The Super Bowl is a prominent feature of American culture. Every year, millions of people tune in to watch the highly-anticipated big game in the company of their friends and family.
This year was no exception: Variety estimated that around 102 million people tuned in to the 2020 Super Bowl. However, what is striking about the Super Bowl as an event is that there are so many other aspects to it besides the actual football game that draw in viewers. One of these is the halftime show.
This year, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Lopez’s daughter Emme Maribel Muñiz, performed at the halftime show, but Jennifer Lopez and Shakira undoubtedly occupied the spotlight.
The show began with Shakira singing “She Wolf” while dancing on stage in a sparkly red dress among other dancers on a circular stage. Shakira’s energetic performance is a testament to the idea that age is just a number.
As Shakira sang many of her old classics and danced with her cohort of equally impassioned dancers, they lit up the stage with their youthful exuberance.
Shakira also showed off her skills on the guitar and the drums throughout the show, transitioning dynamically from one performance medium to the next. J Balvin, a Colombian reggaeton singer, and Bad Bunny, a Puerto Rican hip-hop artist also made appearances throughout the show, while Shakira surfed through the crowd.
Around seven minutes into the performance, Jennifer Lopez made a dramatic entrance on stage, as Shakira’s classic “Hips Don’t Lie” converged with J-Lo’s classic “Jenny From the Block.” The lights darkened and green lasers pulsed on stage as she sang. The iconic duo was complete.
Lopez’s daughter, Muñiz, also entered the center of the stage as she began to sing, “Let’s Get Loud,” while the poles of what seemed to be direct references to America’s detention cages lit up before a circular structure that, upon birds-eye view, outlined the female sex symbol.
Another interesting and important aspect of the show came toward the end, when Lopez’s daughter sang “Born in the U.S.A.” alongside her mother, who was draped in a Puerto Rican flag. The calculated start to “Born in the U.S.A.” in conjunction with Lopez’s declaration of “Latina” served as a celebration of the cultural identities that make America America.
Shakira then joined in, this time in a golden dress, performing a special rendition of her song “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa).”
The level of diversity on stage as well as the subtle nods to political issues like immigration and racial identity with which the performance dabbled seemed uncharacteristic of a typical halftime performance.
For other guest performers like Christine Sun Kim, however, the Super Bowl’s effort to celebrate inclusion fell short. Kim, who was born deaf, integrated her sound artistry into the performance as she signed the national anthem besides Demi Lovato.
But she was only given a few seconds of screen time. She subsequently published an op-ed with The New York Times, titled “I Performed at the Super Bowl. You Might Have Missed Me.”
In a way, this year’s performance seemed to capture the essence of our sociopolitical moment.
The power of this year’s halftime show thus lay in its communication of vital issues to a vast audience during one of the year’s largest spectacles and showed how art can serve as a reflection of the society that beholds it.
Viewers left, not with another celebratory reminder of the great American football tradition, but rather, an elaborately choreographed statement about the world as it stands today.
Compared to the bizarre hodge-podge of a performance from Maroon 5 and Travis Scott last year and the well-executed yet unassuming performance from Katy Perry, Missy Elliot and Lenny Kravitz the year before, this year’s halftime show seemed to communicate a greater sense of urgency and weight. For all of its upbeat tempos and vibrant stage manipulations, the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show was more about the gravity of the current political situation.
In many ways, the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show thus served as a testament to art’s power — in its capacity to inform, to engage in dialogue with its viewers and to prompt self-reflection. And in a place where over 100 million people are gathering, what better place could there be for art to exert its power?