The Superbowl is less about football and more about the musical performances
We may have been colonized by the Americans, but American football and the NFL never really took off in the Philippines. Instead, basketball became the dominant sport; a peculiar choice is given our genetics. Other than that balikbayan cousin from the east coast who regularly brings up American sports, the NFL is basically non-existent in our culture. Yet annually, the Superbowl in the US makes headlines and sparks conversations globally. It is a mega-event, a sporting spectacle that dominates social media for one or two days a year.
Often, the halftime show gets the most buzz more than the actual football plays. This was particularly true for this year’s Superbowl, where music and nostalgia were center stage and trended worldwide, and—with the exception of American football fanatics—sports took a backseat.
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The Superbowl halftime show featured iconic rap and R&B heavyweights Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar in front of a riotous, packed Sofi Stadium in Los Angeles—which looked just about the grandest stage a musician can perform on.
It was indeed a wistful showcase for millennials as the artists performed some of the biggest hip hop hits of the 2000’s like Next Episode and In Da Club. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg both exuded the swag and lyrical presence of their prime. Eminem radiated his trademark power as he belted out the chorus of Lose Yourself. Mary J. Blige was still commanding as ever.
And despite looking too old to be in the club, 50 Cent seemed like the 50 Cent of 2003. With the Superbowl taking place in LA, it was in many ways an homage to West Coast hip-hop culture with two of Compton’s biggest sons, Dre and Kendrick Lamar, performing; not to mention the rendition of the late Tupac’s California Love. There was even talk of him making an appearance as a hologram, though it never materialized.
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This year’s halftime show, however, did have political undertones. In 2016, after the Colin Kaepernick-led famous kneeling protest of police brutality and systematic oppression of black people, the NFL effectively blackballed him and anyone else in the league that took a knee. In the process, the NFL lost fans and much-needed viewership—not just blacks but liberals, too, turned off by the league’s powers-that-be.
Many rightfully saw acquiring an all-black lineup to perform as a shrewd PR move by the NFL to gain fans back. Dr. Dre once famously rapped Fuck the Police; Kendrick Lamar performed Alright, an anthem at Black Lives Matter protests across the US; and there was Eminem’s not-so-subtle post-song kneel.
In essence, this year’s halftime show was the NFL’s way of saying to wayward fans “Can we be friends again? We need your money.” But whatever you make of it, it was a pretty entertaining fifteen minutes.
Words Art Vandelay
Art Alexandra Lara