The Music of Super Bowl XLV

I didn’t care much about the Super Bowl, simply because I don’t really care about football. I don’t know the game, I can’t follow what’s going on, as I’m not familiar with the rules. Nevertheless, I found myself watching last night’s game between the Packers and the Steelers. I thought I’d be more interested in the game if I rooted for a team, and I chose team allegiance based on the team’s name: “Steelers” sounded more compelling, fierce and powerful than “Packers”. A both mildly lame and mildly legitimate way to choose a team, so there I was, a Steelers’ fan. I also managed to pick up the general idea of the game and some rules, and in the end I was somewhat able to follow the game.

Before the actual game started, Christina Aguilera sang the National Anthem. I could not tell what she was singing, as she sang in the irritating way of spreading every syllable over several notes (a singing style known as melisma). Not to mention her insistence on screaming the high notes. As it turns out, she mangled some words too: instead of singing “O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming,” she sang “What so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last reaming” according to the NYTimes, or “What so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last gleaming” according to the BBC. Well, pretty awful either way.

In a statement after the performance she said “I can only hope that everyone could feel my love for this country and that the true spirit of its anthem still came through (…)”. No, actually the true spirit didn’t come through, as she effectively destroyed a very beautiful song with her vocal gimmicks, unnecessary vocal embellishments and exaggerated belting. The way she chose to sing the anthem shows disrespect. During rehearsals somebody should have told her: “It is not about you and your ego, it is about the song and the nation’s pride”.

Then, it was the half-time show, where the Black Eyed Peas provided the entertainment. Honestly, it looked more like a  comedy show than a music show. They and their dancers wore ridiculous outfits. I anticipated singing, I got a screeching cat instead. I hated how they used the beloved song “Misirlou” as base for one of their “songs”, an act very close to sacrilege, if you ask me. And then they were joined by Slash of Guns N’ Roses, and Fergie sang “Sweet Child o’ Mine” in a badly-imitating-Axl-Rose way. Admittedly, rather a feat to pull off.

Rob Harvilla of The Village Voice wittily describes (and defends?) their performance. The piece reeks of defeat, basically admitting that the Super Bowl half-time show will always suck. The Fergie comment is spot-on:

[Fergie] [is] [t]errible in a stupendously charming way, like reality television, like Taco Bell, like chillwave. The perfect avatar for an era where pitchiness is a virtue, where amateurs are more famous than professionals, where to be too good at something is to invite accusations of elitism.

The reality of the last part of the sentence, that we live in an era, “where to be too good at something is to invite accusations of elitism” is awfully painful. But unfortunately, true as well.

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2 thoughts on “The Music of Super Bowl XLV

  1. I did not see this performance. But other renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner that are now considered classic were criticized the same way at the time they occurred: Aretha Franklin’s, Jimi Hendrix’s.

    • That’s interesting. Not sure, though, Aguilera will ever be considered the new Aretha Franklin, or that she’ll ever have the same importance in music history that Franklin does.

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