The only surprise during this year’s lackluster Super Bowl was when Adam Levine transformed from People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive into that weird white uncle awkwardly gyrating next to his much hipper, but equally underwhelming partner, Travis Scott.
Even Levine’s shirtless performance couldn’t save the catastrophe that was the Pepsi Super Bowl 53 halftime show.
With the New England Patriots leading the Los Angeles Rams 3-0, the halftime show was a much-needed break from one of the most monotonous games in recent history. But only one note into his set and Levine accomplished something no one ever anticipated: He made Justin Timberlake look good.
Levine came out of the gate with an off-key rendition of “Harder to Breathe,” and it didn’t get much better from there. Although Maroon 5 performed a mix of both their classic and more recent hits, including “Sugar” and “Girls Like You,” Levine’s breathlessness and discordant falsettos made for an unimpressive evening.
Maroon 5 failed to find their footing during their second song, “This Love.” As Levine belted out “this love has taken its toll,” viewers could only sigh in agreement; the show had taken its toll on all of us.
The band did not take to the stage without controversy. Rihanna, P!nk and Cardi B all declined invitations to perform at the halftime show to stand behind NFL free-agent Colin Kaepernick. This means that Maroon 5 was the fourth choice, at best, to headline the biggest sporting event in the United States, and from their shoddy performance, you could tell why that was the case.
Prior to their performance, Maroon 5 teased a “SpongeBob SquarePants” cameo from the episode “Band Geeks,” in which the characters perform at the fictional Bubble Bowl. But Maroon 5’s halftime concert featured only a few seconds of the Nickelodeon hit, sending “SpongeBob” fans into fury. The awkward tribute included a computer-generated image of an asteroid plummeting toward the stage to introduce Travis Scott, who emerged from a ring of fire to perform his single “Sicko Mode.” While his performance was far livelier than that of Maroon 5, his limited screen time and awkward entrance made for a bizarre sight.
After Travis Scott’s short-lived appearance, Maroon 5 transitioned into “Girls Like You,” welcoming an Atlanta-based gospel choir to finish out the song. The choir’s Herculean lead vocalist Carmen Carter was the show’s stand-out as she stole the stage from Levine.
In another confusing entrance, Atlanta rapper Big Boi interrupted Maroon 5’s set as he emerged from a Cadillac in an impressive fur coat (which may have been more fitting at last year’s frigid Minneapolis venue). The Maroon 5-Scott-Big Boi mashup was more than enough to confound and stultify viewers and audience members alike.
Aside from a meager display of drone-powered flying lanterns, the uninspired halftime production was ultimately disappointing, especially compared to the performances by previous headliners. In 2015, Katy Perry entered the stadium in regal fashion on a giant, golden lion, and in 2016, Coldplay tastefully blended their style with the voices of Bruno Mars and Beyonce.
But Maroon 5 is, at its soul, a soft rock and pop band, and they stayed true to their low-key style, despite the magnitude of the event.
Perhaps next time Maroon 5 is asked to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show, they should follow Kaepernick’s lead and take a knee.