Super Bowl halftime show: Colorful Coldplay can't compete with Beyonce, Bruno Mars
All throughout Super Bowl 50, CBS hyped the halftime show with Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars as “a musical celebration of past, present and future” – as if we somehow weren’t watching a collection of artists between the ages of 30 and 38.
By the end, you could see what they were going for, as the halftime show made numerous references to halftime performers and performances past, from Michael Jackson and U2 to Whitney Houston and Bruce Springsteen, both at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. The NFL does tend to love paying homage to itself at every conceivable turn. And apart from a little spotty audio here and there, they got exactly what they wanted.
Of course, the only thing almost everyone ELSE wanted to see was Beyonce and the live premiere of her 100-emoji new single Formation.
I’d like to come in here and be the lone defender of Coldplay on this night; they’re one of my favorite bands, and I firmly believe Coldplay concerts can be a religious experience, particularly when that “Whoa-oh-oh!” chant kicks in on Viva La Vida. They were probably the right choice to “headline” this particular game, given their penchant of late for bold, bright colors; that’s exactly what was needed for the show to pop beneath the still-sunny California sky. Chris Martin's shoes alone were worth the price of a 4K Ultra upgrade.
Kudos to Martin for keeping things uncomfortably up-close-and-personal with the fans (loved his opening sprint onto the field, and dug his mugging with delirious fans in the pit), and to drummer Will Champion for positively owning those mallets and that bell.
But this was always going to be a hard night for Coldplay to steal – especially following Lady Gaga’s incredible rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner (seriously, given how frequently Gaga seems to deliver the goods under the harshest of spotlights, mustn’t she now be considered one of the world’s top vocalists?).
After a medley of snippets from Yellow, Viva La Vida, Paradise and Adventure of a Lifetime, the camera shifted to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars and the Hefty Bag Crew (I assume that’s the name of his new band) for a James Brown- and Morris Day-referencing spin through Uptown Funk, and you can tell this is really what the NFL wanted all along. Mars, you might recall, was reportedly offered the halftime show last fall – it would’ve been his second such gig in three years – and you just know all the league wanted was a live performance of 2015’s most inescapable single.
Then it was over to Beyonce at the other end of the field, for a frenzied dance routine and all-too-brief taste of Formation. She left out the bit about Red Lobster, but kept in her much-discussed lyrics about her hair, her nose and her Southern black heritage. Power move.
The ensuing Beyonce-Bruno-dance-off just about stole the rest of the show’s thunder, with the singers trading lines from Formation and Uptown Funk as Martin grinned and hunched goofily in the background (I assume that’s what he was doing, the camera understandably didn’t dare shift off Bey or Bruno for even a second).
Now, while Beyonce stole the news cycle with her single and announcement of her Formation World Tour, let’s all remember she and Martin have been tight buddies for ages, so this wasn’t exactly a case of her coming in and slaying a lesser competitor sans mercy. She and Martin and Mars sang agreeably for the rest of the set, including harmonizing together to close out the show on Coldplay’s Up & Up.
Martin played snippets of Clocks and Fix You, but worked in mentions of a slew of halftime shows past, referencing U2’s Beautiful Day, Prince’s Purple Rain and Destiny’s Child’s Independent Women, among others. The NFL kept cutting from the action on the field to show us clips from those previous performances, instead of, for some reason, keeping a Steadicam on Beyonce at all times.
Bottom line: Coldplay, you done good. Bruno, you’re a star as always. But if it’s the spotlight you want, next time around bring Left Shark instead of Beyonce. At the moment, she is music’s present and future. And she just showed the world why.
-- Jay Cridlin