Maroon 5 – a quasi-soul, quasi-rock, totally fun band – was the main attraction at the Super Bowl half-time show at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, probably the third or eighth or perhaps 14th choice for a headliner.
In a year when the Super Bowl mid-term exhibition has become a political attention referendum, where the NFL has become a platform for talks on racial justice in America, Maroon 5 was a cynically appropriate choice. It is neutral, unofficial, slim without promising too much. For almost two decades, it has been wildly popular without leaving much of a musical mark, so easy to forget as mild weather.
Perhaps for the NFL, which probably tried to make half-time as anodyne possible, it was a victory.
But what saddles Maroon 5 as a band – its propensity to pretend that things are pounding, its commitment to spreading the soul and rock from the 1970s and 1980s until they are so crispy that they might snap – condemned this performance, which
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And in a year where political valency in the half-time view was more important than ever, the band's stubborn resistance was sharp. N.F.L. canceled the traditional news conference for artists this year and to avoid a failure. But frontman Adam Levine did an interview with "Entertainment Tonight", suggesting that the election to perform in the mid-term trigger in some an "insatiable urge to hate a little."
"No one thought of it more than I did," he added very reassuringly. "I'm not in the right business if I can't cope with a bit of controversy."
Attempting to beat Maroon 5's lethargy and its political aversion was made in weeks before the formal announcement that it would be headliner. In December Variety reported that the band had turned to a dozen black artists to perform as part of the performance.
But the decision to perform was now oriented around the protests of Colin Kaepernick and others N.F.L. players who in 2016 began to take a knee during the national anthem (or otherwise not pay attention) as a means of drawing attention to the systemic suppression of black people in that country.
The half-time show – one of the biggest stages of pop, and also an unpaid performance on behalf of the NFL – became Radioactive Perform, and is perceived as a shill for the league. (Kaepernick pursues a complaint against the NFL, accusing holders of colluding to prevent him from playing in the league.)
Finally, Maroon 5 – a band that has not had the Top 20 hit without a black or latino guest performing about four Year – joined by Travis Scott, hip hop's most energetic performer, but not a very worried about political worries. (Last month, Scott announced that he would donate $ 500,000 to a non-profit organization, Dream Corps, in collaboration with the NFL.) Also added to the show was Big Boi – one half of Outkast and one Atlanta rapist – who felt like an attempt on moral cover. Online prayers asked all the artists to take a knee in support of Kaepernick and his goals. No one did.
For what it is worth, the toxicity of being associated with the Super Bowl did not seem to extend beyond the mid-term performance. Chance Rapper performed in a Doritos commercial (with Backstreet Boys); 2 Chainz was entertaining in an ad for Expensify; Cardi B and Lil Jon tag team in a Pepsi ad. Both preaching performances were by black artists: a tight, controlled reading of "America the Beautiful" by Chloe x Halle and an impressive if Disney sacharin, national anthem of Gladys Knight, who before the fight criticized Kaepernick for making anthem a place of protest .
In this context, Maroon 5 was a deadband band: a base dress intended to be painted over. Three years ago, Beyoncé has effectively hijacked Coldplay's performance for one of the most exciting and politically wise half-time performances ever. But there is nothing distant on this scale. Scott and Big Boi were ushered in and rejected quickly, boxes that had been ticked.
Scott bark ripped himself through "Sicko Mode" and at the end of his moment he fell back on the audience, as close to his mayhem-filled live shows as circumstances allowed. Big Boi appeared in a Cadillac wearing a fur jacket – the most exciting moment for the whole show – and made a relaxed fit on Outkast's "The Way You Move" with Sleepy Brown. When Levine joined them for a synchronized two-step, it took him a second or two to catch the track.