Make Super Bowl halftime shows great again

Make Super Bowl halftime shows great again

It is time we talked about Super Bowl halftime shows. I know at this point we are about three weeks removed from the latest Super Bowl, so our minds may have moved onto greener pastures, like spring training and Cadbury Crème Eggs.

But before hope springs eternal, I have a few thoughts for the NFL powers that be on how to vastly improve the overproduced, poorly orchestrated 20 minutes of musical misery.

If the NFL is truly targeting a global audience, I think a reunion of the original four members of The Wiggles would top anything they would/could come up with. Hey, with over 30 million albums sold and 2 billion music streams, their numbers are comparable with most halftime acts of years past.

With stalwart hits like “Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga Big Red Car’’ and “Fruit Salad (Yummy, Yummy),” do not tell me a Super Bowl LIX New Orleans audience, a city known for its appreciation of all types of music, would not go into musical hysterics. But I digress.

Now to be clear, this is not a criticism of the actual halftime show performers. One forgets that musical tastes are as diverse as the colors on a fall tree in Maine. What may be your cup of tea may not be a good fit for the household next door, but all acts are assuredly talented.

So first, let us get back to when they got it right. Personally, I think there has really only been three near-perfect halftime shows, with honorable mentions going to Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson.

Many speculate that Paul McCartney was brought in for Super Bowl XXXIX because the NFL and FCC were still reeling over the notorious costume malfunction the year before. Producers could not be more safe, musically speaking, than bringing in the “cute” Beatle to help make audiences forget the year prior.

Lost in so much of that nonsense still ruffling the nation’s consciousness was McCartney’s near-perfect delivery of “Hey Jude.” The aerial shots are stunning, and the moment hearkened the viewers back to four Liverpudlians taking the stage at Candlestick Park 40 years prior.

What would have made it absolute perfection? Including Ringo on drums and inviting John Lennon’s son Julian and George Harrison’s son Dhani on stage to join the two surviving Beatles. Both look and sound amazingly like their superstar fathers and are richly talented in their own right. It would have been the closest version of a Beatles reunion we would ever get.

No. 2 on my list came in Super Bowl XXXVI and featured U2.

From their heart-shaped stage to Bono opening up his jacket at the end of the set revealing an American flag, it took four Irish musicians to help mend the souls of a grieving nation after 9/11.

As they broke into their song “MLK” and sang, “Sleep, sleep tonight and may your dreams be realized,” a white curtain allowing for the projection of the names of the 2,977 victims appeared.

It was a performance that transcended the moment and game: celebrating sport and music, but in the midst of that celebration, a reminder of the fragility of life and all those lost on that fateful Tuesday morning the September prior.

Five years later, considering actual musicianship, talent and grandeur, you would be hard pressed to find a better set than Prince performing at Super Bowl XLI. From his opening entrance through the stage floor to his final guitar toss and bow to the fans, Prince genuinely made the halftime show about the music. Halfway through performing “Purple Rain,” he rhetorically asks the crowd, “Can I play this guitar?” — a skill that was on full display for the entire 12-minute performance.

As the rain fell throughout Prince’s set, the cameramen, rather than drying their lenses of the drops, left them visible for the viewing audience. It was as if the musical heavens wanted to paint a metaphor of purple to blend with Prince’s words. It was musical magic.

If bringing in the original Wiggles or watching great halftime shows from the past, not to duplicate but to be inspired by, are not ways to fix the current iterations, then let us take a page from both high school and college, where football and marching bands are as synonymous as wings and ranch dressing.

One forgets that prior to the Disney-produced halftime show of 1991 featuring the forgettable New Kids on the Block, halftime shows featured marching bands. Yes, there were a few celebrity appearances here and there, but for the most part, the show’s focus was on the skill and sound of marching bands.

For a reason I have yet to understand, Ohio State’s TBDBITL never made an appearance — a marching band that has risen to heights well beyond local fame.

YouTube any of their halftime shows and tell me what they are able to do musically, as well as the precision and movements in their marching, is any less impressive than Katy Perry riding in on a 15-foot-tall gold tiger.

A personal favorite is their tribute to “Blockbuster Movies,” when their formulated T-Rex from “Jurassic Park” eats a Michigan player.

One can only imagine what the directors would be inspired to create if they were asked to perform on the biggest musical stage of the year.

None of this is likely to happen, mind you. I am hopeful, however, with the next big game being played in New Orleans, they will draw on some of the rich musical history of that town.

Until then I will dream of the original red, purple, blue and yellow Wiggle — back together again, singing about hot potatoes, koala bears and their big red car.

Brett Hiner is in his 27th year of teaching English/language arts at Wooster High School, where he also serves as the yearbook adviser and Drama Club adviser/director. When writing, he enjoys connecting cultural experiences, pop and otherwise to everyday life. He can be emailed at

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