The ‘22 Super Bowl Halftime Show: a memorable, multi-generational performance

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Kendrick Lamar on The DAMN. Tour at TD Garden in Boston on July 22, 2017. Photo by Kenny Sun.

By Karissa Schaefer, Emerson Los Angeles Bureau Chief

There’s a reason I write about living arts and not sports, so the real celebratory moment on Super Bowl Sunday for me was the halftime performance, not the actual football game between…what teams? 

Well, after going to look it up for the tenth time, the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals faced off Feb. 13 in what seemed like a never ending game to me. My suitemates and I even missed the first half hour to instead re-watch the 1993 Michael Jackson and the 2013 Beyonce halftime performances. Finally, the first quarter timer ran out and the audience was introduced to the group of performers one by one. 

The set was a fake, white building structure—a unique sight for a Super Bowl performance. There were interwoven rooms the performers moved through, each of the six being introduced in a new one. With the game being set in L.A., the time difference was prominent in the viewing experience, with the sunlight definitely throwing me off. I’m used to it being dark out while stage lights and extra flare are easily visible and able to pop. 

The performers featured were classic 90s hip hop and rap artists: Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and Mary J. Blige. More modern hit artist Kendrick Lamar also performed, and although he didn’t sing, Anderson .Paak also made an appearance on the drums during Eminem’s song—whose bright idea was it to not let/suggest that THE Anderson .Paak sing? 

Snoop Dogg headed off the show with Dr. Dre as backup, who was featured with every singer. As he walked through the rooms rapping “The Next Episode,” he passed by a sign of a part of the set called Tam’s, which made me think about the good old Tremont Tam. While Snoop tried hyping the crowd up, it dawned on me how low energy the audience was, contrasting with how full out the dancers were going. It was just odd considering I was fully bopping my head in the comfort of my suite. 

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The cut to 50 Cent was hilarious, showing him hanging upside down in a red room rapping “In Da Club.” Maybe I’m too young to understand the context behind why this happened, but the dancers were hot and cool enough to distract from it. Nevertheless, you bet I was dancing along to this classic song from my childhood. 

Next was Mary J. Blige, with her silver thigh high-boots and 70 pounds of beautiful hair making just as much of a statement as her energetic performance. Her backup dancers, decked out in silver jumpsuits, lined the set’s roofs, hitting every beat with hard movements. Don’t get me wrong, Blige’s singing was great, but the choreography was such a great component, so much so it would often be a distraction from the singer. Even when Blige was the only one on her rooftop singing a slowed down, yet lively song, the dancers were effortlessly swaying their hips to the song’s beat. Blige finished off the song by “death dropping” on her back as she almost sang a sigh of relief, a somewhat funny, yet satisfying end. 

Kendrick Lamar was up next, and he was without a doubt my favorite of the group’s. Lamar’s performances never fail to entertain, with every detail used purposely alongside intricate choreography. Personally, Lamar could’ve headlined the entire show himself, and I would’ve been just as satisfied, if not more so. 

All his dancers moved in unison, dressed in all black, wearing sashes that read “Dre Day,” and all rocked shaved bleached hair. All the arm movements were sharp, and as someone who’s been dancing since I can remember, it was pleasing to the eye, a top hip hop dance for sure. 

Lamar performed on the ground instead of the house set, which allowed for the camera to get up close and play around with different angles. It followed  him around and zoomed in a couple times at the start of the song while Lamar seemed to direct the group using finger guns. As it switched to an overhead view, it showed the dancers moving in formations along with the ground, which was designed to look like streets. 

The song was abruptly ended by the last but not least performer, Eminem. Wearing his signature black hoodie on top of one of the roofs, some of the siding was set to explode. This seemed completely random and kind of distracting in the beginning part of his performance, before he switched to his hit “Lose Yourself”—yes, white america’s favorite “mom’s spaghetti” song. 

As he switched roofs—one where Anderson .Paak was drumming with the biggest smile ever—the dancers on the ground all ran to crowd the structure. His act proved he still has all the star qualities he did back in the late 90s. He didn’t skip a beat or seem tired whatsoever, the work of a seasoned professional. 

Eminem knelt down as Dr. Dre got onto the piano—one of the many live instruments I noticed specifically during Eminem’s song, which definitely adds to the production value. The stage lowered as Dre played the melody to the next song, “Still D.R.E.” 

He transitioned to the center of the set once again, joined by Snoop Dogg. The dancers were once again slaying the choreography, moving around so smoothly and cool simultaneously. They hit every step to every beat perfectly together. I could watch this part specifically over and over again. 

The rest of the performers made their way to the center, still bringing great energy until the very end. They finished with as much style as when they started. The crowd erupted with applause as the show concluded. 

Thoroughly entertained and decently satisfied, that was my fix of Super Bowl LVI, which immediately got turned off just in time for “Euphoria.”