The Super Bowl was last night in Texas, and three things happened. The Packers played an almost flawless game and took home the Lombardi Trophy. Congrats to them. Christina Aguilera engineered a distracting display of vocal gymnastics and botched the National Anthem. Boo Christina. Finally, the Black Eyed Peas—complete with the two nobody knows—yelled the lyrics to their most popular earworms at the audience for ten minutes. I’m going to talk about those last two things.
As soon as the camera panned over to Christina—or, as one of my Twitter pals referred to her, “the Chubstina Aguilera robot”—America should have known it was in for a bumpy ride. I understand the girl has had a rough time of the past few months. She’s gotten divorced, Burlesque tanked, and she’s been all but removed from the limelight entirely. But the Super Bowl is about as national as the proverbial “national stage” gets; you think she could’ve run a comb through her hair? As for the singing of the anthem itself, X-tina wasn’t doing herself any favors. Even if I buy the excuse that she was “caught up in the moment,” she’s gotta know that putting her voice through the 500m Hurdles isn’t the key to keeping focus.
This performance is just one of many such performances that turn the Anthem into a display of lung capacity rather than one of patriotism. Online betting parlors offered an over/under bet on the length of the song’s final crescendo-ed, “brave.” (Smart money bet the over on eight seconds and won. I clocked a ten-second “brave” myself). We have come to expect this, for better or worse, but its been annoying me for some time now. I’m not knocking the entire vocal style necessarily; I don’t very much care for it, but I don’t listen to it, so problem solved. However, unless you are America herself, this particular song isn’t really about you. So when these artists rear back and howl the (wrong) lyrics, it strikes me not as a tribute to the nation, but as an attention-starved diva gasping for breath.
Just as a matter of comparison, if you want to hear someone get a patriotic song right, you don’t have to look too far back. Tony Bennett did a pretty great job with “God Bless America” during the World Series. No frills, no skipped verses, just a class act doing his thing. Not to mention, the guy is 84, and he can still fill a stadium with that honey he calls a voice.
Now, onto the other debacle. The Black Eyes Peas are a disgrace. I could stop there; that’s the gist of my argument. But allow me to self-indulge. The Black Eyed Peas do one thing really well: they pump out singles, all of which are power-hour soundtrack fodder. These singles don’t require much of the listener’s attention, which is good. If they did, somebody might have realized what Grade-A manure they are. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking; any given Z-100 listener is more likely to hear one and say, “OMG, they’re soooo right! Tonight is gonna be a good night!”
As if being miserable weren’t enough, these clowns have six goddamn Grammys. SIX. Some of the award-worthy gems include the single, “Don’t Phunk With My Heart” and that perennial classic, “My Humps,” not to mention an Album of the Year nomination for The E.N.D. I literally cannot imagine a single human being who firmly believes that The E.N.D. was actually the best album made in 2010. I try to conjure an image of what that sort of person might look like if it existed, and my mind cannot render its form; this must be what its like to see God.
Last night’s performance—or really any live performance of theirs—ought to have been a revelation for most. The problem is, the Super Bowl’s core audience already knows how worthless the Black Eyed Peas are. Either that, or they don’t know them at all, which is just as good. Last night, they amounted to little more than the latest in a long line of terrible halftime shows (Bruce and Tom Petty excluded). There’s a classic Lewis Black bit about watching the halftime show during Super Bowl XXXV, in which he refers to N’Sync, Aerosmith and Britney Spears as the “Trifecta from Hell.” He’s not wrong, but I get the feeling he’d admit that The Black Eyed Peas, Usher and Slash came pretty close.