Twitter reacts to the Super Bowl halftime show
The Super Bowl halftime show used to attract the biggest bands and artists in the music industry, but that all changed when the NFL began its very public battle with San Francisco 49ers star, Colin Kaepernick. The mixed-race quarterback kickstarted what would turn into a political storm when he took a knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial injustice. Many of his colleagues stood in solidarity with him to begin with, but the NFL (and even the president of the United States) wanted to get back to business as usual.
Kaepernick’s actions seem to have sealed his fate as a football player, but as his peers in the game largely fell back in line with the league, some of the biggest names in music remained very much on his side. Rihanna (allegedly) and Cardi B (definitely) turned down the chance to perform because of the way Kaepernick has been dealt with by the NFL, who then turned to Maroon 5, instead. According to USA Today, “100,000 Maroon 5 fans … signed a petition” begging them to reconsider, but the soft rock band went ahead with the show anyway. When lead singer Adam Levine saw how Twitter reacted to the halftime show, he probably wished he’d taken their advice.
Levine was roundly roasted on Twitter following Maroon 5’s performance, but that wasn’t the only part of the show that had people talking. Here are the best of the reactions from the Twittersphere.
Rainning on the parade
Hollywood actor Rainn Wilson (best-known as Dwight Schrute from the US version of The Office) reacted to the Super Bowl halftime show with three simple words: “Maroon 5 hours.” His tweet quickly gained thousands of likes, highlighting just how many people felt that the band were on the stage for way too long. Not only was Maroon 5’s set list super safe (they performed older hits like “This Love”, “Girls Like You”, “She Will Be Loved”, “Sugar” and “Moves Like Jagger”), it seemed to go on forever, something even fans of the band had to admit.
“It seemed long, and I love Maroon 5,” one user tweeted, while another suggested that Maroon 5 had actually “been around like 15 years too long.” Levine chose to ignore the backlash when he took to Instagram after the event, instead discussing the “responsibility” that comes with performing at the Super Bowl. “We thank the universe for this historic opportunity to play on the world’s biggest stage,” he said in a post made to his official feed. “We thank our fans for making our dreams possible. And we thank our critics for always pushing us to do better.”
King James wanted more Travis Scott
Giving so much time to Maroon 5 meant that the other acts on the bill had precious little to work with. Rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi also performed, but they were very much guests at a Maroon 5 show, something that didn’t go over too well on Twitter. “Man, too much Maroon 5,” one disappointed user tweeted. “Needed more Travis Scott and Big Boi. Maroon 5 is outdated.” The general consensus was that Levine and his band ought to have played second fiddle to the other featured acts instead of headlining halftime. “Good idea, bad execution,” another user said. “Should of been Travis ft. Maroon 5, not the other way around.”
In the end all Scott did was emerge from a bizarre fireball display to perform a version of “Sicko Mode” (Levine filled in for Drake, who features on the recording) before crowd surfing away. Many viewers half expected him to return, NBA star LeBron James among them. “Soooooooo… This halftime show though,” the athlete and actor tweeted. “That’s all for Travis or nah?!” To make matters worse, Scott was repeatedly bleeped for the bad language in his lyrics.
That Target tank top
If you were following the halftime show as it happened on Twitter, you may have noticed several photos of pillows popping up on the various hashtags, and here’s why. Levine’s tank top bore a striking resemblance to these pillows, which can apparently be bought with matching curtains. “Wow, the highlight of Adam Levine’s performance was definitely that his shirt looked exactly like pillows that an alarming amount of people happen to have from Target,” reporter Jenna Amatulli tweeted.
Not all of the items were purchased at Target, however. Jenni Chilton Dodson told the Huffington Post that she bought hers about five years ago from Furniture Factory Outlet. “That pattern was apparently very popular at one time,” Dodson said, adding that she couldn’t stop laughing when she noticed the coincidence. “It had just [came] out of my mouth that his shirt was the ugliest thing I had ever seen, and then I glanced at my couch. … We just about died laughing!”
