Were The Black Eyed Peas the worst thing that ever happened to the Super Bowl? The Internet seemed to think so last night. Vitriol started pouring forth from the hive-mind pretty much the moment the Peas took the stage. The tweeting masses had the feeling that it wasn't going to be a good, good night, and that preordained consensus was confirmed once Fergie's mic cut out - or maybe, her pre-recorded vocal track didn't kick in - on the opening "I Gotta Feeling."
I'm not denying it wasn't good. Fergie butchered Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine," a desperate attempt to include a smidgen of crowd pleasing rock and roll in the the hip-pop mix. The other Peas were strangely immobile, amidst the hundreds of futuristic Tron-style TV-headed dancers. Turns out, even will.i.am's plan to Tweet from the stage were foiled when his AT&T service crashed.
All of this inspired much amusing carping. My favorite stuff came from comedian Andy Borowitz. He fired off several excellent 140-or-less character quips, such as "I now think will.i.am's main talent is punctuation," "If Reagan were alive, he would say 'Mr. Goodell, tear down this halftime,'" "BREAKING: Boxheaded Robots Offended By Halftime Show," and "Mubarek on the halftime show: 'And people want ME to leave?'" (Borowitz kept it up today on his Twitter feed, after Christina Aguilera apologized for flubbing the lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner": "Christina Aguilera: 'Please believe me: I love the United States of Whatsisplace.'")
Let me just say this in half-hearted defense of the Peas: Sure, the show was a sloppily executed over-the-top spectacle. But isn't that in keeping with the Super Bowl itself, a football game that, no matter how good the game turns out to be (and lately, they've been pretty good), is dwarfed by an unrelenting onslaught of hype that swallows the athletic competition whole?
And with the sole exception of Prince, every half time performer in recent years has similarly been ovwerwhelmed by the spectacle itself. Since the Justin Timberlake-Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" fiasco in 2004, every act, from Tom Petty to last year's The Who, has been crusty and classic in nature, with the NFL choosing to try to unify the biggest TV audience of the year with white guy rock acts - again, with the exception of Prince - with roots in the '60s and '70s.
At least the BEPs are contemporary hitmakers who've had innumerable chart topping hits over the course of the past decade - though, ironically, they landed their biggest gig ever in the midst of a tour for a new album, The Beginning, that's a dud both commercially and artistically. I can't help suspecting that a lot of the whining about how bad the Peas were is generational and genre-biased. After all, they're a proudly superfical pop and and hip-hop act that took over the big stage from the classic rock Dinosaurs. Still, it would have nice if they put on a sharper show. Thank god Usher did that split.
Other Super Bowl music thoughts: The Grammys, which are coming up this Sunday, are hyped as "Music's Biggest Night," but they don't command an audience nearly as big as the Super Bowl's, so it wasn't a big surprise to see so many music stars angling for mainstream exposure in ads. I'd die happy if I never again have to see the Bud commercial starring Fargo murderer Peter Stormare as a cowboy singing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," the Diddy for Mercedes commercial was dumb, and Adrien Brody didn't cut it vocally as a Stella Artois loving lounge lizard.
Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber for Best Buy, though: That wasn't bad. Eminem gets points in my book for the Chrysler ad: He's a native Detroiter repping his home town, with dignity. The Jon Spencer & the Blues Explosion cover of Ram Jam's "Black Betty" in a Volkwagen Beetle ad was creepy crawly cool. And the award for best use of pop music in a Super Bowl ad goes to .... the late Joey Ramone for his punked-up version of "What A Wonderful World," which is the sunny theme music for Rupert Murdoch's new iPad newspaper, The Daily.
Previously: The Best Beard In Rock and Roll