For this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, the Black Eyed Peas’ wishy-washy hip-hop show brought about change of pace from the anthemic classic rock of the football game’s last 6 years. This performance, along with a bumpy game-opening rendition of the US national anthem from Christina Aguilera, made up a lackluster night of music for the normally majestic event.
Overall, the Black Eyed Peas seemed more focused on the show’s visual effects than on their performance. As the group members emerged from the ceiling to the opening bars of their 2009 hit “I Gotta Feeling,” elaborate, Tron-like glow costumes and stage pieces were revealed. The music, however, was not so dazzling: the instruments were much too quiet, will.i.am’s vocals were soaked in Auto-Tune processing, and the volume on Fergie’s microphone was late at the beginning of her first solo.
The group progressed from “I Gotta Feeling” into an abridged version of 2009’s “Boom Boom Pow,” which contained the only solo vocal contributions of the night from group members apl.de.ap and Taboo. Adding to the visual effects on the stage, light-laden dancers on the football field created various shapes using their costumes, a procedure that would continue in various forms for the remainder of the show.
After several more Peas hits and guest spots from ex-Guns ‘N’ Roses guitarist Slash (the Fergie-led rendition of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”) and Usher (his hit “OMG,” edited here to “Oh my gosh”), the group tore through recent hit “The Time,” which unfolded into a finale reprise of “I Gotta Feeling.”
Ultimately, the Peas’ hip-hop did not hold up as well as previous acts such as Prince, the Who, or Bruce Springsteen. The guest stars were understated, and Fergie’s singing often seemed to break into a shout. This was perhaps to compensate for the lack of choreography in the band’s set: the Peas seemed to be standing and yelling at the audience for nearly the entire 13-minute show.
The weak halftime show was augmented by a painful opening performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Christina Aguilera. During the song’s performance, Aguilera confused several lines in the song, mixing up the line “O’er the ramparts we watched” and accidentally repeating the line “At the twilight’s last gleaming.”
The Black Eyed Peas are the first hip-hop group to perform at the Super Bowl since the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Halftime Show, (which also featured Nelly, Justin Timberlake, Kid Rock, and P. Diddy). Although the Peas did nothing to upset the FCC with this performance, they did not live up to the legacy created by the acts of the past few years, and hopefully next year will bring a return to the rock bands of yesteryear.