The ‘worst famous guy tattoos of all time’
Things didn’t get much better for Levine after he removed his pillow-inspired shirt “like an uncle at thanksgiving when Kid Rock comes on,” as comedian Elijah Daniel put it. The singer’s torso is almost fully covered in tattoos, but his ink didn’t exactly impress Twitter users. “Are all of Adam Levine’s tattoos inspired by stuff he sees while shopping at Hot Topic?” Matt Oswalt (a writer on Netflix’s Mystery Science Theater 3000) asked in a tweet, while MSNBC LIVE anchor Stephanie Ruhle suggested that he had the worst tattoos in show business. “Is anyone happier than Ben Affleck right now?” Ruhle quipped, referring to the A-List actor’s infamous back ink. “He no longer has the worst famous guy tattoos of all time. Thanks Adam Levine.”
The comments about Levine’s tattoos just kept coming, each more outrageous than the last. One user said that it “looks like he bought 12 packs of fake sailor tattoos from a liquidation sale,” while another tweeted that he looks like “he’s the main character in Memento but the mystery is where he left his Juul.” Even some of Levine’s fellow musicians got in on the act, with Blink 182 singer and bassist Mark Hoppus poking fun at his California tattoo as well as his performance. “This halftime show is worse than when my parents got divorced,” he tweeted.
Two parts of Levine’s torso that aren’t covered in tattoos are his nipples, which were on full show by the end of his set. Countless viewers saw this as a clear double standard, seeing as Janet Jackson was heavily criticized after one of her breasts was accidentally exposed during her 2004 halftime performance with Justin Timberlake. “I think the ensuing backlash was tough on both Janet and me,” Timberlake said of the infamous wardrobe malfunction, but there’s been no such backlash over Levine showing flesh.
“Why is it okay to see Adam Levine’s boobs and not Janet Jackson’s?” Aisha Tyler pondered. “Asking for a friend.” The Emmy-nominated talk show host wasn’t the only media personality to dub the situation hypocritical, with ESPN host Katie Nolan tweeting that “Super Bowl halftime nipple rules feel inconsistent.” According to writer Charlotte Clymer, it’s time for America to have a “serious chat” about why Levine’s nipples are deemed acceptable for TV while Jackson was “shamed and blacklisted” for exposing hers by mistake. “Just annoyed with this ridiculous goddamn double standard of sexualizing women in public life in every conceivable context, but men can just do whatever the hell they want?”
Levine’s dance moves get the meme treatment
He might know how to move like Jagger, but Levine’s dancing didn’t look so hot next to his special guests’ moves. The Maroon 5 singer’s dancing was the topic of much discussion in the Twittersphere, with users breaking out some pretty hilarious memes (he’s been getting compared to everyone from Michael Scott to Napoleon Dynamite). Stephanie McNeal of BuzzFeed News was reminded of Rick Astley in his typically ’80s video for “Never Gonna Give You Up” while watching Levine bust a move to Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode”, while The Atlantic‘s Hannah Giorgis tweeted that the Maroon 5 man looked like “a human Hollister cologne.”
The general consensus was that Levine lacked the cool factor, and being in the company of Scott and Atlanta legend Big Boi only served to highlight that. Even former football pros couldn’t help but poke fun at the contrast. “They invited Adam Levine to the barbecue and it’s not going as planned,” retired tight end Martellus Bennett tweeted. “He brought the potato salad with raisins in it.”
PETA furious at Big Boi over fur coat
The fact that Big Boi appeared without his Outkast partner André 3000 made for a number of quality memes (some of them related to Spongebob Squarepants, who we’ll get to shortly), but the most Twitter chatter was centered around the fact that PETA had called the rapper out for his fur coat. “Hey, Big Boi,” the organization tweeted, tagging him. “The way you move is horrifying when animals have to DIE for your outfit,” it said, playing on the lyrics of Outkast hit “The Way You Move”, which Big Boi performed with Adam Levine during the halftime show.
