Madonna at The Super Bowl: Magnificent or Meh?

bill bodkin and brent johnson debate one of the most talked-about halftime shows in a long time …

When the third quarter of the Super Bowl began, the founders of Pop-Break.com had two very, very different thoughts running through their minds. See their Facebook statuses at the time …

Bill Bodkin: “DANNY WOODHEAD I HATE YOU!” [Editor’s Note: In no way does Bill Bodkin actually hate Danny Woodhead.]

Brent Johnson: “Am I the only one who thought Madonna’s performance was great? Even though she didn’t sing ‘Borderline,’ ‘Live To Tell,’ ‘Crazy For You’ or ‘Beautiful Stranger.’ And even though Nicki Minaj always looks like she’s about to have a seizure.”

Which brings us to today, 24 hours removed from the Material Girl’s halftime show, when Bodkin and Johnson debate on whether the show was magnificent or meh …

BILL BODKIN’S TAKE

Now, before I begin my argument, let me get one thing out in the open.

I don’t believe people like Madonna, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., LMFAO, *NYSNC, Britney Spears or any one associated with pop music should be performing at halftime of the Super Bowl. This is a red-blooded, blue-collar game where people knock the crap out of each for 60 minutes. So shouldn’t we be hearing some red-blooded, blue-collar rock ‘n’ roll, or at least something with a little testosterone behind, and not some gaudy, over-produced and lip-synched Cirque de Soleil knock-off?

So obviously I have a bit of prejudice towards the selection of Madonna, a pop icon, as the halftime performer for the Super Bowl my beloved Giants were playing in. Was Bon Jovi unavailable? Will they ever consider Metallica? Hell, as much as I detest country music, Toby Keith would’ve been a more logical choice.

But I’m also not a complete dunce, and I understand why pop stars are brought into perform — ratings. They bring that crowd in that’s probably not watching the game. Perfect example: My wife didn’t watch a second of the game, but tuned in for halftime.

So regardless of my bias, Madonna was an inspired choice as this year’s halftime performer. She has the power, the fame and fan base to bring in an astronomical amount of viewers. She has an iconic catalog of hit songs, a reputation for dynamic live shows and she’s beloved by people all over the world. And as metal as I am, I respect the hell out of Madonna as a performer and artist.

Yet, watching one of the best legendary female singers of all-time perform in Indianapolis, I felt like I was watching someone who was going through the motions. Was I really watching Madonna right now? She’s someone renowned for her charisma and stage presence. But on this night, it seemed as if she didn’t want to be there — casually walking around, looking amused at the absurd acrobatics of her dancers and, worst of all, carelessly mouthing the words to her songs out of synch with the audio.

And that’s what really killed me. The lack of energy in her dancing and performance also made it very obvious, to me at least, that she was not in synch with her words. I understand that lip synching in pop music happens — especially when the artist’s stage show revolves around highly choreographed dance numbers. But when you’re basically walking around the stage, the synch can’t be covered up, especially when you’re the main focus of the camera.

Speaking of poor lip-synching, how off was every artist that made a cameo? LMFAO sounded a little too piped in, NiKki Minja’s motormouth raps were terribly mistimed and M.I.A., outside of embarrassing yourself by flipping people the bird, why were you even there? I thought Cee Lo Green would save the show, but once his sequined robe started falling off, you could tell he wasn’t in time with the audio.

But this is what you get when you put pop stars on during the Super Bowl. A live band might make a mistake, but at least there’s some fire, some charisma, something to enjoy. Granted, the Stones were pretty awful a few years back … but remember Prince melting faces off with blistering guitar solos in the torrential rain, or how Bruce Springsteen rocked worlds? As much as you want to put a high gloss on a show with bright lights, big names and “look at that” acrobatics, the hum of the guitar, the thunder of the drums and the sound of a live voice can’t be topped.

BRENT JOHNSON’S TAKE

I know it’s a football game. And I know the suddenly unstoppable New York Giants beat the big, bad New England Patriots in a biblical rematch last night.

But really, there are two reasons to watch the Super Bowl. To see a high-tension sporting event. And to see pricey commercials and a glorious halftime show — that this year just happened to feature the greatest female pop star of all time commanding a glowing stage, disappearing into a puff of smoke and promoting world peace.

Which is fine by me.

Football ceased being a true blue-collar, rough-necked sport a while ago. Maybe it was when Joe Namath started wearing pantyhose under his uniform to keep warm. Maybe it was when the Chicago Bears did ‘The Super Bowl Shuffle.’ Maybe it was when Chad Johnson changed his named to Chad Ochocinco. Maybe it was when players began trash talking on Twitter. Maybe it was when the Giants’ Victor Cruz started salsa dancing in the end zone.

Football is about spectacle now. And so is the Super Bowl.

Plus, rock ‘n’ roll has had more than its fair share at the halftime show in recent years — and most of it was great. Prince. Bruce Springsteen. Paul McCartney. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. The Who — a band I adore — was the only disappointment, sounding creaky and bored.

Madonna was a nice way to mix it up. She’s one of the few musicians as big as the Super Bowl. And at the very least, her set was fun. She dusted off her still-fabulous ‘Vogue’ rap. She had a dancer bounce strangely on a wire. She closed with ‘Like A Prayer’ — one of the many perfect pop songs she’s released over the last 30 years. And as one of my good friends noted, she inexplicably left the stage like Han
Solo being dropped into carbonite while the words ‘World Peace’ lit up near the 50-yard line.

It was odd. It was theatrical. It got people talking. That’s what music is supposed to do.

Do I care that the lip-syncing was off? Of course. Madonna is too much of a pro to lip-sync at all. And theatricality shouldn’t sacrifice quality. But I don’t care that LMFAO showed up with their usual buffoonery. I don’t care that Cee Lo looked ridiculous. And I certainly don’t care that M.I.A. flipped her finger — what’s more rock ‘n’ roll than that?

Part of my problem with sports is that it’s often all too serious — arguments over statistics, people playing out their fantasies with online teams, Bill Belichick practically barring his players from having fun. Sports should be about wonder and celebration. Madonna helped with that last night.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Well…. I think Madonna’s show was beyond spectacular in so many ways….. Entrance, costumes, changes, props, back up, video show etc…. And I could list more….. I am a drag performer and I know how hard it is to put a small production together…. Let alone THAT!!!! U have to realize that sometimes what comes thru the headgear is off from what u hear as a spectator…. Kinda like seeing and hearing thunder….. So I doubt these people were off on lip synch……Madonna put together a spectacular show and touched the hearts of people here in Indy putting this thing together…. She is and will always be an icon….. Whether u like her as an artist or not, there should have been something to entertain you in that production…. If there wasn’t, then don’t watch her again cause that is all she does…. SERVES UP FABULOUSNESS!!!!! Now….. Go strike a pose!

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