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Along with practically every little thing else in trendy American life, skilled soccer has seen itself smack-dab in the course of the tradition wars over the previous few years — however one side of the NFL has been on the heart of controversy for for much longer than that. Ever since Janet Jackson’s notorious “wardrobe malfunction” throughout her efficiency with Justin Timberlake on the 2004 Super Bowl halftime present (a cultural calamity that occurs to have its 15th anniversary this yr), the annual efficiency has wavered in and out of contentiousness. But the final half-decade of Super Bowl halftime reveals have gone off largely with out incident. From Left Shark and Bruno Mars performing “Give It Away” with Red Hot Chili Peppers to Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake doing their respective big-spectacle issues, you would possibly assume these largely unremarkable situations of mass spectacle have introduced us to the period of the completely depoliticized Super Bowl halftime present.

And you’d be 100 % improper. This yr’s Super Bowl halftime present, that includes Maroon 5, Travis Scott, and Big Boi, and set to happen in the course of the large sport at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, is shaping as much as be an absolute mess of the NFL’s personal design. Maroon 5’s participation was solely confirmed on January 13. In case you’re questioning whether or not this might technically be known as “slicing it shut:” Timberlake was formally introduced as final yr’s halftime performer a full 5 months earlier than the published.

The Super Bowl halftime present isn’t the one time that the leisure world has been slicing it shut over the previous few months: this yr’s Oscars presently face a precarious hostlessness after comic Kevin Hart’s complete self-combustion following the unearthing of homophobic Tweets that led to his pulling out of the gig. The scramble to search out somebody — anybody — to host the ceremony has been frantic and interesting to comply with, and the information surrounding who, precisely, would find yourself taking the stage on the midpoint of Super Bowl LII has equally confirmed extra fascinating to observe than the precise efficiency itself can probably be.

A month after preliminary stories of Maroon 5’s involvement emerged, it was revealed that Rihanna had already turned down the gig in assist of perpetually league-benched NFL participant and activist Colin Kaepernick. Despite reportedly being in talks to carry out her collab single “Girls Like You” with the band, Cardi B has repeatedly insisted that she’d also refuse to carry out in assist of Kaepernick; every week after a report close to the tip of 2018 that Maroon 5 was struggling to search out somebody to look onstage with them, Billboard reported that Travis Scott was set to make a visitor look in the course of the band’s presumptive efficiency — a choice that was broadly criticzed in gentle of Rihanna and Cardi’s public stances and resulted in alleged backroom chats with Jay-Z, a public rebuke from Al Sharpton, and a recirculation of a 2014 interview with Hot 97 host Ebro during which Scott spoke disparagingly of Mike Brown — murdered by Darren Wilson that yr in Ferguson, Missouri — and the protests that adopted.

Along with the affirmation of Maroon 5’s efficiency, Scott’s involvement was finalized, as was Big Boi’s — a disappointment, to make certain, for the hopefuls who put their names to a Change.org request for a Spongebob Squarepants tribute following the dying of present creator Stephen Hillenburg. But the mere choice to carry out in the course of the present itself — beforehand a foolish slice of pop-culture spectacle that once sunk to the ham-fistedness of conducting an arena-wide magic trick — has grow to be justly politicized, an act of pure self-promotion (performers don’t receives a commission for the gig) that stands to reflexively signify a socially clueless perspective in a socially clued-in pop cultural world.

Both Maroon 5 and Scott — who’re coming off of a profitable yr within the pop world, every having scored No. 1 hits in 2018 (“Girls Like You” and “Sicko Mode,” respectively) — have tried their very own type of image-repair in response to the widely-perceived pressured error that’s taking part in this yr’s present.

Scott has tried to beat again a number of the criticism he’s confronted in current months by insisting that the NFL donate to Dream Corps (a charity in all probability not coincidentally affiliated with Kim Kardashian) — however that hasn’t stopped Kaepernick himself from signaling his disdain concerning Scott’s choice to carry out.

Scott has inarguably taken extra warmth for his choice than Maroon 5 — who’ve cannily prevented the majority of public criticism by doing virtually nothing in any respect. This week, their non-avoidance technique took on a literal type when it was introduced that they might be scrapping the traditional pre-halftime show press conference. The sole interview that frontman Adam Levine has given on the topic, to Entertainment Tonight, prevented addressing the explanations for the controversy, providing a “no haters” perspective as a substitute: “It’s this, like, insatiable urge to hate a little bit bit,” he acknowledged. “We wish to transfer on from it.”

Maroon 5’s music has achieved an inoffensive degree of ubiquity during the last decade; their mid-tempo pop has typically felt as if it’s in all places, from drugstore audio system to anthropomorphic-hamster car commercials and every little thing in between. This yr’s Super Bowl halftime present will primarily mark the most important stage on which hundreds of thousands of Americans have been pressured to hearken to Maroon 5 — a second of momentary ubiquity achieved no matter what stances they publicly take (or don’t).

Even so, Maroon 5’s halftime present efficiency — an unmistakable apex for a pop-rock band that’s survived myriad shifts in each genres — looks as if a precipice second of their profession, and the more and more assured potential for his or her halftime present to grow to be an image-sullying second is all of the extra ironic when contemplating the band’s proximity to hip-hop and R&B lately. Besides Levine’s personal collaboration with West on the latter’s 2005 album Late Registration, Maroon 5 have labored with a coterie of black stars over the course of their profession, from Rihanna and Cardi to SZA, Future, ASAP Rocky, and Kendrick Lamar.

“Something distinctive to this band is that we’ve got all the time seemed to hip-hop, R&B, all rhythmic types of music,” Levine informed Variety final yr. “All of the innovation and the unbelievable issues occurring in music are in hip-hop. It’s higher than every little thing else. Hip-hop is bizarre and avant-garde and flawed and actual, and that’s why individuals find it irresistible.” The assertion itself could be very no-duh — any listening to individual from the previous 25 years might cite hip-hop’s guiding dominance in fashionable tradition — but it surely additionally speaks to a deeper fact concerning the enchantment that Maroon 5 have cannily courted through the years. What good is your appreciation for a culture-driven style of music in case your actions aren’t aligned with the tradition itself?

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