Well, shit. And Holy Camel Toe.
There are times when I wish I could walk through a wardrobe and end up in a different Twitterverse, because while I have become the sort of person who has opinions about Mad Men, Girls, Nick Young, and other cultural offal, I can still remember those innocent, halcyon days when I could shit on Beyoncé without fear. For the past two years, I have stood at the helm of the Church of Beyoncé Haters and spread a gospel that warns of a beautiful alien who will trick the world into accepting branding and universality over truth and spirit. And the gospel was good.
But after last night’s halftime performance and the subsequent explosion of hot love that erupted across the Internet, I had a moment of clarity. I saw myself standing on front of the Vons [supermarket] on the corner of 3rd and Vermont in Los Angeles with a bullhorn and a tote bag filled with flyers. I was screaming something about the coming day of reckoning, when Beyoncé would shed off her glittery skin and swallow Jay-Z alive. Then, with his nutrients coursing through her alien blood, Beyoncé would summon her Borg overlords and morph into a beast that would force all of mankind to toil in her underground sugar caves. My flyers charted out an intergalactic plot that roughly followed the story line of Prometheus.
I saw the shoppers keep their distance. I felt their stupid pity.
And so it is with some shame and self-awareness that I submit my verdict on the whole Beyoncé halftime show: It was a B+. Yes, it was impressive, and yes, Beyoncé looked every bit the conquering space demon, and yes, I wondered with the rest of America how a bikini bottom made out of a Hefty CinchSak avoided getting any, uh, camel toe-ing (perhaps her greatest athletic feat of the night), but every performance should be graded within its specific context. The Super Bowl halftime show is ALWAYS huge and ridiculous, and although Beyoncé certainly took advantage of both the scale and the combustibility of the occasion, what did she really do other than give America a big-as-hell tour of why everyone loves Beyoncé? Maybe this is the point. But if all a musical act produces is evidence of her own popularity, she, by definition, has no soul. Her job, it seems, is to remind people that they should love her, but not to provide evidence as to why.
Also, did anyone else start getting a headache after “Single Ladies?” And did anyone else think it was weird that Beyoncé would headbang to “Halo?” And for chrissake, did anyone else notice that Beyoncé was just doing a bunch of dance moves from 2005 for 15 minutes while lip-synching and standing in front of a video board? That’s the greatest performance in Super Bowl history? PRINCE PLAYED “PURPLE RAIN” ON THE PRINCE GUITAR IN THE RAIN!
Beyoncé was better than the Black Eyed Peas. She was better than The Who. She was better than Madonna. But she did not bend time or turn water into wine. And if all it takes to enthrall America is some high-performance strutting, stripper boots, and a bunch of sparklers, I think America should all collectively go to a drag show. Because, trust me, the strutting is pretty comparable, the drinks are cheaper, and we don’t have to all pretend to like music that has been perfected by the woman who once sang “Cater 2 U” and who hasn’t put out a decent album in five years.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Beyoncé’s emotional depth is akin to the fleeting happiness you feel when you see that one of your tweets has been retweeted by more than five people. Or that someone you secretly had a crush on in high school has requested your friendship on Facebook. She’s popular because she’s easy to like and she’s something everyone has decided to agree upon across race, class, and creed. To quote Critical Race scholars and high school debaters everywhere: Beyoncé is the shine on the rotten apple. She is the Illuminati’s co-option tool.
Worst. Anthem. Ever.
We should have seen it coming. Everything in Alicia Keys’s career pointed toward this one moment — the weird, strangely pretentious dress, the weird, strangely pretentious makeup, the weird, strangely pretentious piano, followed by the weirdest, most strangely pretentious national anthem in Super Bowl history.
What triumph did Alicia Keys communicate with her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”? What sense of patriotism was embiggened in the hearts of every man, woman, and child? Alicia Keys is the art history professor of soul and R&B. She should be banned from big-time sporting events forever.
Singing with the Sandy Hook Elementary School Children’s Choir, Jennifer notched down what would have usually been a spectacular Diva explosion and let the kids have the moment. It’s unfair to really grade J-Hud on this particular performance because of the circumstances, but she sounded great, and seemed aware that tonight was not about Jennifer Hudson, the Baddest Diva in the Game. One gets the sense, for example, that she wouldn’t feel like a presidential inauguration was the appropriate time to try some “pulling out monitor” Ponzi scheme, and that singing the anthem live in front of a bunch of drooling sportswriters at the Super Bowl somehow answered the question, “What the fuck were you thinking pulling that amateurish stunt at the inauguration? Nobody gives a shit that you were lip-synching. We care that you thought we cared that you were lip-synching enough to create a lie of a Diva Hand Motion.”
And with that, I’m heading back to the corner of 3rd and Vermont. If you see me, say a prayer.