If Super Bowl LIII served no other purpose in this late Roman phase of the American republic, at least it reminded everyone of the Latin numerals. The first half ended III-0, and the halftime entertainment was low-scoring too. II out of X to Adam Levine, Maroon 5 — who at least could have named themselves Maroon V for the occasion — and a cast of several dozen.
Maroon 5 sound like a wedding band playing Jamiroquai covers, though it is hard to imagine anyone wishing to soundtrack their special day with ‘This Love’. On this occasion, they were everybody’s fifth choice. Cardi B spoke on Friday of her anguish at turning down an invitation to perform at Atlanta. She was torn, she said, between ‘standing up’ for Colin Kaepernick, who has lost his job for taking a knee during the National Anthem, and ‘standing behind’ her husband, rapper Offset, who would otherwise be sitting down with his children at the Super Bowl.
Rihanna is also said to have chosen not to sing at the Super Bowl. Such are the silver linings of the poisoning of sport by racial politics. And such is the parlous state of American pop music that, with talents of the interstellar quality of Rihanna and Cards B otherwise engaged, there seemed to be no alternative than to call bodybuilding love rat Adam Levine, with the added attraction of a cameo from the Frank Sinatra of our times, Spongebob Squarepants. In the event, Spongebob made an entrance as a flaming comet that crashed and burned on the stage. Which is pretty much what Travis Scott did too, except he was less well dressed.
Scott was not an emissary from outer space, but from the parallel universe that is the Kardashian compound. He has recently become a father with Kylie Jenner, and asserts that he is a hands-on father. This may explain why he hopped ineffectually from one foot to the other like he needed to unload a full diaper. After a couple of minutes of this, I felt like Drake in ‘Sicko Mode’ after he’s ‘done half a Xan.’ It wasn’t even offensive; just very slow and boring. Bring back Bruno Mars, I say
Drake was notable for his absence, as was Andre 3000. I’m told that Big Boi and Andre 3000 are the two halves of a popular rapotainment group called Outkast, and that Andre 3000 appears on Big Boi’s ‘The Way You Move.’ Not at the Super Bowl, he didn’t. Perhaps he was unwilling to change his name to Andre MMM. In the event, Big Boy wandering around in his trademark old-lady fur coat on his own looking like a demented shoplifter. Add the half-time substitution of an oversouled gospel choir for Cardi B on Maroon V’s ‘Girls Like You,’ and the recipe for futile and not especially satisfying gigantism was complete. Adam Levine proved that America still knows how to do biggest best by gamely showing both nipples, thus doubling Janet Jackson’s record.
Sport is supposed to be an escape from everyday life, but the Kaepernick-Trump stand-off has ruined all that. Earlier on Sunday, top sports site the Daily Beast claimed that Boston sports teams were uniquely racist, that the Patriots were ‘team MAGA,’ and that Tom Brady’s ‘worldview lines up with that of our racist president’. Personally, I’m more appalled that in 2019 it’s considered advisable to boast in public that you have ‘moves like Jagger’. It is of course impressive that Jagger can move at all without a Zimmer frame, but his moves, a pastiche of Tina Turner’s, are a dancer’s equivalent of blackface.
You could buy a lot more of the Daily Beast’s attention-seeking silliness with the $5m that the Washington Post spent on an advert claiming that it was still a real newspaper. The Post’s plug was Sunday night’s only throwback to the days when you could laugh at the extravagance and absurdity of the nation’s most expensive bathroom break. In such bitter times, there are only two ways to rise above it. One came in the preamble to the National Anthem, delivered by Gladys Knight, now tragically shorn of her Pips, who must all be too old now to take a knee without needing a hand to get back up. The other came midway through the low-grade farrago of the interval. The sight of Adam Levine and Travis Scott bouncing helplessly up and down confirms that there is hope for the American polity so long as mediocrity is colorblind.
Dominic Green is Life & Arts Editor of Spectator USA.