How to halftime: An open letter to Justin Timberlake
Dear JT. It famously rained in Miami during Super Bowl XLI. Splattered lenses captured the crowd chant-singing, clapping, "We Will Rock You" at the start of the halftime show. The stage: a glowing and wet illuminated symbol. Prince — blue suit, orange shirt, head wrapped — opened with "Let's Go Crazy."
Rain, shrug. If he batted a wet lash, it wasn't noticeable.
According to the lore, when the Super Bowl keepers contacted him to talk about the weather, he asked "Can you make it rain harder?" Thus, setting the bar for halftime shows of the future.
On Sunday, you will play the halftime show at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis — Prince's actual home turf. You will have between 12-15 minutes to give people something to talk about — in a different way than last time.
Since it would be gauche for you to play "Purple Rain" in a downpour, like Prince did that epic day in 2007, here are some other tips for succeeding on the halftime stage, as gleaned from the past five years.
Life lesson number one: If it's cold, Justin, ask if they can make it colder.
2017: LADY GAGA
With a new president freshly inaugurated, eyes were on the famously all-inclusive artist. Would Gaga's mid-game message have the subtlety of a meat dress, or would it be even more in-your-face. She chose love. Ms. Germanotta, dressed in 1970's sci-fi chic, opened with a few America-centric lines from "God Bless America," "This Land is Your Land," and the phrase "one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all." Flames, fireworks, a few cirque moves later, she spiked her microphone, caught a football and dropped from the stage.
Baby she was born this way.
Life lesson: You do you.
2016: COLDPLAY, BEYONCE, BRUNO
Oh, the ignominy. What if you were a decently popular British pop band, at one point even Goop-approved, and you invited a few guest performers to step in during your set and then one Michael Jackson'ed all over the place, and the other stormed the stage with a mix of politics, strength and femininity. Poor, poor Coldplay. No match for Bruno Mars singing "Uptown Funk," and one of the first looks at Beyonce's "Formation."
As for Coldplay: I don't remember teaching Chris Martin to dance, but he's definitely pulling some middle aged-woman-in-the-kitchen moves.
Life lesson: If you want anyone to remember you performed, don't invite Beyonce.
2015: KATY PERRY
A sea of people making a Pepsi symbol parted, and Katy Perry rode to the stage aboard a robot lion while singing "Roar," a bit of empowerment pop. (Side note: Anyone ever read "Infinite Jest"?) From there, she refused to be put in a box. She went flame-thrower on Lenny Kravitz and played backup singer to Missy Elliott. She donned beachwear and the world cast its gaze on a rising star, Left Shark. KP was Cleopatra, she was Gidget, she was an early-aughts rapper. And when it was over, she flew off the stage aboard a shooting star.
Life lesson: Never say no to any concept. Do all of them — at the same time.
2014: BRUNO MARS, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
If this was your introduction to Bruno Mars, you might have been tempted to hand over the keys to your life. Let him be charged with singing your soundtrack, making your wardrobe more golden, filling your path with loose jointed choreography, providing a horn section, decorating the family living space. And then here comes Anthony Kiedis, who seems less Red Hot Chili Pepper and more Trying to Not Appear Hungover in Front of His Ex-Wife at His Daughter's Saturday Morning Soccer Match.
Life lesson: Stay gold, Ponyboy.
She was in a shadow against white, purple, no, red smoke. She did her signature stomp, wearing her also-signature, tall, black boots and complicated combinations of leather. There was strategic wind and a flaming guitar and, heck, at one point the whole hind of the stage was en fuego. Her Destiny's Child teammates seemingly erupted from the floor. And it was all hits, big smiles, independent women. Put your hands up, Bey told the audience, I want to feel your energy. Then, she slowed it down for "Halo." Srsly.
Life lesson: JUST BE BEYONCE, JUSTIN. CAN YOU DO THAT?