose show. But, just like Levine, Scott’s light and breathless voice lacked the gravitas to satisfy a 75,000-person stadium.
Both Scott and his cameraman—who shook the camera like he was trying to record a cheetah as it pursued him—tried their best to contribute a new level of energy, but these efforts died as Levine jumped beside Scott with dance moves unseen outside of middle school father-daughter dances.
A later song, “Girls Like You,” drove another nail through the Pepsi-produced coffin as a gospel choir led by the rousing Carmen Carter threatened to fully outshine Levine off the stage by exposing the limits of his vocal abilities. Carter’s masterful voice reverberated throughout the whole stadium, with her depth and range lapping Levine’s at every turn.
Further demonstrating their incompatibility with the event, Maroon 5 turned to a reliable hit: “She Will Be Loved.”
While it’s a good song, the pared down acoustics—coupled with Levine’s skilled yet delicate falsetto—are best suited for a pair of headphones—not a towering arena.
The sweet tune floundered in the vastness of the space, boring everyone but those close enough to flail their hands at the frontman.
Perhaps the saddest moment of the show occurred during the final song, “Moves Like Jagger,” as a desperate Levine—confronting the limitations of his music and realizing that nothing of note had occurred throughout the entire show—removed his shirt to grace audiences with 90 seconds of awkward hip gyration.
To his credit, Levine fully committed to this embarrassing decision, but the shirt removal—like the rest of the show—felt undeserved. The Super Bowl halftime show took another victim in Maroon 5, who, despite their talent, lost themselves amidst the immensity of their outsized venue.
Their earbud aesthetics just couldn’t fill the stadium, and the result was a pitiable halftime where the audience—far from cheering on the performers—found themselves grappling with secondhand embarrassment for the last-minute desperation of the headliners.
Like the “edgy” tattoos across Levine’s heaving torso, Super Bowl LIII’s halftime show will be hard to erase from our consciousness. Here’s to next year. Let’s just hope for something worth our time.
Contact Brandon Schultz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.