Adam Levine opened the performance with Maroon 5’s 2002 tune “Harder to Breathe”, from the band’s debut album Songs About Jane. There was a definite vintage undertone as Levine progressed to “This Love”, released in 2004 as the second single from that same album – but not even early 2000s nostalgia could salvage the disappointing concert.
A 30-second animated sequence featuring characters from SpongeBob SquarePants provided one of the most exciting moments of the halftime performance. More than 1.2m people had signed an online petition asking for the song “Sweet Victory” to be performed in honour of late SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the animated clip introduced “a true musical hero”, who turned out to be Travis Scott.
The rapper had been announced as the accompanying act to Maroon 5, with Levine predicting that this year’s halftime show would have unprecedented hip-hop undertones.
Scott and Levine duetted on “Sicko Mode”, from Scott's album Astroworld. A marching band promptly took over as the gig transitioned to Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You”, originally a feature with Cardi B. The rapper, who said she declined an offer to perform in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, was a no-show on the Sunday night.
Levine moved on to “She Will Be Loved” as flying lanterns soared across the Atlanta sky, in a set-up that was undeniably romantic but failed to compare to the abundance of bells and whistles traditionally expected of a Super Bowl halftime show.
Maroon 5’s second guest of the evening, Big Boi, made a celebrated arrival on stage – and wowed many viewers thanks to his ostenteatious fur coat. Some had hoped that this year’s halftime show would offer the possibility of an Outkast reunion, but that didn’t materialise in the absence of André 3000, the other half of the iconic hip hop duo.
Still, Outkast’s “The Way You Move” was featured on the set list. Maroon 5 then wrapped up with two of their more recent hits, “Sugar” and “Moves Like Jagger”. Levine avoided having his lyrics censored during the live television broadcast by changing the “I don’t give a s***” line of “Moves Like Jagger” to “I don’t give a shhhhhhhhh”.
Earlier in the show, Scott didn’t deploy a similar strategy. As a result, several parts of his performance were silenced – though the concert was free of technical glitches, unlike Justin Timberlake’s halftime gig last year, which was marred by sound issues.
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The performance wrapped up with fireworks, with Maroon 5 ending the show on their M-shaped stage. While the group avoided major mishaps, they also failed to roll out the stunts and surprises fans hope to see during the televised event.
Last year, even Timberlake (whose gig was overall poorly received) travelled among members of the audience and famously took a selfie with a young boy. In 2017, Lady Gaga took an impressive leap from a pillar onto the stage, making for a memorable halftime moment.
There were none of those spectacular pop antics on Sunday night – and while Levine’s shirtless performance à la “Moves Like Jagger” generated some social media chatter, it takes more to breathe soul into a Super Bowl halftime show.
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