Does Anybody Care About the Super Bowl Halftime Show Anymore?
The short answer to the headline directing readers to the next several paragraphs is: it depends.
Isn't that the truest answer to any query about a thing and whether it is relevant? Is Led Zeppelin still an influential rock and roll band in 2015? To some, albeit a shrinking demographic, the answer is yes. Is Paul McCartney as important to modern music as Kanye West? We all recall your opinions on that one.
If you don't enjoy football, music, fireworks (100 percent certain you'll get those during the halftime show), the generally agreed upon hotness of Katy Perry and Lenny Kravitz, or things that are ridiculously spectacular, the answer is "No, this does not matter." A follow-up question might ask what went so wrong in your life that you can't find the joy in even one of these awesome things, but to each his or her own.
If you continued past the first sentence here, then you may be in the camp that says, ohgoshyes, this matters, even if just in some menial way that allows me to escape from the crushing burden of work, my going-nowhere-fast love life, the knowledge that one day I'll be a worm-farm. This recreational sporting event and its mid-game antics will never cure the sicknesses of this world; but, as remedies go, it's not a bad deep-tissue massage for those who carry the world's weight on their shoulders.
First and foremost, the halftime extravaganza matters to the National Football League. Last year, it booked a small guy with big appeal, Bruno Mars. He was joined by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They may be mainstream now, but the Red Hots once would never have been considered for such a primetime, family-hour honor. Those who can recall their snarling, anti-establishment beginnings found great humor in the pairing.
It was wildly successful, too. Last year's halftime show was the most-watched in the game's history at more than 115 million viewers, according to Billboard. The ratings were so good the NFL allegedly told artists hoping for the gig they'd have to pay to play it.
It also matters to PepsiCo, which, by some estimates pays $90 million a year to be an official league sponsor. It matters to whichever network is airing the game and its day-long companion events; this year it's NBC.
But does it matter to us, the important people? The consensus at Neil's Bahr, the East Downtown spot known for embracing the kinds of smart bar patrons you don't want to blindly challenge at Trivia Crack, was a resounding "depends."
"I heard and forget for awhile she was performing [at] the half and then I was horribly reminded when she did that [ESPN's magazine cover] with J.J. Watt," offered Neil, the bar's namesake, who is apparently not a fan of her music. He made the "something's smelly" face discussing her, while cuing up a Pandora station teeming with Crystal Castles, Tycho and Purity Ring.
"I thought they were dating," said Nate, a bartender at this friendly, first-name-basis bar, which feels like the basement room of the coolest older brother ever.
L-R: Nate, Neil and Ian at Neil's Bahr
Photo by Jesse Sendejas, Jr.
Nate seems to know quite a bit about Perry. Not just the mundane stuff like album sales over 11 million, but also the inside stuff, like the name of her favorite bar in her hometown of Santa Barbara, Calif., a place he readily admits he planned to frequent some years back when he turned 21.
"I was gonna go live in that bar until I saw her and then I was gonna be like, 'K.P.! What's up?!"
"And that was gonna be her one chance," added Ian, a fellow bartender.
None of the eight people in the bar's dedicated table-tennis room (yes, you read that correctly) knew Perry is the game's featured act. When told, they simply shrugged and returned to their ping-ponging.
The bar will show the game, of course, on its TV dedicated to sporting events. A second runs movies and a third is all Simpsons, all the time.
"I'm more of a curling fan," said Ian, an amiable guy who is great with names and draws a beer with some serious panache. "Actually, during the last Olympics I remember betting a lot of money on curling."
I try to steer the conversation back to football, or at least Perry, but even that just devolves into the mandatory debate over whether she and Zooey Deschanel actually look alike. In all, I asked a couple of dozen people and the results were split. About half knew Perry was performing the halftime. Of that half, about one-third professed to be fans. I'll throw myself into that set.
In the end, the halftime show probably matters less to true music fans than to Jimmy Fallon's joke-writers or the Internet meme-makers who gave us Unflattering Beyonce." It matters to the wordsmiths who coined the phrase "wardrobe malfunction" after Janet Jackson's Super Bowl breast-baring performance. It matters to anyone who now has to choose between a half-hour of Perry or the Puppy Bowl -- sex kitten vs. cute puppies, fluff vs. fluffy.
But if the idea of Perry as entertainment deflates you like a Bill Belichick ball, just snap the telly off when the first half ends and toss the Beatles' Revolver onto the turntable. At just over a half-hour, you can listen to the whole thing and get back to the game by the second-half kickoff.
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