So, the Super Bowl has just concluded. And while its halftime show is widely considered as one of the highlights of the event, featuring acts such as Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, and Lady Gaga, many are notably not impressed this year. Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s shirtless stint is particularly getting backlash.
i am watching the super bowl for the first time and it seems very bad / weird. adam levine took his shirt off, there was an ad for scientology, and some robots. this is some bleak shit.
— David Farrier (@davidfarrier) February 4, 2019
Hey Superbowl people: Many of us actually ONLY tune in to see the halftime show. So going with Beyoncé, Janet and Lady Gaga increased your audiences, and by a lot. This year? Sorry. Straightforward Adam Levine wasn't going to do it, even with two nipples showing.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) February 4, 2019
But prior to their actual performance, Maroon 5 has already been riddled with controversy. There was immense pressure for them to not push through with it, and instead follow suit with Jay Z, Rihanna, and Cardi B’s decision to boycott the Super Bowl as a show of support for NFL player Colin Kaepernick. If you remember, he got blacklisted and hasn’t played in the league since he kneeled during the US National Anthem in 2016 as a sign of protest against police brutality and racial inequality.
There had actually been a petition for Maroon 5, along with his co-performers Travis Scott and Outkast’s Big Boi, to drop the deal and discontinue their Super Bowl appearance. While Travis revealed he only agreed to participate if the NFL would donate $500,000 to Dream Corps, a racial justice NGO (Refinery29 notes, “The NFL has donated millions to the organization in the past to assuage past player protests.”), Big Boi and Maroon 5 remained mum. However, the latter recently broke their silence.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Adam said that he actually expected the public reaction. “I’m not in the right profession if I can’t handle a little bit of controversy. It’s what it is. We expected it,” he said. He revealed that he put considerable thought into it but in the end, opted to push through. “No one put more thought and love into this than I did. I spoke to many people, most importantly though, I silenced all the noise and listened to myself, and made my decision about how I felt.”
He explained the decision by saying, “The spectacle is the music. We wanted to bring it back to a time when it was a little more simple, when the focus was the connection to the song,” and even tried to defend it further by saying “You know, I think when you look back on every Super Bowl halftime show, it is this insatiable urge to hate a little bit.” Ultimately, he said the band “would like to move on from it and speak through the music.”
Colin’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, was among those not convinced with Adam’s answer. Speaking with Good Morning America, he called out Adam’s response: “If you’re going to cross this ideological or intellectual picket line, then own it, and Adam Levine certainly isn’t owning it.” He added, “It’s a cop-out when you start talking about, ‘I’m not a politician; I’m just doing the music.’ Most of the musicians who have any kind of consciousness whatsoever understand what’s going on here.”
I would have to agree with Mark on this one. The problem with Adam’s response is, it does seem like a cop-out. In these times, you can’t just simply separate the art from the artist. With musicians, they are powerful because of their influence, and their main weapon is their music. They know this. Jay Z, Rihanna, and Cardi B knew this. That was why they did what they did. Cardi B, particularly, said she will only perform if Colin would be allowed to play again. “I got to sacrifice a lot of money to perform. But there’s a man who sacrificed his job for us, so we got to stand behind him,” she told the Associated Press. She added, “When they see [how] the choices they made due to racism has affected the country, that’s when things are going to start changing. Right now, they don’t want to accept that their decision has affected the country.”
All these football team owners talking and all lat but when is y'all going to hire Colin Kaepernick ?😠
— iamcardib (@iamcardib) September 24, 2017
In contrast, what I got from Adam’s explanation is that their music and its “positive and hopefully inspiring” message, should transcend Colin’s political message, as if underplaying its significance. Moreover, saying they as a band just want to “move on,” is highly off-putting. The NFL has been embroiled with controversies of racial injustice for a long time now, and to ignore this and simply “move on” from it all, says a lot about where their priorities lie—which is either their music (as Adam claims), or making money (as many claim.) Either way, it definitely isn’t with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Art by Marian Hukom
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