This year’s Superbowl Halftime show was one for the books. Before the show even began, audiences new that it would be an extravaganza due to its star-studded line up. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem and surprise guest 50 Cent are all household names in the hip-hop world. The five promoted performers collectively hold 43 Grammys. From the beginning of the set as Dr. Dre appeared on a rising platform, audiences had to know they were in for a treat. By the end of the set, it was clear that this halftime show was both a celebration and a protest.
The performances by all the invited artists were incredibly strong. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg were joyous and clearly having the time of their lives. 50 Cent was cool and charismatic. His surprise upside down entrance in the beginning of the set spawned plenty of hilarious Twitter memes. Eminem performed with passionate urgency that was contagious. Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar, however, stole the show.
Blige’s performance of her 2001 hit “No More Drama” was particularly powerful. The singer explained that she had chosen this song out of all her hits because she felt it was incredibly timely given the stress of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest. Her pleas for “no more!” voice the collective turmoil of our country. Ending her solo performance by falling on her back also sparked many internet memes.
Unsurprisingly, Lamar’s performance was stellar—incredibly commanding. My favorite moment of the entire show was his entrance into the set, where he popped out of a swarm of back up dancers embodying synchronized and sharp choreography dressed in suits and sashes that read “Dre Day.” The moment created a complete tonal shift that made me catch my breath for a minute; it was so good.
The design of the show was what truly created a sense of thematic continuity. Through the set, the aerial view of a city at night covering the entire field and the street of buildings which the performers danced on top of and within created a cohesive feeling that a whole community had come out for the show. This was accentuated in numbers towards the end of the show where the field was surrounded with back up dancers, all of which were people of color. These choices, in my opinion, was what truly boosted the show beyond previous years; this is what made the show both a celebration of identity and community, but also, at times, a protest of the injustices facing that identity and community.
Unfortunately, the event was also met with the same criticism hip-hop often receive: that it glorifies sex and drugs. However, most of the internet was full of praise for the performance with celebrities like LeBron James and Guy Fieri declaring it the best Halftime Show they’d ever seen, and I have to agree. This Superbowl Halftime show will be remembered for some time and will certainly set the bar for future performances.