As it turns out, there are far, far duller ways to pass the time at a half-time show than counting the wrinkles on classic rockers. Like counting the times in just the past few months we've seen the Black Eyed Peas on television doing pretty much this same schtick they did at the Super Bowl. If you want to make sure you have the least anticipated Bowl half-time in modern history, a sure bet is to book a group that would show up to play a supermarket ribbon-cutting.
We all know why this happened. The Super Bowl's producers spent the last few years trying to avoid any chance of another wardrobe malfunction, after the Janet 'n' Justin fracas, resulting in a succession of post-50 superstars like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and the Who. But the Bowl honchos were apparently susceptible to the criticism that this made them appear old and out of touch. So when they reversed that trend and booked the Black Eyed Peas this year, it was clear they were out to court the youth audience and avoid age malfunction.
But there might not have been this uneventful a Bowl intermission since the Up With People era of no-name half-time shows. Come back, AARP-rockers... all is forgiven.
Also, Usher did the splits. We can only imagine the legions of seamstresses employed to make sure those pants could survive nuclear fission.
Otherwise, it was been there, seen-and-heard that. Special guest star Slash, playing lead guitar while Fergie sang "Sweet Child of Mine"? That was a yawner back when they did it on the U2 tour a couple of pop eons ago. Dancers with boxes on their heads? That conceptual gambit isn't any fresher now than it was when the Peas brought out the box-heads on multiple TV appearances last fall.
The live-or-Memorex questions that typically fly after a halftime show were rendered moot here. The Peas' hits usually involve more shouting than singing, anyway, so staying on pitch was not going to pose many problems except in a handful of Fergie moments. When Will.i.am sings nowadays, it's through the most blatantly distorted AutoTune in the first place, so the real question is how faithfully his vocals' robotic nature could be replicated just as robotically. Usher's singing was clearly less live when he came out to perform "Oh My God," but the camera angles made it tough to tell if he was even pretending to sing, before he pulled off the leap-and-spread stunt that was his cameo appearance's sole raison d'etre.
Still, the cast of seeming thousands on the field was more fun to watch than the usual fake fans brought in to cheer the oldies acts. Initially appearing all in white, they appeared like the universe's most enthusiastic cult, before scattering across the field like schools of fish and switching on their Christmas lights.
It all seemed like a commercial for something, following directly on the heels of an ad for a product having to do with "the cloud" that featured animated versions of the BEPs. But what were they selling? Was it "love"? (Or "LOIE," as the lighted platforms seemed to spell it out, possibly due to a short-out from one of those dancing black lights?)
As Steve Martin tweeted after halftime: "I learned so much about love during the halftime show. Andthen at the end when it said, 'The Beginning,' I thought 'Wow.' Just. Wow."
Ah yes—in lieu of the obvious soda deal, this was all a commercial for The Beginning, the BEPs album that currently sits at No. 26 on the sales chart, after just nine weeks of release. That's right: This week, the Black Eyed Peas are less popular than the Black Keys (see: chart position No. 20).
Way to anticipate that youthful zeitgeist, Super Bowl producers! For 2012, we can only hope for P. Diddy and some swing-dancing Star Wars stormtroopers.