Music

Predicting The Ideal Super Bowl Halftime Show Setlist

With some Super Bowl halftime performances, the issue is a lack of appeal. Here’s looking at you, Maroon 5. With others, it’s a generational gap. What’s up, The Who? Other times, though, the team behind the scenes nail the selection. I hope Katy Perry and that shark are doing well. With the coming show set for Super Bowl LVI, the main problem that seems to be percolating is how, exactly, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar will all have enough time to go through a hit or two. The performances generally run about 12-15 minutes, so that gives each artist two and a half to three minutes to run through hits, collaborations, and unexpected surprises. It’s going to take creativity to build a balanced, nuanced set, but here’s how they might do it.

In 2021, The Weeknd managed to squeeze in nine songs during his allotted time, and relied on cinematic tricks and off-stage pre-recorded shoots to turn his performance into a cinematic statement on the After Hours era. He was the first artist since Lady Gaga in 2017 to perform without any guests or surprise acts, which was mildly surprising considering his star power when compared to some of his predecessors. For 2022, it’s not likely any guests will be used for songs by the featured artists, as there’s simply not enough time to give anyone else the mic, unless that person is a hologram of 2Pac (though a 50 Cent rumor is bubbling). Speaking of, the best way for the set to end would be for Snoop, Dre, Kendrick, and 3-D Shakur to drop “California Love,” perhaps the greatest ode to the state ever recorded to tape, and one that would honor football returning to football, both with the Super Bowl and the home team Rams making the big game.

The most intriguing question outside of how they’re going to pull this thing off is what song the quintet will begin with. The show is Dr. Dre’s. All artists are affiliated with him, he’s the godfather of the group and the artist who made the initial announcement. But, is there a better Super Bowl pump-up song than Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”? It seems like the perfect way to fire up a crowd, though it does leave Em alone to begin the performance. That’s why the safest bet is an early cut from Dre and Snoop, and we’re putting our money on either “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” or “Still D.R.E.” The former features Snoop more prominently, but the latter may be the more recognizable of the two among mainstream audiences, and Snoop can always serve as the world’s most overqualified hype man.

The best comparison to this show may be Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s performance from 2020. Shakira took the first set, running through seven hits, before J-Lo got six of her own. For the last two, they dueted on “Let’s Get Loud” and “Waka Waka (This Time From Africa).” We will probably see a similar structure this year, with each artist getting to perform snippets of two songs before coming together for a grand finale.

In our scenario, Dre leads off with “Still D.R.E.” before surprising with a late-era hit, perhaps “Animals” from Compton, with a drum performance from Anderson .Paak thrown into the mix. He’ll end his featured set with a nod to diehard fans by offering “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thing.” From there, Snoop will segue his verse into his own section of the show, repping his LA credentials as the face of the city. We’re looking at “Gin N Juice” as the intro to get the party started (if Snoop doesn’t cut it), before trying to shoehorn in a new song, regrettably choosing something from his latest album, The Algorithm. After all, this is a promotional tool first and a concert second. Snoop will wrap things up with a clear hit, but one more recognizable for casual watchers at home, performing “Drop It Like It’s Hot” before Mary J. Blige comes to bring some R&B goodness. “Family Affair” seems like the logical place to start for Mary, as the event is, you know, a family affair. Mary, too, has an album coming out February 11th, so look for her to sandwich something from Good Morning Gorgeous in between two hits. “Be Without You” is a good place to end, with the low-key anthem giving way to the crisp guitars of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”

Em has the most connections to each of these artists outside of Dre, so look for him to drop “The Real Slim Shady” before giving his mentor Dre the nod by going into “Forgot About Dre.” It’d be an epic moment, protege and student on stage together, reminding fans why they’ll never be forgotten. This leads the way to Kendrick Lamar, who though there are rumors of a new album coming, will stick to classics and help the group segue into the grand finale. Perhaps he’ll start with “HUMBLE.” or “Backseat Freestyle,” anything to keep the energy moving after a long, knotty performance. Though To Pimp A Butterfly is his most acclaimed project, its neo-jazz flavor doesn’t quite fit the theme of the performance, so perhaps he’ll look towards a radio hit from good kid m.A.A.d city like “Swimming Pools (Drank).” Kendrick’s logical closer is the good kid bonus cut, “Compton,” which features none other than Dr. Dre.

The finale is the hardest section of the show to map out, just because there are so many remaining options to pool from. Maybe they go with a deep cut like Snoop and Dre’s “Deep Cover,” an ode to Los Angeles that real heads will be giddy about hearing. Or maybe the finale is where the group brings out guests. YG, ScHoolboy Q, and Baby Keem come to mind. Maybe they go with an unaffiliated yet nevertheless celebrated star-like Ice Cube to perform “Today Was a Good Day.” Regardless, the first track of the finale is likely to be a California anthem, which is why Dre may save “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” for the closer. Regardless of what the group pulls out for the penultimate track, though, it’s hard to imagine them closing the show with anything outside of a massive shoutout to the home state of Dre, Kendrick, and Snoop. Regardless of what happens throughout this exciting, unpredictable event, all roads lead to “California Love,” one of Dr. Dre’s best productions of all time, and a fitting finale to a show paying homage to Compton, Long Beach, and everywhere else in the City of Angels.

Setlist:
“Still D.R.E.”
“Animals”
“Gin N Juice”
New Snoop Song Snippet
“Drop It Like It’s Hot”
“Family Affair”
New Mary J Song Snippet
“Be Without You”
“Lose Yourself”
“The Real Slim Shady”
“Forgot About Dre”
“HUMBLE.
“Swimming Pools (Drank)”
“Compton”
Potential 50 Cent Guest Appearance
“California Love”

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