Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Superbowl XLV Gets a Black Eye
Sunday, the annual over-hyped television event of the year has come and gone with the usual mix of let-down, disappointments, and controversies. Its amazing that so much hype and production goes into a single game, which usually does not live up to the level of expectations people have come to expect. Its become like a bad sequel put out by Hollywood, in which the philosophy is "bigger is better" while the reality is that it was overdone and would've done much better with less.
I watched the game at my church congregation's annual Superbowl Party. Its a good thing that they offered it, because my television cannot pick up Fox or CBS, so I would have had to go to a local bar to watch the game with a bunch of rednecks (or deal with the infrequent bus service on Sunday and watch the game in a pub downtown with a higher level of patrons). Last year, I lived in an apartment complex that had a Superbowl party in the lobby that I attended.
I found it interesting that the Superbowl party at church boiled down to gender stereotypes. All the guys (except me) sat in the chairs close to the big screen. The women held a separate scrapbooking party in the main adult classroom. One lady wanted me to let her know when the commercials were on, but come on! They could've done their scrapbooking thing in the back of the fellowship hall where tables were set up. I was at one of those tables, surfing the Internet the entire time of the game. Didn't really get into the game as much this year. It was fun to catch the conversations of various friends around the country through Facebook.
The first controversy of the Superbowl was the absolute butchering of the national anthem by the trampy Christina Aguilera (I've never been a fan of hers, though I think "Beautiful" is her best single by far). She was awful, awful, awful. For one thing, she tried to put her creative vocalizing spin on the anthem like she's singing some cover version of a song she's trying to make her own. That's inappropriate for the National Anthem. Either sing it right or don't sing it at all. Haven't we gone over this before when Roseanne Barr insulted people nationwide with her irreverent version of the National Anthem in the late 1980s? Secondly, she forgot the words to one line in the anthem and sang something completely different. I understand that our national anthem is actually a difficult song to sing both in the melody and in remembering the words.
This is why I'm in favour of changing our national anthem to "America the Beautiful." I'm glad that the Superbowl does have another singer perform that song as well. I find "America the Beautiful" to be a much better anthem for several reasons: (1) both the lyrics and music are written by an American ("The Star-Spangled Banner" is actually a British pub drinking song with the words of a poem about the War of 1812 by Frances Scott Key attached to it); (2) the song pays tribute to the great natural beauty of our country (versus the glorification of war in our national anthem); and (3) it is simply a beautiful melody and people remember the lyrics of the first verse.
So, Christina Aguilera was an EPIC FAIL as the game got started. The commercials were kind of ho-hum, save for a few, particularly the one that got the most attention for being leaked on the Internet in the days before the game and was viewed by 10 million people already before it officially debuted during the Superbowl. Of course, I'm talking about Volkswagen's brilliant Star Wars commercial, with a pint-sized Darth Vader trying to use the power of the force on various things until his father secretly helps him out with the car. This commercial aims directly at the heart of anyone who grew up on Star Wars and believed in the power of the force (confession: after I saw Empire Strikes Back in 1980, I learned how to ride a bicycle without training wheels by use of "The Force". I used to pretend that I was Luke Skywalker and that my bicycle was my X-Wing fighter). My favourite part of the commercial is the kid's reaction when he believes he had finally successfully used the Force on the VW. Though you can't see his face, his bodily reaction tells the viewer everything. The kid is a natural. I hope an acting career is in his future.
The next major controversy came during the Half-Time show. It looked as though the Black Eyed Peas were trying to rip off Tron (Disney should sue if no one had asked their permission to use the idea of costumes that light up like the Tron outfits). The opinions I read on Facebook and online elsewhere was pretty unanimous, even by fans of the Black Eyed Peas: they were absolutely AWFUL! The singing was off, the music was just discombobulated nonsense, and most of the songs were not memorable (I only like a few Black Eyed Peas songs, but think "Where is the Love?" is far and away their best single ever. This song also has special relevance for the YAPS group I participate with). Fergie was screaming more than singing and when Slash appeared, she badly butchered the awesome Guns 'n Roses classic "Sweet Child o' Mine." Usher even showed up to do his dance sequences, but I've never been an Usher fan.
Why was this show so bad? I thought I was the only one who thought it was bad when I was watching it live. I actually thought I had reached the age of uncool, where I was starting to think about music like my father and grandfather. I loved music in the 1980s and 1990s. Since 2000, I have been disappointed by the lack of good music as each year turns into the next. However, this is a good thing because I spend less of my money on music now than I used to in the 1990s. Still, is it so wrong to want to hear great music during an over hyped half-time show? The Who got criticized and so did Paul McCartney. In the past few years, the NFL brought out the old dinosaurs to perform after 2004's controversial Janet Jackson / Justin Timberlake half-time show offended people with all the nipple exposure in an election year. CBS was fined by the FCC for that moment of indecency, and the NFL or whoever decides the half-time performer has played it safe ever since.
I think U2 did a great job at the Superbowl one year (was it 2002?) as did Bruce Springsteen. I've read one anaylsis online in which the writer claimed that its hard for a group to do a good job during the half time show if their music is slickly produced in the recording studio. Actual bands that play live concerts usually make for a great live performance, while hip hop musicians that depend too much on sampling and technology are poor choices. So, whoever is in charge of the entertainment, how about picking a band like Maroon 5 or Coldplay or even The Dave Matthews Band? A sports fanatic at my work thinks that John Mellencamp will be next year's half time entertainment since the Superbowl will be in Indiana. That makes sense and he would be a great selection. Expect him to sing "R.O.C.K. in the USA" and "Tumblin' Down" (two of his 80s classic).
The Black Eyed Peas? EPIC FAIL!
Superbowl XLV (that's 45 for you non-Roman numeral readers) did break the record in being the most watched television program in Nielsen Ratings history, with 111 million people tuning in. This was partly due to the supposed legendary status of the two teams in the game: Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was rooting for the Packers, though I really couldn't get into the game, even though it did get excitingly close in the fourth quarter, down to the last few seconds of the game. Now that's a worthy bowl game! No blow out this year. I probably would have been more into the game if the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, or Atlanta Falcons were one of the teams. Not that I'm a fan or follower of any of those teams, just that I'd like to see the Seahawks and the Falcons in the Superbowl at some point in my life, and the 49ers have been the closest thing to my favourite pro football team since adolescence (due to Quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young).
With the Superbowl overwith, now its all about the next great annual event in American culture: The Oscars! I definitely pay close attention to this show and have my favourites to root for every year (this year, it's Colin Firth and Natalie Portman). As for the National Anthem, though, future singers need to watch the following clip and take notes. I consider Whitney Houston's Superbowl performance in 1991 to be "the standard" that all other performances are measured by. She sings the anthem flawlessly. I get chills everytime I hear her version of the anthem. In fact, twenty years ago, the Sunday before I left for Basic Training, my church congregation in Atlanta played this version of the national anthem on my behalf during the church service. It was a touching gesture. I can't believe that it has been twenty years ago now. Where does the time go?