So it seems like The Black Eyed Peas Super Bowl Halftime Show is being nearly unanimously panned and mocked. Being the contrarian that I am, I'd like to say a few words in defense of their performance.
I'd like to preface my comments by saying that personally I don't like the music of The Black Eyed Peas. From "Where Is The Love" in 2003, to "My Humps" in 2005, to "Imme Be" in 2009, right up to their current smash "The Time (Dirty Bit)," the music of the Black Eyed Peas could have been created by a complex and constantly improving set of algorithms designed specifically to annoy the heck out of me.
Insofar as this is the case, I have a grudging respect for the band. I'm a white man in his 40s, and it's my personal opinion that if the popular music of the day doesn't leave me saying "everything was better back in my day," then it is doing something very wrong. In a perverse way, I almost look forward to hearing how much more annoying I find the next Black Eyed Peas song than I did the last one. I feel like we have some personal contest going on, and just when I think their next song can't possibly annoy me as much as their last, they pull out a trick like interpolating the song from Dirty Dancing and drenching it in Auto-Tune. I'm pretty sure will.i.am is a genius of some sort, and I mean that sincerely.
With all that said, I felt like The Black Eyed Peas delivered more of what I think a Super Bowl performance should deliver than many of the recent Halftime shows. Ever since Janet Jackson bared her bejeweled nipple for a fraction of a second, the NFL has gotten pretty conservative with their choice of entertainment, leaning heavily on aging classic rockers like The Who, Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul McCartney. I guess they figure the worst "wardrobe malfunction" that might happen in these cases is someone will lose their dentures, or a toupee will blow off. While that would be embarrassing, it wouldn't risk offending those extremely sensitive Americans who fear a microsecond peek at Janet Jackson's nipple might permanently scar their child's psyche.
While I like (even love) the music of many of these old geezers, their performances are very short on the sort of over-the-top glitz and showmanship that I think should be part of a good Super Bowl Halftime show. (I was only half-kidding when I said they should bring back Up With People). The other problem I have with these rockers' performances is that, by necessity while the vocals can be performed live, the music must be canned. Logistically, it's just not possible to get a good live sound set up in a stadium given the time constraints. Anyone who disses will.i.am and crew for not performing their music onstage should be aware that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers did the same thing, and believe me, it's not because they can't play. But the central problem here is that rock music performances are uniformly dull when the music is already in the can. Pop music can compensate for this shortcoming with synchronized dancing and other forms of razzmatazz (it just wouldn't work to have a troupe of dancers in light up suits dancing in time to "Born To Run," although I'd like to see someone try).
Okay, there were some obvious problems with The Black Eyed Peas performance, starting with the obvious fact that even with the help of Auto-Tune none of them other than Fergie can come close to singing on key. But as a show, I didn't think it was that bad. Those LED blockhead guys dancing onstage with the band at the end were pretty cool, and almost made me think of DEVO and the way they deconstructed popular music as spectacle. Slash appearing from the void in all his junkie glory wearing a light up top hat was totally bizarre, and kind of awesome in a really strange way. And it sounded like the crowd in that stadium loved every second of it.
So despite the fact that I don't like their music, I give The Black Eyed Peas credit for actually putting on a show with lots of flash and dazzle and showbiz schmaltz, and some pretty weird shit to boot. Personally, I think Super Bowl Halftime shows are better with a healthy dose of bad taste, and on that front The Black Eyed Peas more than delivered.
Where is the love people?