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Why Hip-Hop — Not Coldplay — Is the Only Music That Works for Super Bowl 50

Coldplay Super Bowl 50 Controversy
Buckner/Variety/REX Shutterstock

The halftime show has frequently been the highlight of the Super Bowl, but with the announcement last week that Coldplay would be the featured performer at Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, it’s hard to see how the game itself won’t be the draw this year. Maybe that’s what the NFL had in mind when it booked the British band.

The “nip slip” was the best thing to ever happen to the Super Bowl — after Prince’s triumphant performance that is. Quick, name who won those games?

The Super Bowl is a national holiday wherein we all come together to eat too much, get drunk and have fun. It’s a gathering of the tribes — nearly eclipsed by the MTV Video Music Awards in its heyday. That’s why the NFL hired MTV to produce the nip-slip triumph (never call it a fiasco; that’s a misnomer). The league wanted some controversy, and it got it.

Who lost in all that controversy? Certainly not Justin Timberlake. And Janet Jackson is still doing great at the turnstiles. As for CBS, the hosting channel? Leslie Moonves oversees a juggernaut.

But these days, nudity is so prevalent online that Playboy has eliminated it from its magazine. That’s what you do when confronted with a changing landscape; you deliver the unexpected, you get one step ahead.

So why play it safe now?

We know what’s in it for Coldplay. They go to where the most eyeballs are and then put tickets on sale to their tour for “A Head Full of Dreams” the next day. And holding back the album from Spotify is like putting the efforts of a has-been behind a paywall. This is a band that was buoyed by MTV and VH1 when those networks still played music.

“Music is all about marketing, and sports are all about protecting the past and taking no risks — at a time when society is living on the cutting edge.”
@lefsetz

But the NFL has used up all the usual has-beens, classic rockers are too geriatric to excite the assembled multitude, and the best have already made an appearance. So why not feature the music that truly rules the NFL: hip-hop.

Jay Z would be the host, of course. But Hova is surrounded by Kendrick and Drake, and even Killer Mike. Lil Wayne runs out for a cameo, and then Dr. Dre is lowered from the heavens as Snoop Dogg goes into “Gin and Juice.”

Half of America would be thrilled.

And half of America would be vomiting.

Can you imagine the aftermath, the explication of rap’s history, the meaning of the lyrics, the offense taken by those who believe they know better, even though they don’t, not understanding that Drake is a bigger star on Spotify than Adele. Yes, “Hotline Bling” is bigger than “Hello,” because music lives on streaming services, not in CD racks or at the iTunes Store. And Coldplay has one No. 1 hit; Drake has five. This is like playing the second-string QB instead of Cam Newton.

The NFL is in the entertainment business, so why not give the public what it wants? It should ignore the vocal minority imploring it to play it safe. Why would a public enraptured of Snapchat and Instagram be interested in a band that made its bones before Facebook hit the scene?

And while the league has thrown in Beyonce and Bruno Mars for spice, didn’t we just see them in a Super Bowl show?

So this is where we’re at. Music is all about marketing, and sports are all about protecting the past and taking no risks — at a time when society is living on the cutting edge, knowing what happens today probably won’t be remembered tomorrow.

The Super Bowl only comes around once a year. And we punt the ball and give our greatest promotional opportunity to this wimpy group from England?

No, you bring out the heavy hitters. And that means hip-hop.