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The student news site of St. Dominic High School

Crusader Nation

The student news site of St. Dominic High School

Crusader Nation

Is the NFL Halftime Show Playing it Safe?

ABC news
Usher will take the stage for the 2024 Halftime Show

The Super Bowl Halftime Show, organized by the National Football League, draws some of the highest viewing numbers of any American television event. The annual spectacle entails a popular musical artist, or multiple artists, taking the stage at the halftime break during the Super Bowl football game. 

The halftime show has a rich history of performances that range from phenomenal, to mediocre, to laughably bad. This year, pop artist Usher, will step into the spotlight as the headliner, but some people are wondering if he was the best choice for the job, or if this will be another installment in the pattern of the NFL trying to play it too safe.

The halftime show is commonly criticized for selecting artists who are not particularly relevant in the modern music scene, or even those who have not released new music in several years. Rihanna, who performed at the 2023 Super Bowl, has not put out an album since 2016. In 2022, the halftime show was an ensemble act of several hip-hop and rap artists, who reached the height of their popularity in the 2000s or early 2010s, like Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, and Eminem. Similarly, Usher’s relevance has definitely waned over the past decade, and he has not produced a charting single since 2010. This ongoing trend has caused some people to argue that the NFL is purposely finding artists that pander more to viewers’ nostalgia, rather than those who are currently popular. 

So, why would the NFL be trying to steer away from new, and upcoming artists, in favor of tamer, arguably washed-up acts? This could stem from the massively controversial scene that happened at 2004’s halftime show, in which Janet Jackson had top billing. An accidental wardrobe malfunction in the middle of the flashy performance left Jackson humiliated in front of an audience of millions, and sequentially caused a massive decline in her career. The clip of the incident is regarded as one of the earliest “viral videos”, and afterwards, the NFL took the next halftime show into a very different direction. In 2005, the headliner was Paul McCartney, who performed a very reserved, and mostly acoustic set of his hits. This might be considered as the first time the company opted for an older artist with a benign style in order to avoid another calamity. 

However, the Janet Jackson scandal is not the only cause of the NFL’s reluctance to experiment with new and exciting performers. Young and upcoming artists are scrutinized more closely than the singers that everyone already knows, and loves. Look no further than The Weeknd’s halftime show in 2021, the first and only to be performed in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The act received lukewarm reviews from the public.

“The Weeknd’s stage movements were largely understated, not a good look at an event that thrives on kinetic action… (it was) a performance that found its star coasting rather than soaring,” George Varga said in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Meanwhile, the Dr. Dre, and Rihanna acts that followed The Weekends’ were met with overwhelmingly positive feedback from viewers. Given that the NFL gets better ratings, and consequently makes more money, from these early 2000s sensations, it is no surprise that they wound up choosing Usher as this years’ headlining star. The question is, are these types of performances objectively better, or are nostalgic fans judging them through rose-colored TV screens?

The quality of any given Halftime Show is very subjective, and while some people might be elated to see Usher take the stage, others might be skeptical. Regardless, it is interesting to dissect what exactly goes on behind the scenes of one of America’s most celebrated traditions.   


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About the Contributor
Cameron Schwent, Staff Writer
Cameron Schwent is a junior at St. Dominic. She is a member of Writer’s Guild and Student Ambassadors and participates onstage in St. Dominic’s theater program. She loves cats, creative writing, and playing The Sims.

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    DanFeb 26, 2024 at 7:51 pm

    Still waiting for Weird Al Yankovic to get his turn!