By Tony Hooker
1. vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion
Hey, how about that super bowl halftime show, eh? Knowing my demographic, it’s likely that if you’re reading these words, you probably weren’t impressed. For me, it was a trip down memory lane, taking me back to those days when I was in college, chucking domino’s pizzas around Champaign. Because I didn’t start my journey down the academic pathway until I was almost 30, almost all of my colleagues were a decade or so younger than me, and they introduced me to the hip hop genre, specifically to the performers from last Sunday’s big game, and I grew to appreciate the way they could seamlessly put out their boasts, expressions of appreciation and disses to their rivals. Some of their lyrics, especially those of Eminem, are laugh out loud funny if you listen closely enough. Snoop and Dre’ brought legitimacy and street cred to the game, fundamentally changing the whole deal, and I found it to be a fascinating glimpse into a world that I was not remotely a part of. Somehow, white, middle class American millennials began to gravitate toward these inner-city poets as well, and they became the soundtrack for an entire generation, from those who actually lived in the ‘hood to those who grew up surrounded by corn fields, about as far away from the ghetto as one could be, both literally and figuratively. For an aspiring communication guy, one who was removed from high school and all the drama therein, I found it a fascinating observation. Did those suburbanites flock to the hip hop lifestyle, and the rap music that sprung from it, as rebellion against their middle-class lives? Or did they just like the beats and rhymes? Of course, not everyone liked the genre, even back then. There were those who were opposed to it for reasons of race. There were those who simply didn’t like the genre or the music it produced and there were those who liked some but not all of it.
As for the Super Bowl halftime performance, I think that those who tried to paint the division over the show with a political brush were wrong, either on purpose or on accident. To me, this was a generational divide rather than a conservative vs. liberal or black vs. white thing. It’s been said that the best art generates the strongest feelings. To me, no stronger statement can be made to the art of hip hop than the strength of the responses it evokes. Love it or hate it, there is seldom middle ground.
It’s crazy to think about how far the Super Bowl has come in terms of cultural relevance, and the half time entertainment has correspondingly grown in stature as well. We’ve come a long way since the days of college marching bands performing at halftime.
In closing, here are some of my favorite performances over the years. Prince, singing purple rain in a steady Miami downpour, is probably my favorite. Michael Jackson’s moonwalk. The 2004 show when his sister Janet’s wardrobe malfunctioned, not only because of that brief, naughty glimpse, but also because Nelly and Kid Rock put forth some high energy sets. U2’s 9/11 tribute set, with the names of those who died scrolling across the backdrop as they played, was especially powerful. The 40th anniversary of Motown tribute in 1998 was a great show as was Bruno Mars. The Stones, Springsteen, Tom Petty. I personally can’t wait to see what they produce next year. Who knows? Maybe they’ll just have a college marching band play, but I doubt it.