Maroon 5 played it safe for the Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show, but that may not be enough for the band to avoid career danger.
Singer Adam Levine energetically led the band through a bunch of its radio-friendly hits, though — even before special guests Travis Scott and Big Boi popped in — it all felt a bit disjointed.
The high point was the band’s version of “Girls Like You,” augmented by a gospel choir and a drum line. But even that showed how the band’s show was hamstrung even before it started. Cardi B, who collaborated with the band on the song last year, declined to perform as a show of support for Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who was ostracized from the NFL after he started taking a knee during the national anthem to raise awareness of police brutality and racial inequality.
Cardi B was one of many artists who stayed on the sidelines for this year’s halftime show. Rihanna, another Maroon 5 collaborator, reportedly turned down the headliner slot, as did Jay-Z. Kaepernick’s attorney Mark Geragos said that Maroon 5’s performance was the artistic equivalent of crossing a picket line.
And the band’s performance worked hard not to step on anyone’s toes. They even threw in their ballad “She Will Be Loved” at a time when halftime shows are usually nonstop energy, making Levine’s decision to go shirtless for “Moves Like Jagger” seem even stranger. Travis Scott’s fraction of “Sicko Mode,” despite the pyrotechnics-filled special effects seemed like a last-minute addition, while Big Boi’s “The Way You Move” seemed out of place, even if the OutKast rapper’s hometown cred was definitely needed in Atlanta.
Warning signs for the halftime show have been flashing for months. While Lady Gaga announced that she would handle Super Bowl LI duties shortly after the season started in September 2016, Maroon 5 waited to confirm that it was the headliner less than three weeks ago. Then, the band canceled the traditional preshow news conference last week, saying, through the NFL, that they would “let their show do the talking.”
What this show said, though, was that the band recognized that it was stuck in a no-win situation. At least Maroon 5 did its best to do no more additional harm to its career.