Angry at the rapper’s decision to wear fur during an event watched by so many people, PETA decided to go one step further and post a “who wore it better” picture, with Big Boi in his coat on one side and a caged fox on the other. “If animals have to be murdered for your coat, just choose something else for fox sake,” the caption said. It wasn’t just PETA who called the rapper out on Twitter, either. Many people expressed frustration, with one user tweeting that he “needs to get the memo that we ain’t wearing real fur anymore in 2019.”
The Spongebob backlash
In November 2018, the creator of animated kids’ classic Spongebob Squarepants, Stephen Hillenburg, passed away following a battle with ALS. One fan of the show thought that it would be fitting for the NFL to pay tribute to the 57-year-old American during the halftime show, and decided to start a petition. To say the petition was popular would be a drastic understatement — more than 1.2 million people put their names to it. “As a tribute to [Hillenburg]’s legacy, his contributions to a generation of children, and to truly showcase the greatness of this song, we call for Sweet Victory to be performed at the Halftime Show,” the Change.org page reads.
The tribute happened, but nothing like how people had hoped. Those expecting to hear a rendition of the rousing song had to make do with “3 seconds of a poorly reanimated snippet from Band Geeks,” one disappointed user tweeted. “The part that’s, you know, not the actual song being performed.” The official Spongebob Squarepants Twitter account seemed happy enough with how it turned out, but fans expressed their anger all the same.
No Kaepernick shoutouts
Turns out it wasn’t just PETA who were angered by Big Boi. Given the situation with Colin Kaepernick, many hoped that one of the performers would pay tribute to him in some small way, especially those in the same profession. Retired NFL nose tackle Ian Williams took to Twitter to express his disappointment when nobody saw fit to mention Kaepernick’s name. “So no shoutouts to Kaepernick during the Super Bowl halftime show???” he said. “I was hoping to see something.”
Pro soccer player Bilal Duckett noticed Williams’ comment and got in on the conversation, revealing that he thought Atlanta’s finest would come through on the day. “I really hoped Big Boi would step out with SOME message,” Duckett replied. He didn’t go on to explain what that message should have been or how he might have expressed it, but many on Twitter thought that Big Boi should have rocked the player’s now famous number 7. “I’m a lil disappointed that Big Boi didn’t pull up with the Kaepernick jersey on!” one fan tweeted.
Marching band madness
Many Twitter users were quick to pick up on the fact that the drumline used during the halftime show was comprised of mainly white faces. “The move was particularly disrespectful given the Super Bowl is being hosted in Atlanta, a city with some of the best historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the country,” Complex reported, highlighting some of the reactions that took place on Twitter. “The NFL wanted to tout Atlanta’s rich civil rights history but couldn’t have an HBCU dry line up there?” one user fumed.
Former Saturday Night Live writer Zack Bornstein and Outline culture editor Jeremy Gordon had some pretty strong words on the ethnicity of the drummers (Gordon went as far as calling a mostly white drumline in Atlanta a “hate crime”), but perhaps the most famous person to weigh in on the topic so far is Donnie Wahlberg. “It’s Black History Month, the Super Bowl is in Atlanta, home of multiple Historic Black Colleges and HBCU marching bands,” the singer and actor tweeted. “And the halftime show features… A white headline act? A mostly white marching band? And a white man’s nipples? WTF?”
Worst Super Bowl halftime show ever?
There have been some pretty terrible halftime shows in the long history of the Super Bowl, from Elvis impersonators to Disney’s Indiana Jones debacle. The latter, produced by the Mouse House for the 1995 halftime show, was designed to build buzz for the new Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. Patti LaBelle got totally lost during the performance and delivered what Mirror described as “some of the worst lip-syncing ever seen on stage.” Plenty of people on Twitter seem to believe that Levine was also lip syncing during his 2019 performance, but was the Maroon 5-led halftime show really the worst ever?
According to actress Sandra Bernhard, the 2019 show was indeed “the worst halftime show” in history. While not many people are going quite as far as that, the feeling is that it was the worst halftime show in modern history. It simply lacked the wow factor and spectacle that people have come to expect from it, as Comedian Akilah Hughes pointed out. “Lady Gaga fell from the sky but I guess just performing on a stage [with] no choreography is fine,” she tweeted.