Review: Katy Perry's Absurd Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show
The Seattle Seahawks may have wet the bed tonight, but Katy Perry's halftime show did not.
Perry teased her halftime show earlier this week at a press conference, promising lions and sharks and an old-school special guest. Though we learned early the identity of the mystery singer (Missy Elliott) before the show, Perry did indeed follow through with her promise of lions and sharks, though the former was much more impressive than the latter. Her halftime show was a joyful romp through the candy-coated imagery the singer has made her own in music videos through the years. Branded with Perry's signature goofiness, the halftime show was at times astounding, at times head-scratching, and always an overwhelming assault of the senses. I'm really not sure what to make of it; I feel like I've just been smacked in the head with a two-by-four and am still seeing stars.
The halftime show started with Perry atop an enormous lion, plated in gold and vaguely reminiscent of something you'd see at a Chinese New Year parade. The song, of course, was "Roar," and Perry, surrounded on the ground by dozens of glowing orbs in complementary colors, made for a pretty spectacular site. As she finished the final line, "you're gonna hear me roar," the beast reared onto its back legs. It was awesome. The singer then descended onto an enormous stage, and backup dancers surrounded the singer as the stage floor lit up in checkered black and white. She started singing "Dark Horse." The visuals got a bit confusing here, thanks to some unclear camera choices by the NFL production team, but the song ended and cue leather jacket-wearing Lenny Kravitz, who sang the first verse of "I Kissed a Girl," after which Perry came in and joined him, dressed like she was catching fire (get it?! Eat your heart out, Jennifer Lawrence).
Before long Perry was banging her head and kneeling in front of Kravitz as the guitarist ripped a few licks, but he didn't last long. As soon as it began, he was off the stage, and a bunch of dancers in cartoonish beach ball and surfboard and yes, shark costumes, came out as Perry started singing "Teenage Dream." It was like a real-life version of the "let's all go the lobby" animation.
After this, the iconic opening riff of Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On" started playing, and Elliott emerged front and center, looking straight out of a late-'90s music video. The song transitioned into "Let Me Work It," and then into "Lose Control."
Then, it was time for Perry's last song. "Firework" has obvious finale implications, and Perry stood on a platform with a single star on it, surrounded by dancers holding those colored spheres from earlier. The spheres were the real stars here, as the dancer waved them around in an impressively coordinate color-changing scheme. As the song wound up to its powerful chorus, the platform holding Perry launched into the air, and Perry soared around the stadium. As cool as it was seeing her fly around, the design of her platform made it look like the shooting star from "The More You Know" campaign NBC used to run, which put a comic damper on what could've been a very cool visual.
Watch the full show below.
I'd put the show somewhat below Madonna's and Beyonce's but above Bruno Mars' respective halftime shows. Perry has a decent voice by pop star standards, but she isn't a very impressive dancer and lacks the raw charisma and talent of Beyonce and the daring of Madonna. Madonna's halftime show was the most inventive, featuring amputee dancers and the obscure sport of slacklining, not to mention special guests (LMFAO, M.I.A.) that were relevant at the time. Beyonce's show featured better dancing and singing, and, arguably, better songs. The Bruno Mars/Red Hot Chili Peppers show was good, but seeing one of the most accomplished bands in rock history faking a performance along to a pre-recorded track wasn't exactly inspiring. And of course, all of the above shows were light years ahead of the halftime shows that preceded Madonna's, which featured the Black Eyed Peas, The Who, and Bruce Springsteen.
So, compared to recent years, Perry's halftime show holds up well. She's a refreshing change of pace from the old-timers (read: white rock 'n' roll bands) the NFL hired for years after Nipplegate in 2004, and the production quality of the halftime show was really escalated since Madonna's 2012 performance. Perry continued this.
Perry's musical guests were another story. Why Lenny Kravitz? Why Missy Elliott? Both performed well, but both beg the question, why? Perry teased Elliott at a press conference by saying, "I wanted to bring someone back. A throwback of sorts that definitely needed some more shine." What the hell kind of backhanded compliment is that to someone who's performing with you? Weird. Perry also said that "when this person enters the stage and you hear the first ring of the chord I think jaws will drop and faces will melt." Well, "Get Ur Freak On" opens with a riff, not a chord, Perry. I was thinking Joan Jett when she said it. And Lenny Kravitz was on stage for half a song; he was barely there.
But these are just quibbles. Remember when the halftime shows were so bad and irrelevant that MTV staged Claymation battles to the death between celebrities and that seemed like the better option? We're in the golden age of halftime shows. When each year we get a unique, visually interesting show, how much can we really quibble?
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