Despite Joe Buck repeatedly hyping the halftime show the most important music event of the year, or something like that, I generally don’t care for the Super Bowl halftime show.
The halftime show is more about spectacle than music. Many acts don’t sing live or have their singing “enhanced” with prerecorded cuts. Because of that, I have stopped evaluating the halftime show as a concert. It’s a show. I get it.
From that perspective, Lady Gaga put on quite a show Sunday during halftime of Super Bowl LI. She was a striking figure in her metallic outfit, but the first visual impression was quickly overcome by her choice to begin her show with sections of “America the Beautiful” and “This Land is My Land,” followed immediately by the Pledge of Allegiance.
The choreographed dances were reminiscent of Madonna’s shows. My untrained musical ear even thought there were similarities to Madonna’s “Vogue.” This isn’t my cup of tea, but it worked for Lady Gaga.
She ran through a medley of some of her biggest hits: “Just Dance, “Poker Face,” “Telephone,” “Born This Way” and “Bad Romance.” The emphasis appeared to be as much on the show as the music.
There even was a political message during the halftime show. Instead of hitting the audience over the head with it, however, Lady Gaga was relatively subtle in delivering a message of inclusion. From her patriotic opening to “Born This Way,” she made her point without detracting from the performance.
The Super Bowl halftime show isn’t my cup of tea.
For Lady Gaga, though, the halftime show fit her to a “t.”
NOT SO BEAUTIFUL: Adding “sisterhood” after “brotherhood” in the midst of “America the Beautiful” during the Super Bowl LI pregame has garnered a lot of attention for Hamilton cast members Phillipa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones, but, from a musical perspective, their stylish vocal flairs didn’t work for me.
BAND NOT ON THE RUN: Mixing in a little football with the entertainment, why didn’t the Falcons run the ball after Julio Jones made an unbelievable catch at the Patriots 22-yard line late in the fourth quarter? Instead, Matt Ryan was sacked on third down, taking the ball out to the 35. A holding call during the next play, another pass play, pushed the Falcons out of field goal range.
The Falcons were leading by eight points at the time. Barring a turnover, two runs for no gain would have set up a 40-yard field goal by the reliable Matt Bryant. A field goal would have extended the Falcons’ lead to 11 points, which would have required two Patriots scores during the last 3½ minutes. Instead, the punt gave the Patriots the ball at their own 9, but needing just a touchdown and 2-point conversion.
Running the ball on third down would have avoided putting Ryan in a situation where he could be sacked. (Ryan should have thrown the ball away.) The Falcons compounded their mistake by also throwing on the next play, which resulted in a holding penalty that pushed them back to the 45, beyond safe field goal range.
AVERAGE JOE: I’m not a Joe Buck hater. But I don’t love him, either. I thought he was pretty good during the Super Bowl, although there were times when he annoyed me. Buck sound like a know-it-all sometimes, even in situations when he’s being Captain Obvious. For example, when the Patriots were two scores down, Buck speculated that if they don’t make the first down on third down, it might be four-down territory. No kidding.
I think Troy Aikman is a terrific analyst, but he was a bit off his game Sunday. Not bad, but not the best I’ve ever heard from Aikman.
SOLID ANTHEM: Luke Bryan did a solid job with a relatively straightforward version of the national anthem.
COMMERCIAL SUCCESS: Picking the Top 10 Super Bowl commercials was more subjective this year than in most other years. The reason is because there weren’t many slam-dunk choices.
Not as many companies took chances. That means there weren’t enough truly bad commercial to make a bottom 10 list – or even a bottom five. But there also weren’t many that clearly deserved to be in the Top 10.
There were numerous futuristic commercials with cool graphics or action. But none of them were that good, either.
10. Kia Niro: This ad featured Melissa McCarthy as an eco hero –rhymes with Niro – around the globe. This commercial wasn’t nearly as funny as McCarthy’s “Saturday Night Live” appearance as White House press secretary Sean Spicer, but it was funny enough to make this top 10 list.
9. TurboTax: This commercial featured Humpty Dumpty in the hospital after taking a big fall while doing his taxes on a wall. Humpty wanted to know if he could deduct his medical expenses.
8. Avocados: It seems as if Avocados from Mexico always pulls off a terrific Super Bowl ad. The “secret society” commercial from Super Bowl LI isn’t my favorite avocados commercial, but it stood out among this year’s mediocre crop.
7. Bai Brand: I’ll admit – make that proudly admit – that I didn’t realize that Christopher Walken, dressed in a 3-piece suit, was quoting NSYNC lyrics (“Bye, Bye, Bye”) until someone explained it to me, but, with Walken’s classic delivery, the commercial worked. The commercial ended with a nice kicker, with Walking looking toward the other end of the couch, with the camera revealing Justin Timberlake sitting there in regal attire.
6. T-Mobile: The “50 Shades of Gray” references, with “punishment” being dished out in the form of a Verizon bill, was funny. There was a follow-up commercial in which actress Kristen Schaal seems to enjoy the Verizon representative going over taxes, fines and fees on her bill. (Verizon also took it on the chin from Sprint, which showed a man faking his own death in order to get out of his Verizon account.)
5. Take the Cure: I usually don’t include commercials for movies, television shows or video games in these rankings, but it was a weak field this year. “A Cure for Wellness” featured a fake pharmaceutical commercial, which included a long list of side effects.
4. National Geographic’s “Genius:” As I just said, I don’t usually don’t include commercials for movies, television shows or video games in these rankings, but it was a weak field this year. Also, National Geographic’s “Genius” commercial, featuring Einstein playing Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” on a violin was excellent.
3. Budweiser: This tale of the immigration of Budweiser founder Busch was a well-done commercial with an important message about immigration. By contrast, 84 Lumber’s tale of a mother and daughter traveling to the United States seems to glorify people breaking the law, which takes some of the shine off an emotional story.
2. Mr. Clean: A woman fantasizes Mr. Clean as he cleans the house. Clearly smitten with Mr. Clean, the woman hugs him and kisses him, even as he turns out to be her out-of-shape husband cleaning the house. This wasn’t particularly clever, but it’s the only commercial that made me laugh out loud.
1. Tide: Terry Bradshaw has a stain on his shirt. The broadcaster runs across the field, with his stained shirt trending, and drives in a golf cart. He ends up at a private residence, where Jeffrey Tambor gets the stain out with Tide … but won’t switch channels to the Super Bowl.