In an era of continual media fragmentation, the Super Bowl has become an increasingly important flashpoint in American culture. It’s one of our last remaining symbols of monoculture. Over 100 million people watching the same thing, at the same time, surrounded by friends and family, praising ads, decrying referees, and spooning a variety of different chips into a variety of different dips. For some the game itself is everything. For others, it’s the commercials. Then there are the halftime show stans.
As you no doubt know, this year’s performer was Justin Timberlake. He did fine. Maligned Prince tribute aside, he capably performed a bevy of some of his most beloved hits like “Cry Me A River,” “SexyBack,” and “Suit & Tie.” That being said, he didn’t transcend the moment in the same way that “Purple One” himself did during his own, rain-washed turn on the Super Bowl stage back in 2007. And unlike previous performers like Lady Gaga who mock-jumped off the roof of the stadium, or Beyonce who got into a dance-off with Bruno Mars, or Katy Perry’s infamous left shark, the defining moment of JT’s performance was a selfie he took with a fresh-faced fan.
While the opportunity to play at the Super Bowl is a high-wire act, loaded with the potential to fall flat on your face, it also presents an opportunity unlike any other for artists to expose themselves to new audiences, promote new projects, and etch themselves into the pantheon of legendary entertainers. Since we already know the specific locations where the next four Super Bowls are scheduled, I thought it’d be an opportune moment to project, ideally, who could take centerfield in the years to come.