Commentary: Super Bowl Halftime Show Hit Its Mark
Super Bowl LVI has come and gone. The game itself was as exciting and thrilling as any football fan could have imagined, capping off what has been an incredible postseason for the National Football League.
While the internet is still buzzing about the Super Bowl game itself, a significant amount of the postgame chatter appears to be focused on the game's halftime show.
In case you missed it, we'll get you up to speed. Hip hop legends Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem; the queen of hip-hop soul Mary J. Blige; and new-school rapper Kendrick Lamar joined forces to put West Coast hip hop one of the year's biggest musical stages. 50 Cent and Anderson .Paak made unannounced appearances--50 performing his signature song "In the Club;" Paak, performing on drums.
If you didn't watch it, here's the show in its entirety.
As you'd expect online, the reaction to the halftime show was mixed. These comments were pulled from the Facebook pages of the Townsquare Media radio stations.
You may have noticed a trend in those posts. A couple of memes posted on Facebook last night explains why there's such a divide in opinion about the halftime show.
For the first time in history, the NFL and the producers of its halftime show deliberately targeted Generation X and millennials. This artists and their music defined both generations and still resonates with them (and their children) today.
And there's a very good reason why the NFL wants to target that audience.
Between 2011 and 2021, the ratings in the 18-49 age group have dropped dramatically. According to statistics reported by CNBC after last year's big game, viewership in that age range dropped from 52.5 million to 34.3 million--a difference of 18.2 million viewers. Granted, some of that is the result of streaming and the fracturing of the NFL's media rights.
Another study conducted by Statista also shows that older Americans are not as big of fans of the National Football League as those who fall into Generation X or a younger generation.
Hiring hip hop and R&B icons of the last three decades to perform their greatest hits is one route the NFL is going to keep its young to middle-aged fanbase happy. It's also an attempt to boost lagging ratings in the money demographic by pulling people in that age group back in front of a television for an experience they won't see anywhere else on TV this year.
On private pages, one comment we found claimed the NFL was catering to "13 percent of the American population." That comment references the percentage of people who identify as Black who were counted in the 2020 census. The since-deleted comment failed to mention that 57.5 percent of the league's players are African American and that 71 percent of the NFL's athletes identify as a race other than white.
If the NFL was catering to anyone, it was to Americans born between 1965 and 1996--particularly, those who were in high school between 1993 and 2006.
Forty-one percent of the American population that falls into either Generation X or Generation Y (millennials). That's compared to the 27.5 percent of Americans who were born in the Baby Boomer years or earlier and the 31.2 percent in Generations Z or later. Since Janet Jackson's nanosecond of nipple at Super Bowl XXXVIII, the NFL's halftime shows have featured acts that appeal largely to Baby Boomers and to millennials. The Who, the Black-Eyed Peas, and Prince are just a few examples. This year's program was the first to feature artists whose music was at the core of the Generation X soundtrack.
Some of the criticism online stemmed from an act that some considered to be political in nature.
At the end of his performance, Eminem took a knee on stage. Many, including some on our Facebook pages, assumed this Eminem's way of showing solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the Black Lives Matter movement, or some other racial political issue. Rap fans were quick to point out that Eminem was not making a political statement. Rather, he was genuflecting at the altar of West Coast hip hop's patron saint.
For the record: Eminem knelt as Dr. Dre played the opening bars to Tupac Shakur's "I Ain't Mad At Cha." That song was released on September 16, 1996, two days after Tupac's murder.
This halftime show wasn't about race, politics, or any subliminal messaging. It was the NFL's way of trying to reach out to an audience it needs to survive. It was football's way of telling Generation X that the game hasn't forgotten about them. It was the league's way of highlighting a major slice of '90s pop culture that came from the Super Bowl's host city.
If you didn't like the show, that's fine. That's your right. Not everyone will enjoy a Super Bowl Halftime Show or any other show. That's okay.
If you did enjoy the performance, you may want to call your doctor.