On Feb. 13, the Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show included performances by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar. 50 Cent and Anderson .Paak made surprise appearances as well. To listen to all the songs in the performance, check out this Spotify playlist.
There was lots of attention to detail throughout the halftime performance, and the set design emphasized this. Dr. Dre, a native of Compton, California, incorporated elements of the city into the set. This included the ground being a layout of the city’s streets and signs of local businesses like Eve’s After Dark that were staples in the community.
Each performer’s personality was evident during their set. Snoop Dogg opted for a blue bandana outfit that signified his relation to Crips (and included several moments of crip walking). 50 Cent and Eminem wore outfits similar to those in the music videos of their songs.
One of my favorite parts of the show was watching how the background dancers changed with each performer. Dances during Mary J. Blige’s and Kendrick Lamar’s sets were more choreographed, whereas Dr. Dre’s, Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent’s had dancers that were freestyling. Their dancers also had different costumes, which highlighted that individuality. Eminem’s dancers for “Lose Yourself” also mirrored visuals from the music video, and included a surprise appearance from Anderson .Paak playing drums.
As soon as I saw Snoop Dogg’s all-blue bandana outfit, I understood how strong the relationship is between his name and crip walking. His opening performance, “The Next Episode,” had great rhythm and made me excited to see the rest of the show—I knew it was going to be good. “The Next Episode (feat. Snoop Dogg)” by Dr. Dre is an iconic song itself. The dance move of crip walking is in relation to this song as well as plentiful memes. Snoop Dogg’s performance was kept funky as always. He is truly a trooper in the music industry.
Following 50 Cent’s surprise, upside down performance of “In da Club,” Mary J. Blige transitioned to her portion of the performance. She appeared on set looking as beautiful and gorgeous as ever. Her energy dominated the crowd as she began her set with “Family Affair.” Nostalgia filled the room, because the R&B queen always knows how to make you get in your feelings. Blige slowed down the crowd by singing “No More Drama.” I wasn’t in pain, but after her performance I felt like I had pain to get rid of.
Throughout the performance, dancers were scattered throughout each set, including in the field. Personally, I felt that the dancers were rushed in their movements and could have been placed better throughout the space. I’m so used to dancers correlating with the narrative of the songs. However, in the performances of Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and Mary J. Blige, the dancers felt completely out of place. Not to mention, they were only doing TikTok dances.
After Blige’s breathtaking performance, she dropped to the ground, and suddenly the audience could hear “M.A.A.D City” by Kendrick Lamar playing: “Every time I’m in the street, I hear yawk! Yawk! Yawk! Yawk!” The dancers that were surrounding Kendrick Lamar were soldiers, but of course, Lamar was their captain. Throughout the performance, Lamar dominated, wearing a monochromatic black Louis Vuitton suit by Virgil Abloh. No words could fathom how much this set reflected Lamar’s personality and the mood of his songs.
Dr. Dre was the connection between all of the other performing artists. Almost all of the songs were produced by Dr. Dre, and every artist had worked with him at some point during their careers. Elements of Compton, California, were represented throughout almost every performance and fashion choice. Dancers wore prison uniform outfits paired with converse, and Kendrick Lamar made tribute to N.W.A through the fashion of his dancers wearing a “Dre Day” sash, representing the Super Bowl performance dedicated to Dr. Dre.
Prior to the show, reports emerged that performers were censored from making any kind of political statement. Eminem did take a knee at the end of his song, but that was the only overtly political statement made. In our opinion, the notion that performers shouldn’t make political statements in the show is absurd: hip hop was birthed from experiences and stories that are inherently political. To not allow people whose art has been heavily influenced by these sentiments is an injustice to their craft.
By Aminah Jenkins, Associate Editor, and Melissa Taylor, Contributing Writer