2020 felt like we had been transported to medieval, plague-ridden Europe, only this time with murder hornets and toilet paper shortages.
With this apocalyptic backdrop, there were lofty expectations for the Super Bowl to restore a sense of normalcy. Overall, it went off without a hitch, with nary a mention of the dreaded C-word (COVID-19). I am mostly happy to report that they did an impeccable job of keeping spirits high, even if there were the occasional letdowns.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Super Bowl without a dash of capitalistic grandstanding. So without further ado, let’s dive into the Super Bowl ads. Notable exclusions this year included Pepsi, Budweiser, and Coke, who usually put out an ad every year. However, they decided that spending five million dollars on a 30-second ad wasn’t economical, especially during these difficult times. But the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, had no qualms and took the chance to advertise his new Inspiration4 space mission, which involves a sweepstakes looking for two intrepid explorers to go into space. Apparently, it’s open to anyone who wants to donate money, so it could potentially be you. Or Jojo Siwa. Either one.
Other notable additions included Bruce Springsteen making a rare appearance in a Jeep commercial to implore a politically divided America to come together. Ironically, it achieved its goal; it seems like everyone, both right and left, hates it. Timothee Chalamet starred in a Cadillac commercial as Edgar Scissorhands, the son of Edward Scissorhands, who was the protagonist from the dreamy Tim Burton movie. Winona Ryder appeared as his mother, complete with a terrible Karen-esque wig. Clearly, the budget was spent elsewhere. Michael B. Jordan fared better, playing an Amazon Alexa upgrade, able to perform tasks such as taking off his shirt and answering “How many tablespoons are in a cup?” with equal sensuality.
Unfortunately, I wish I could say that the halftime show was as entertaining as the ads. The Weeknd’s performance had me feeling like it was a weekday; I just didn’t see or feel the excitement I would’ve expected to see from him. However, the start of the performance seemed promising. To open the show, The Weeknd (née Abel Tesfaye) looked suitably suave and debonair while “riding” through a miniaturized Las Vegas. Then, in a sudden coronal burst of light, Tesfaye made his triumphal appearance on stage, flanked by a berobed (and socially-distanced!) choir of techno-gothic angels. However, as soon as he launched into his 2016 hit “Starboy,” the effect was ruined because the sound mixing was atrocious. Under the shadow of this development, he sang one of his biggest hits, “The Hills,” before fleeing into a mirror maze. Once again, the technical issues overshadowed his performance because the cameraman kept jerking around like an over-caffeinated child. It was giving me motion sickness. After a few more recent bops, he played “Earned It,” which was a definite highlight for me; his vocals were gorgeous, and he pulled some Michael Jackson-esque moves that were groovy.
To be frank, I expected more from him since I believe he’s wondrously talented. This performance just didn’t surprise me or showcase his prodigious talents as a performer and Grammy winner. Knowing COVID-19 all too well, I understand some constraints had to be made, and I think he did the best he could. But at the end of it all, I felt “meh.” It didn’t reach the artistic and creative pinnacle that Lady Gaga achieved in her 2017 Super Bowl show. However, what The Weeknd lacked in pizzazz, he made up for in philanthropy: he ended up partnering with a local Tampa restaurant to provide meals for healthcare workers. So I can appreciate that, at least.
I heard that he spent seven million dollars of his own money on this performance. If I were him, I’d be wanting a refund.