Until last Sunday, Feb. 4, I had never seen any part of the Super Bowl; not the game, the commercials nor the halftime show.
In case you’re worried that I’m an American who had a very bizarre childhood, or grew up without a TV or that has been literally living under a rock all my life, I can assure you that I haven’t — I’m just British.
The Super Bowl halftime show is perhaps more of an event than the game itself (at least to those of us who aren’t football fans).
This is such to the point where, when somebody asked me earlier this year if I had heard of the Super Bowl, I replied asking if that was the thing where a famous celebrity performs half way through.
Needless to say, as with many American traditions and spectacles that I have yet to participate in, I had high expectations for the Super Bowl — particularly for the halftime show.
I had heard about (but never cared enough to take the time to YouTube) Lady Gaga’s infamous roof jump, Left Shark and the Janet Jackson scandal and was excited to experience the spectacle live for the very first time. That was until I heard that Justin Timberlake would be performing.
Now I don’t necessarily have anything against Justin Timberlake, there’s just nothing particularly exciting or memorable about him as a performer in my eyes.
While there was nothing necessarily wrong with his performance, it was just not massively exciting or noteworthy. It seemed like the Super Bowl Selfie Kid (who seemed to have no idea who Justin Timberlake was) caused more excitement than the actual show, which is never a good sign.
There was a whole lot of controversy surrounding Timberlake’s return to the Super Bowl stage — which I know practically every American will know more about than I do, so I’m not going to go into any detail.
However, I do think the choice to sing “Rock Your Body” (the song during which the Janet Jackson incident occurred) was frankly just stupid.
He chose to pretend to be a bandleader and shouted, “Hold up, stop!” when he arrived at the moment the clothes-ripping happened, with the band shifting to “SexyBack.” And with a weird smile to the camera from Timberlake, he only drew more attention to the moment. At least he didn’t wink, I guess?
The moment seemed to be an acknowledgement by Timberlake of what happened, but also an attempt to sort of cover it up and try to move on when the internet clearly hasn’t.
However, I feel like Timberlake was also caught up in many lose-lose situations. With “Rock Your Body,” if he hadn’t sung it, people would be outraged by his not acknowledging what happened, and by singing it he draws more attention to it. Either way, not everyone is going to be happy.
Similarly with his tribute to Prince: If he hadn’t done anything at all there would have been outrage, but his acknowledgement of him, regardless of whether there was a hologram or not, was also always going to cause an outrage.
He also wore some outfits which could at best be described as questionable and at worst as frankly ridiculous.
Having said that, I don’t think there was anything very offensive about his performance and, while it may not have involved any jumping off of roofs or clothes ripping, there was something fun and nostalgic about the show and the crowd-pleasing songs.
People generally like the smooth, suave Justin Timberlake, and while I don’t think his bandana scarf and fringed leather jacket really projected that vibe, his performance was fun.
With lots of dancers, a big band and plenty of mirrors, there was something about his performance that provided a little bit of fun — and he was never going to please anyone anyway.
The audience involvement with the color changing armbands, the light bouncing off of all the mirrors on the field, and the purple light flooding the stadium and the surrounding city were definitely highlights of the performance.
However, it’s not really a good sign if the lighting is the focal point of a performance.
While I was definitely disappointed by the first halftime show I’ve ever seen live, it could have been worse. Let’s just hope that next year will be better, because I’m hoping the Super Bowl will impress me enough over my four years here to keep me watching after I leave.