Mon February 7, 2011
Monkey See

What Is It About The Super Bowl That Sends Stars Stumbling?

Rick Holter, editor of Weekend All Things Considered, couldn't get to sleep after last night's Super Bowl, and had to get this out of his system.

I don't care what anyone says — I love the Super Bowl national anthem and halftime show. They're like NASCAR, only instead of cars we get celebrities: They spend a lot of their lives in the fast lane, but what keeps you from turning to the Puppy Bowl is the knowledge that they will hit the wall.

The 2011 installment in Texas was a classic. Pregame, Glee's Lea Michele survived America The Beautiful, but Christina Aguilera crashed and burned during the national anthem.

(What did the Super Bowl planners have against America, anyway? First, Bill O'Reilly's producers cut off the President in mid-answer, then a stagy but moving reading of the Declaration of Independence ended balkily, and finally Christina skipped the ramparts in favor of the "twilight's last reaming." Ms. A had to be thinking, "Oh, say, can you flee?")

And then came the halftime show. The Black-Eyed Peas proved they weren't lip-syncing thanks to an awful sound mix. (The backing tracks sounded like they'd been buried by one of those ice sheets that fell off the roof of Cowboys Stadium.) Usher sounded a little bit like he got hit, too. The only one who didn't was Slash — and that's because the guitarist never sang a word.

Now, there's no question the staging was spectacular — those neon Tron uniforms on the cast of thousands dancing around the Peas positively glowed. And pretty much every choreographed step was sharp.

But why is it just about every time a celeb steps behind the mike at the big game, a fumble's inevitable?

Remember last year in Miami, when Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey sounded like a couple of crooners who should be backing Dinah Shore at a Lauderdale dinner theater? Or Detroit in '06, when the Rolling Stones were only slightly less embalmed? Or Whitney Houston "singing" the anthem 20 years ago in Tampa?

And who can forget the MVP of Super stumbles: Janet Jackson's tear-away jersey back in Houston in '04?

Sure, the Super Bowl is a big stage — the biggest. But is playing for 90,000 in a stadium and a billion or so around the world really that different from singing to 25 million on the Grammy show, as the Peas did last year? Or the multiple millions who've witnessed magic from The Who or the Stones over the decades?

Maybe the 2012 planners in Indianapolis should turn back to the stars who rocked the Super house in '86 (and '82 ... and '80 ... and '76).

Up With People, anyone? Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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