I haven’t paid attention to football since 1986 when the Bears won the Super Bowl. Best team, best Super Bowl ever! I like basketball, baseball and sometimes hockey, but football is a snore. But I do watch the Super Bowl or at least part of it. I might tune in to watch the commercial breaks but my favorite part is halftime.
Because the Super Bowl halftime show is all that counts. It’s amazing how much can be packed into 12 minutes of prime time. Most musicians play a set of their greatest hits (yes, you, Mr Springsteen, in 2009). The Stones in 2006 were memorable and so were the Who in 2010. The Black-Eyed Peas and Usher in 2011 put on a visually stunning show. But the 2016 halftime show was 12 minutes of satisfying drama. Chris Martin started with the 2008 Coldplay hit, “Viva La Vida,” and then segued into “Paradise” and “Adventure of a Lifetime.” The visual effects and background performers were colorful and hundreds of fans in black were packed into the sections around the stage as if they were in the pit at a rock concert. Bruno Mars did a snappy version of “Uptown Funk,” choreographed with his slick and fancy footwork.
And then Beyoncé arrived to steal the show. In black leather, surrounded by her troupe of beautiful African-American dancers. They put on a superb and powerful performance, dressed in black leather shorts and jackets. boots and black berets, paying homage to the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers, to Black Lives Matter and to black womanhood. Their dance routine at one point formed an X in honor of Malcolm X. It was a highly charged political and sexual performance of Beyoncé’s new song, “Formation.” And it’s probably a good thing that most of the audience couldn’t understand all the lyrics.
The music video of the song was released Saturday and adds even more political context with images of the Katrina flood that drowned New Orleans, Mardi Gras scenes and celebrations of hot sauce, entrepreneurship (“I just might be a Bill Gates in the making”), black beauty and black womanhood.
I’m not going to pretend that I can appreciate all the lyrics and messages because I’m a white female, privileged at that. But I cheer for Beyoncé’s action in putting her fame, power, wealth and glamour behind these messages. She could just sit back and increase her wealth with music and concert revenue, but she puts her image and reputation on the line.
Her video of “Formation” comes in two versions: “Dirty” and “Clean.” I’ll leave you with the best one.