Thoughts: Super Bowl XLVIII’s Music Performances

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2014 is all about trying new things, personally and professionally – or something like that.  Last year, I put my two cents in about the Super Bowl halftime show, but didn’t critique the other performances – “America The Beautiful” and of course “The Star Spangled Banner”.  Rather than merely focusing on what my boy Bruno Mars did, I’mma give some analysis to Queen Latifah (“American The Beautiful”) and Renée Fleming (“The Star Spangled Banner”) as well.  And yes, it is love – for the most part! 

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Queen Latifah

“America The Beautiful”

Queen Latifah is nothing short of a Renaissance woman.  Throughout an illustrious career, Queen Latifah has been a rapper, actress, singer, Academy Award nominated actress, and TV talk show host.  Face it: Queen Latifah is a straight up baller – in the most refined respects.  Still, The Queen also seemed like a surprising choice to sing “America The Beautiful”.   Ultimately, The Queen does what she does – win!  I wouldn’t call her rendition “America The Beautiful” the second coming or even incredibly flashy, but Queen Latifah performed it soundly.  Sure, she didn’t have the theatrics that one Jennifer Hudson did when she sang it, but few could match that… just saying.   My composition degree might question the extended vamp at the end of the arrangement, but that’s nitpicking that doesn’t involve Latifah.

Verdict: ★★★½

Renee Fleming-MTO-009783

Renée Fleming

“The Star Spangled Banner”

Despite all of her accolades, the sentiment about Renée Fleming ‘honoring America’ with the National Anthem was that it was a questionable choice.  Not because Fleming isn’t incredibly gifted, but unless one is a true classical music enthusiast, Fleming’s musical niche seems extraterrestrial.  Honestly, even being a studied musician myself and possessing liberal attitudes towards music, I was skeptical if the Grammy-winning soprano was the best choice for the biggest football game of the year.   In the end, musicianship easily quieted all the noise.  Fleming sounded stunning, accompanied by chorus. Regardless whether you enjoy metal, rap, gospel, or pop as your music of choice, Renée’s performance felt authentic, appropriate, and beautiful.   Again, my dorky, compositional side likes how the arrangement would echo Renée’s melody at times.

Verdict: ★★★★

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Bruno Mars 

Halftime Show

Bruno Mars being selected to perform the halftime show certainly continues a shift towards are younger demographic.  The great thing about Bruno Mars as an artist is his crossover appeal.  Because of this attribute, selecting Mars to perform the halftime show at the Super Bowl was an exceptional move.

Mars’ set opens with children singing, highlighting a line from the Travie McCoy/Bruno Mars song “Billionaire”: “Oh I swear, the world better prepare…” After the word “prepare” is highlighted, Bruno Mars delivers a passionate, electrifying drum solo before ever singing one note.  After completing the drum solo, Bruno Mars gets up from the drums and kicks into a rendition of his Grammy-nominated number one hit, “Locked Out Of Heaven” (Unorthodox Jukebox). The musicians surrounding Mars are jumping up in the air, feeding directly off from Mars’s infectious energy.  The vocal harmonies are exceptional here, making “Locked Out Of Heaven” even fresher.  True entertainer that Bruno Mars is!

Treasure” (Unorthodox Jukebox) is the next segment of the halftime show, following one energetic song with yet another one.  Vocally, Bruno Mars continues to impress with his live singing chops.  After a short taste of “Treasure”, Mars goes manic on “Runaway Baby” (Doo-Wops & Hooligans), kicking the tempo incredibly quick.  The lighting contributes to the intensity, fitting right along with the tempo.  Bruno’s dance skills further enhance the entertainment value.  Mars, you can cut a rug!

The Red Hot Chili Peppers then join Bruno Mars singing their Grammy-award winning  “Give It Away” from 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex MagikAnthony Kiedis is shirtless – shocker! (Oh and for the record, so is Flea on bass). It’s hard to decipher exactly what lyrics Kiedis is singing (or rock-rapping rather), but again the vibe is definitely killer and in the spirit of rock and roll.   Chili Pepper fans everywhere got excited.

Following the Peppers have their moments, the introduction of Mars’ Grammy-winning “Just The Way You Are” (Doo-Wops & Hooligans) plays as the soldiers dedicate the song to their families.  After the video sequence finishes, the cameras cut back to Mars, who begins singing the unforgettable number one hit.  Fireworks can be seen as Mars sings the chivalrous, positive love song.

Ultimately, Bruno Mars exceeded expectations.  His halftime set was one of the better shows I’ve seen in some time.  Sure, I was excited after Beyoncé rocked out last year, but I’m more impressed with the musicianship and the direction of this particular show.  No gripes from this music journalist – I’m onboard!

Best Moments:

Bruno’s drum solo and dancing; “Locked Out of Heaven”; “Just The Way You Are”

Verdict: ★★★★½

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