Possibly the most distinctive voice in Maroon 5’s halftime show was Drake’s, prerecorded and piped in, praising Xanax as a sleep aid. The most recognizable face was that of SpongeBob SquarePants, who popped up on viewers’ screens just before a cartoon comet hit Maroon 5’s set, sending it into polite spouts of patio-furniture flames. The apocalypse, the implication seemed to be, will be tepid.
How fitting that the main attractions of Maroon 5’s concert were characters not on the stage, and not even in the stadium. To the extent that this halftime show will be remembered at all, it’ll be for outside factors: a boycott of the NFL triggered by Colin Kaepernick’s protests against racism; Atlanta’s queasy clearing of homeless camps in preparation for the Super Bowl; Tom Brady’s sixth ring; the trauma of seeing the Bud Knight’s skull crushed by a Game of Thrones brute. “Moves Like Jagger” is the sort of prescription-grade jingle meant to jam brain circuitry, but even it couldn’t, on Sunday night, whistle away the show’s dreary context.
Maroon 5, masterful at creating hits that take an active mental effort to distinguish from one another, did not enter this gig with the burden of great expectations. But the band still might have delivered neat arena gimmicks, like a giant swiveling The Voice throne or something. Instead they did the minimum, which perhaps was one of the things that the M-shaped stage stood for. The only story line came in the form of the singer Adam Levine’s striptease. At the start, his proto-Facetune cheekbones glinted above a chassis of athleisure; by the end, abs flaunted clip-art tattoos. To think it was a scandal when Janet Jackson removed such a smaller fraction of her shirt.