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Maroon 5’s Super Bowl Halftime Performance Was Deeply Whatever

At intermission, Adam Levine and Co. just had to not bore us to death. But doesn’t it still seem like their performance fell short of the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history?

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Earlier this week, Maroon 5 skated on their Super Bowl halftime press conference. The NFL issued a statement on their behalf, assuring everyone that the band’s performance during the nation’s highest secular holiday would both “meet and exceed the standards of [the] event.”

It was [sucks air through teeth] fine. They started off on their back foot, to be fair. We couldn’t have Rihanna, or Jay-Z, or Cardi B, or any of a hundred ATL artists, since the Super Bowl halftime gig, in the unjust and stupid time of Colin Kaepernick not having a job, is now also an indictment of character, a vote in favor of the indignities that black people face. This could have been amplified only by the arrest of 21 Savage by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Atlanta and the threat of his deportation hours before Maroon 5 was to perform. There’s probably nothing Adam Levine or his bandmates could have said that would’ve improved on the silence, and nothing they could’ve done to stop us from thinking about who might’ve headlined in their place. They received a boost from the Patriots and Rams’ scoring a collective three points by the half; the band just had to not bore us to death to be moving in the right direction. But doesn’t it still feel as though Maroon 5’s performance fell short of the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history?

Regardless of what Roger Waters might have wanted, no one took a knee. The entertainment that Maroon 5 provided on Sunday was blissfully apolitical, limply nostalgic, and, well, kind of all over the place. I love Songs About Jane as much as the next person who owned at least one Aéropostale T-shirt, and have likewise been more than happy to pretend that they’ve done nothing else since 2005. Levine stepped into the spotlight wearing a car coat and Travis Scott’s signature Air Jordans to kick things off with “Harder to Breathe,” and I am happy to report that those initial guitar slams are still hitting 15 years later, although Levine searched for the right key throughout. He stuck to the hits with “This Love,” then slid into a sunnier, more recent hit, “Girls Like You,” which fell a little flat without its Cardi verse (“You need someone to spice it up / Who you gonna call Cardi, Cardi”).

The show seemed to follow a kind of order and logic up until Travis Scott was grafted onto it, with a SpongeBob meme. The tribute to the late Stephen Hillenburg was a Twitter joke and then a petition, and finally a small clip from “Sweet Victory” beckoned an asteroid to center stage. Out popped Travis Scott from a ball of fire, performing his half of “Sicko Mode,” without the help of Auto-Tune. The entrance was undeniably cool. Adam Levine dancing all up in the close shot was not.

All in all, the show seemed a little slapped together. Big Boi, meant to remind us that this was indeed happening in Atlanta, rolled onto midfield at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a Cadillac to the paranoiac tones of “Kryptonite.” But the drop was cruelly snatched from beneath us, and in its place was “The Way You Move,” with Levine joining Sleepy Brown on the hook. Thus concluded the rap portion of the broadcast, which had been preceded by a misty rendition of “She Will Be Loved,” because of course. It was lighter fodder, prime for soft transitions, wide pans, and reaction shots of couples being deeply, sweetly, mortifyingly in love.

Again, all of this was fine. Aggressively fine. Chances are that tomorrow, we won’t be talking about Levine’s flat vocals or his giant “CALIFORNIA” belly tat, or the fact that we didn’t get to hear Big Boi twist his tongue around “suppose the po-po’s get a whiff of the spliff that you just smoked / them folks gone TRIP” on national television. What we might talk about is how it didn’t feel in conversation with the world outside of it, a mindless confection of pop music while the world goes to pot just outside. In conclusion, free 21.