The pre-game and half-time
entertainment at the Super Bowl has come to be synonymous with excess --this
is America's most excessive sporting event we're talking about, after all --
but the musical performances that worked best in Texas Sunday were the
Houston native Beyonce Knowles outclassed everyone else in the all-star
lineup -- and built up a great head of steam leading up to next Sunday, when
she's vying for six awards at the Grammys -- by delivering an emotional and
soulful rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that, while dazzling, was
nevertheless as understated and as beautiful as her elegant, cream-colored
The show of good taste pretty much ended right there, though there were a
few other highlights.
Janet Jackson kicked off and concluded the halftime show, which seems to
grow more outlandishly silly and elaborate in its staging every year. (Her
set resembled an intergalactic cabaret straight out of "Star Wars," and it
was adorned with dancers decked out like post-apocalyptic rejects from
It was a nice moment when Jackson gave the drummers from the two college
marching bands a percussion solo in "Rhythm Nation." But she seemed to be
lip-synching through her vocals.
Jackson only really came alive when she was adding backing vocals to
Justin Timberlake's rendition of his undeniable hit, "Rock Your Body." The
former boy-band heartthrob turned surprisingly credible solo artist had me
hooked until the rather crass finale, when he ripped off Jackson's bustier
to reveal a pasty-covered breast.
Hey, Janet, Lil' Kim did that act a few years ago. And Justin, such
behavior doesn't quite mesh with that line in "Rock Your Body" about "no
disrespect" (especially if we believe those rumors of a brief, post-Britney
fling with Ms. Jackson).
The AP reported that CBS apologized for the incident, and Timberlake said
he did not intend to expose Jackson's breast. However, halftime show
producers MTV had been promising a huge surprise during Jackson's
performance. (And why would the star have worn a pasty if she wasn't
intending to bare her breast?) The NFL said it was disappointed by the
halftime show. ''It's unlikely that MTV will produce another Super Bowl
halftime," said Joe Browne, the NFL's executive vice president.
Hip-hop mogul P. Diddy was, as usual, thoroughly embarrassing as a rapper
during his stint at the mike, pretty much tripping over his own tongue. The
lovable, quick-rhyming, crotch-crazed Nelly deftly put him in his place when
the spotlight shifted to him for a bit of "Hot In Here," but the tune was
over all too abruptly.
This has become a problem with all of the Super Bowl performances in
recent years: The network tries to cram so many big names (and so much
ridiculous and unnecessary staging) into the allotted few minutes that each
star winds up lucky to squeeze out one verse and a chorus before it's time
Dressed up like astronauts and wearing four times more makeup than
Beyonce, the grizzled old road hogs of Aerosmith mixed some sorry blues with
a hackneyed rendition of "Dream On" that found Steven Tyler gasping to come
within first-down distance of the notes.
The NASA theme continued with the warm-up performance by Josh Groban. The
middle-of-the-road crooner gave us a schmaltzy but still moving version of
"You Raise Me Up" in tribute to the astronauts who died in the space shuttle
accident last year. But the sentiment was thoroughly trashed by overstaging
that found some schmuck in a space suit re-enacting the first moonwalk on a
chunk of Styrofoam at the 50-yard line.
That may well have been the nadir of Super Bowl XXXVIII's entertainment,
but those of us who love music can be thankful for one thing: While Dallas
native Jessica Simpson was invited to introduce the halftime spectacle while
dressed like Drum-Majorette Barbie, at least the producers didn't let her