By Collin Giuliani// Sports Editor
Adam Levine and the rest of “Maroon 5” may have the moves like Jagger, but those moves were not on display during the Super Bowl LIII halftime show.
The band has established itself over the past two decades as arguably the biggest pop band of the 21st century. Ever since their 2002 debut album “Harder to Breathe” was released to near-universal acclaim and sold over 10 million copies worldwide, the band has produced hit after hit. Since 2002, the band has scored four number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (“Makes Me Wonder,” “Moves Like Jagger,” “One More Night,” and their most recent hit, “Girls Like You”), has had 14 songs hit the top 10 on the charts, and has had 21 songs reach inside the top 40. It made sense to award this group, which appeals to all audiences and has a deep discography to choose from, with the honor of playing at the Super Bowl halftime show.
Unfortunately, the performance fell flat on multiple levels. The staging, which was a giant ‘M’ to symbolize the band’s logo, was boring and uninspired. Compared to the previous halftime shows, including Justin Timberlake the year before using every part of US Bank Stadium for his performance, and Katy Perry turning the field into a chess board, a beach, and everything else in between, the staging felt small for a performance of this caliber.
The setlist choices made by “Maroon 5” were unusual. Despite having a deep discography to choose from and plenty of hits available to play, 50 percent of the songs played by the group were off of their “Songs About Jane” album. Instead of playing songs such as “Makes Me Wonder” and “Animals,” both of which are built for a stage like this, the band opted to play long versions of other songs, including a drum line/off-pitch choir version of “Girls Like You” and nearly half of “She Will Be Loved.” The transitions between the songs, overall, felt rushed, and using “Moves Like Jagger” as the closing song was a puzzling choice, seeing as the band had no real way to end the show properly on that song without launching hundreds of fireworks into the sky.
Controversy surrounded this halftime show when “Maroon 5” posted an announcement video that appeared to show “SpongeBob Squarepants.” After an online petition with nearly 1.5 million signatures was created following the death of the Nickelodeon television show creator, it seemed as though “Sweet Victory” was going to be played at the halftime show in some capacity to honor his legacy. Instead, the final product was a confusing mess; the SpongeBob animation appeared immediately after “This Love” with no transition whatsoever and the choppily-edited trumpet fanfare of “Sweet Victory” then transitioned into “Sicko Mode” by Travis Scott. The decision was confusing and felt like a lose-lose situation. Fans of the show felt disappointed that the song wasn’t played and was merely teased, and people who had no idea what “SpongeBob Squarepants” was were left confused as to why this was appearing on screen to begin with.
Guest stars have had a history of working at the Super Bowl halftime show; Missy Elliott flowed wonderfully with Katy Perry’s halftime show at Super Bowl XLIX, and Cee Lo Green’s cameo at Madonna’s halftime show at Super Bowl XLVI was well done, with his voice contributing nicely to the “Like a Prayer” finale. However, the guest stars at this halftime show did not feel naturally tied into the show. The transition between the trumpet fanfare of “Sweet Victory” and Travis Scott’s appearance was poorly done, as was going from the ballad of “She Will Be Loved” to a much harder song in “Kryptonite.” Big Boi at least sounded good, as his performance of “The Way You Move” was arguably the highlight of the halftime show. As for Travis Scott, aside from the fact that he did not hit a single note during his performance of “Sicko Mode,” he could not censor himself, which led to much of the performance getting bleeped out and leading many people to wonder if something was wrong with the audio on their television set.
For a band that seemed built for the halftime show stage, the performance was unimpressive. It was one of the weakest halftime shows in quite some time; not since Super Bowl XLV with The Black Eyed Peas, Usher and Slash had a show been as universally panned as this one. Entertainment Weekly called the show “the most joyless and inconsequential halftime gig since the game began incorporating pop acts almost three decades ago.” The Atlantic said that the halftime show “felt designed to be forgotten.” And, Variety stated that “the group’s performance was every bit as thrilling as the game itself,” and “wins a trophy for [the] most anticlimactic [halftime show.]”
Between the boring staging, puzzling song choices and guest stars, and almost insulting usage of SpongeBob, it’s hard to disagree.
Despite having nearly two decades worth of hits to choose from, Maroon 5’s performance at the Super Bowl LIII halftime show felt disappointing, with many panning the performance by the band, Travis Scott, and Big Boi. Photo by Sterogum
Top Five Super Bowl Halftime Shows of All-Time
With the Super Bowl LIII halftime show widely being considered a disappointment by many publications, it is unlikely to leave a positive legacy on the history of the halftime show when all is said and done. However, that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been amazing halftime performances over the past few years. Here’s a look at the top five halftime shows in Super Bowl history.
1) U2 (Super Bowl XXXVI)
It would take something special for anything to ever unseat this halftime show as the greatest of all-time. U2’s tribute to the victims of 9/11 by projecting the names of the victims onto a screen while playing “Where the Streets Have No Name,” and Bono revealing an American flag under his jacket at the conclusion of the song is a moment that still gives people goosebumps, even when rewatching the show 17 years later.
2) Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz, Missy Elliott (Super Bowl XLIX)
This show had everything. It had the most creative and innovative stage in the history of the halftime show, featuring a lion, a chess board, fire, a beach, a 2000s-underground inspired stage for Missy Elliott’s appearance, and a floating platform during the finale of “Firework.” The guest stars were integrated into the show seamlessly, Katy Perry had an amazing vocal performance, and this was the halftime show that established the phenomenon known as Left Shark. Katy Perry turned University of Phoenix Stadium into her own personal playground for those 12 minutes, using staging techniques never before seen at a Super Bowl, and techniques that may likely never be seen again.
3) Lady Gaga (Super Bowl LI)
From the opening of Lady Gaga performing an American medley then flying onto the stage from the stadium roof, to the closing of Lady Gaga performing “Bad Romance” and then jumping off into nothingness, this was a performance for the ages that put Lady Gaga back on the map.
4) Bruno Mars, Red Hot Chili Peppers (Super Bowl XLVIII)
When the Red Hot Chili Peppers were on stage performing “Give it Away,” the performance lost lots of momentum. Between a song that didn’t fit and a poor sound system, their performance was less than ideal. However, everything outside of that song was almost flawless. Bruno Mars cemented himself as one of the best performers in music today with this performance, filled with amazing vocals, an upbeat set list in the first half of the show, and amazing dance moves during “Runaway Baby.”
5) Prince (Super Bowl XLI)
There are few moments in the history of the halftime show that are more iconic than Prince performing “Purple Rain” in the purple rain. While Prince performed many covers during this show, opting to play other songs instead of his own, he delivered a performance for the ages capped off by one of the greatest endings in the history of the halftime show. Following the Janet Jackson controversy at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, the NFL decided to play it safe and select classic rock artists for the next six halftime shows. Of those six halftime shows, while some were poor (such as The Rolling Stones at Super Bowl XL and The Who at Super Bowl XLIV), and some were good (such as Paul McCartney at Super Bowl XXXIX and Bruce Springsteen at Super Bowl XLIII), none were even in the same league as Prince’s performance.
Michael Jackson (Super Bowl XXVII)
Justin Timberlake (Super Bowl LII)
Beyonce and Destiny’s Child (Super Bowl XLVII)
Aerosmith, *NSYNC, Britney Spears, Nelly, and Mary J. Blige (Super Bowl XXXV)