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The Super Bowl Halftime Show Was a Win for J.Lo, Shakira, and Humankind

With displays of otherworldly athleticism and assists from Bad Bunny and J Balvin, the pop stars put on the best big-game performance in years

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Hearty condolences to both the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, who were declared joint losers of Super Bowl LIV roughly halfway through J.Lo and Shakira’s ecstatic, exhausting, and terrifyingly superhuman halftime show, which crammed roughly 75 feats of bumptious athleticism into 14 minutes and change. Just watching their performance burned more calories than playing in the suddenly meaningless football game comically dwarfed by it. I’d like to see Patrick Mahomes try to pole dance down a replica Empire State Building to “Jenny From the Block”; I’d like to see George Kittle maintain his global-superstar composure whilst crowd-surfing to “Hips Don’t Lie.” I’d like to see absolutely no NFL player attempt anything like this, ever.

Anyway, don’t expect any 2020 sporting event—any league, any sport, any universe—to be quite that … physical. The J.Lo-Shakira summit was breathless in both the sensual and purely physiological sense of the word, with a premium-cable lasciviousness precision-tuned to burn down the biggest stage on network television without triggering an onslaught of FCC complaints. There were roughly two full football teams’ worth of backup dancers in the frame at nearly all times, a dazzling whirlwind of movement that in the past has been strategically deployed to distract from J.Lo’s shaky reputation as a live singer and/or lip-syncher. But Sunday night, with the highest possible stakes and the most flamboyant possible production values, more was simply more. Take it from, uh, Jeb.

Agree to agree. Shakira kicked us off with a joyous fast-forward medley of jams that are either three times better than you’ve always thought or 10 times better than you remember: “She Wolf” (the rare pop song to successfully deploy the word lycanthropy) into “Empire” (with Shakira on electric guitar flaunting more rock-star magnetism than the whole of Maroon 5 did last year) into the still-gigantic “Whenever, Wherever.” Shakira’s is an awfully relatable and almost modest sort of star power, all easy megawatt grins and remarkably wholesome belly-dancing interludes; her rapport with special guest Bad Bunny, bombastically attired as usual in what appeared to be $10 million worth of tin foil, was casual and splendid indeed on “Chantaje” and Cardi B’s already immortal-sounding “I Like It.” I would love to find a GIF of the absolutely adorable karate kick with which she concluded her five-minute mini set, but a few other GIFs took, uh, precedence.

As for J.Lo, she did indeed take the stage via the Empire State Building; every time she revists “Jenny From the Block” and sings, “I stay grounded as the amounts roll in,” she looks and sounds far less grounded, and this is all you could ask for from a 50-year-old (??!!) pop star who replicated Bruce Springsteen’s semifamous Super Bowl knee slide with just a bit more exuberance.

Longtime sufferers of the Grammys or the MTV Video Music Awards have dealt with a hit-packed J.Lo medley before, but this one had substantially more feral life to it: “Waiting for Tonight” delivered as a Hustlers-reprise pole routine with Mad Max dystopian-diva staging and Roger Deakins–worthy cinematography; “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” augmented by J Balvin (another Latin pop superstar far more beloved globally than your average parochial Super Bowl viewer might assume) showboating through “Mi Gente.” Part of the fun of this halftime show was imagining the sort of prudish and Latin-pop-inexperienced viewer most likely to be totally bewildered by it.

Shakira reemerged (on a drum kit, initially) for the grand finale, a double-time double shot of her “Waka Waka” (a World Cup anthem slumming it at a less prominent sporting event) and J.Lo’s “Let’s Get Loud,” which moved swiftly from standard teenage-choir Super Bowl–style uplift (featuring Lopez’s daughter, Emme Maribel Muñiz) into a far-rarer-on-this-stage triple-time salsa blowout she delivered after shrugging off her giant sparkly reversible American–Puerto Rican flag robe. The rapport between Shakira and J.Lo, of course, spoke for itself.

Anyone who even glanced at any of that deserves Monday off. As almost confoundingly delightful Super Bowl halftime spectacles go, you have to go back to Prince himself to find something with anywhere near this level of raw enthusiasm, anywhere near this crowd-pleasing, and with anything approaching this level of Twitter-egg-befuddling swagger. You have to go back to Gloria Estefan in the ’90s to find a Latin pop star who truly commanded this, allegedly the most prominent of national stages, which is a travesty in itself—but J.Lo and Shakira were somehow both long overdue and right on time. Even if you saw them coming, the result was thrilling, but triply so if you didn’t see it coming at all.