Not so Sweet Victory


While there were many that enjoyed the halftime show, there were a lot of people who were not fans of it. It looks like Maroon 5 doesn’t seem to care too much about the critics though. On Sunday night, Levine posted photos to Instagram from the performance — where drones spelled out the words ‘One’ and ‘Love’ — and shared his gratitude both for the fans and the haters. The halftime show typically provides 13 noncompetitive minutes of bopping along to chart-toppers. This year, however because of racial tension surrounding the Superbowl, many had previously urged Maroon 5 to back out of the headlining act. Maroon 5 did not let these tensions stop them and performed some of their popular hits, including “This Love,” “She Will Be Loved” and “Girls Like You.” They were briefly joined by Travis Scott, who was introduced by Spongebob, Big Boi of Outkast and a gospel choir. For the last song, Levine took off his shirt, showing off his tattooed body to millions of viewers around the world. 

Over the last several months, more than 1 million people signed a petition to honor Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob Squarepants, with a performance of the aquatic cartoon anthem “Sweet Victory” during the Super Bowl halftime show. The 57-year-old Humboldt State University graduate died in November of last year after battling a neurodegenerative disease. The petition proposed the performance as “a tribute to Hillenburg’s legacy, his contributions to a generation of children and to truly showcase the greatness of this song.”

Then, in late January, half time headliner Maroon 5 released a Super Bowl teaser on Twitter that included a brief appearance by SpongeBob. Fans saw this as a sign that their request for a musical homage to Hillenburg would be fulfilled. They were thoroughly disappointed when it wasn’t. SpongeBob and his undersea pals did make a brief appearance during the halftime show — for approximately 15 seconds — “Sweet Victory” was never performed. Instead, those clips were used to introduce rapper Travis Scott, who then went on to perform his hit song “Sicko Mode.”

Shortly after, the internet was ablaze with memes mocking SpongeBob’s too-short cameo. While one the contrary, some were simply happy SpongeBob got any airtime at all. Before his death, Hillenburg and his wife donated $135,000 to his alma mater HSU “to provide grant awards for student research projects in marine biology, oceanography and marine fisheries,” according to a September release from the university.  Salve your pain with a real taste of “Sweet Victory.”

The controversy behind the halftime performance other than “Sweet Victory” is linked to earlier debate regarding NFL players’ right to protest. Colin Kaepernick famously knelt during the national anthem during the 2016 NFL season to make a statement against racism and police brutality, and has not been signed to a team since. The former 49ers quarterback filed a collusion lawsuit against the league in October 2017, claiming that his unemployment was a direct retaliation to his activism. Many celebrities threw their support behind Kaepernick, including Cardi B.  The rapper was originally thought to be a potential supporting act for Maroon 5, based on her feature for their hit “Girls Like You.” This was until last February when she told TMZ she would do the halftime show, “when they hire Colin Kaepernick back.”

Rihanna also reportedly turned down the halftime show in support of the football player and Amy Schumer applauded the decision. Schumer expressed that she thought, “it would be cool” if Maroon 5 backed out. The comedian also announced that she would not do any TV spots for the sporting event in support of Kaepernick as well. Variety reported in December that Maroon 5 had reached out to more than six musicians to join them for what the publication referred to as ‘music’s least wanted gig’ but to no avail. In addition to Cardi B, Andre 3000, Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj, and Usher were rumored to have been considered.

“My favorite team lost, there were plenty of close calls. In my opinion the game this year was boring to me and the half-time show wasn’t at all what I expected” said senior, Tyrick Brookes.

Another petition requested that Maroon 5 drop out of its Super Bowl slot is at 117,000 signatures at the time of this article’s publication. Last month, vice president of the Atlanta NAACP, Gerald Griggs, said the NAACP has asked performers who signed up to reconsider. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight on Thursday, front man Adam Levine said that the football league cancelled the press conference. He also touched on the topic of controversy, saying the band expected it, “When you look back on every single Super Bowl halftime show, people just can’t — it’s this insatiable urge to hate a little bit,” he said, “I’m not in the right profession if I can’t handle a little bit of controversy.” A statement from the NFL said, “the artists will let their show do the talking,” and that media platforms will be utilized to show behind-the-scenes content in its place.

Levine also responded to the critics of his band’s decision to perform despite the calls to boycott, “No one thought about it more than I did. No one put more thought and love into this than I did… I spoke to many people, most importantly though, I silenced all the noise and listened to myself, and made my decision about how I felt.”

The performance started promising enough. There were synchronized fireworks blazing from the stage shaped like an “M.” The performance ultimately ended up been seen as boring, safe, and uneasy, despite being joined by Travis Scott and Big Boi at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Critics on social media were largely unhappy with the performance. The most-talked-about moment was when the lead singer, Adam Levine, took off his T-shirt to sing “Moves Like Jagger.” The New Yorker ran the headline, “The Artless Spectacle of Maroon 5 at the Super Bowl.”

Critics were drawing comparisons to the controversial 2004 halftime show, when Justin Timberlake removed part of Janet Jackson’s top, exposing her breasts. CBS, which aired that Super Bowl, was fined $550,000 by the Federal Communications Commission for the incident, but the fine later was overturned.

“Why is it okay to see Adam Levine’s boobs and not Janet Jackson’s,” tweeted actress and talk show host Aisha Tyler.

“Super Bowl halftime nipple rules feel inconsistent,” tweeted ESPN host Katie Nolan.

Levine kept a positive message after learning about the criticism. He said,  “When we accepted the responsibility to perform at the SBHTS, I took out my pen and just wrote,” Levine, 39, captioned the photo. “Some of the words that came to me in that moment eventually made their way onto the incredible lanterns that flew high and low tonight. We thank the universe for this historic opportunity to play on the world’s biggest stage. We thank our fans for making our dreams possible. And we thank our critics for always pushing us to do better. One Love.”