The intro of Beyoncé Knowles’s Super Bowl XLVII halftime performance paralleled the championship game’s emotionally-scripted excesses: a Vince Lombardi speech trickled into flashing lights, pyrotechnics, and a colossal silhouette. For those offended by multimillion dollar thirty-second ads and deer antler spray, Ms. Knowles’s adept understanding of venue and audience connection redeemed the night.
The former Destiny’s Child member and 16-time Grammy winner opened her set with poor direct lighting and thick smoke behind her. She wanted to introduce viewers to the idea of her before engaging with piercing eye contact and Romanian gymnast flexibility. Beyoncé did not ask for crowd involvement as much as demand it with stomping heels and tossing part of her top into the front row midway through her opening song “Love on Top”.
Emotional outpouring was not an issue for Beyoncé. She was a woman on a mission after receiving negative P.R. for lip synching the national anthem at President Obama’s second inauguration two weeks ago. It was her imperative to establish the crowd’s trust, which she did by urging fans to wave their arms and sing along. Beyoncé displayed humility by praising her guitar player and singing to her a la Bruce Springsteen with the late Clarence Clemons.
Perhaps the most refreshing element of her performance was its contrast to Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. After Janet Jackson’s 2004 “nip slip”, the NFL has consistently chosen performers like the Springsteen, The Who, and Paul McCartney to avoid moral mishaps. While all are rock icons, their music is 60-year-old white guy music. The Beyoncé decision shows youth and willingness to reach new demographics.
After “Love on Top,” her next three songs were “Crazy in Love,” “End of Time,” and “Baby Boy.” The surprise apparition of Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, fellow Destiny’s Child members, led to renditions of “Bootylicious,” “Independent Woman,” and “Single Ladies.” A solo performance of “Halo” left the New Orleans Superdome erupting into applause.
The amalgamation of her Destiny’s Child past with her current hits as a solo artist demonstrated Ms. Knowles’s artistic progression. In our current social media age marked by instant consumption and instant dissection, Beyoncé earned widespread praise and humorously received credit for the stadium’s half-hour power outage. She silenced inauguration doubters about her vocal and dance skills, or more fundamentally, her ability to put on a first-rate show.
During the performance Kobe Bryant tweeted, “Phenomenal talent #Respect @beyonce the Greatest Female Entertainer of All Time.” Much of the postgame discussion has revolved around Beyoncé, not the Harbaugh brothers or MVP Joe Flacco’s three touchdown passes. Ms. Knowles has defined herself as the quintessential 21st century entertainer and a perfect match for the NFL championship game.