Oh, say, can you see, by the field’s klieg lights, what so proudly we hailed? And proudly hailed to the world over in full Dolby surround-sound HD. What an embarrassment! Bombs bursting on stage was about the size of it.
They always say that the “Super” Bowl is the most watched television program the world over. Like many well known facts and statistics, this one is made up, purely fictional, a combination of desire and wild speculation. But it is at least true that the game is seen by many non Americans, folks who are not used to our ways and have not built up a tolerance to bad music as we have.
The joyless-tivities began with a rendition of America The Beautiful sung by some nondescript celebrity called Lea Michele whose near monotone, one-octave effort sounded like it was arranged by Elton John, or whoever it is that orchestrated every damn Broadway show since 1990. Plastic phrasing, interchangeable chords, lifeless notes, pre-packed and ready made for the microphone and cheesy amplification. One step short of muzak. The kind of signing that requires no skill, no practice. The kind that can be mastered even by celebrities.
If you want stirring, if you want home-grown gospel, if you want to talk about pure from the heart God-shedding-his-grace-on-thee, then you cannot do better than Ray Charles singing the same song. That’s the re-enlistment version, baby. Let he that hath an ear and so forth.
Now, as bad as Michele’s signing was (the best Hollywood Gossip could say was that it “avoided controversy”—high praise), it was merely an average awful banality, easily ignored as you made one last trip to the refrigerator to grab something that resembled beer. It was what came after that horrified.
The real pain began when a strangely dressed, husky voiced Christina Aguilera croaked out what she thought was our National Anthem. The word is already spreading that she made a mistake in the lyric; a typo, if you like. But typos can be forgiven. The stutters, cheats, and out-of-tune wheezing cannot be. Substituting falsetto for high notes is a trick you’d expect from a guy sitting on a dingy stage squinting at 501 Song Cheats, not from a singer heard by at least millions.
The glissando-like whoa-ah-whoa-ah-whoa-ization of every note at the end of every bar was stupid and undisciplined. It’s the kind of signing that would impress only those whose exposure to music was limited to the nursery and FM radio. What came out of her mouth was the equivalent of a black velvet painting of a needlessly angry tiger. What made it worse was that she managed to look exhausted by her efforts. It’s one thing to sing badly, but another suggest that this was the best one can do.
Yet lower depths were still to plumb. The half-time “show” by the group calling themselves Black-eyed Peas demonstrated everything that is wrong with modern music. The act was so awful that it is certain that my limited powers of description will fail to covey how nausea-inducing it was. I won’t even discuss how their costumes looked like they were thought up by a sugar-addled eight-year-old trick-or-treater. I’ll stick strictly to the music.
The most obvious problem was that their voices were processed through some electronic contraption. The singing itself was nearly, but not quite, at the level of a karaoke bar at 2 am; the computerization gave pay to the old saying “Garbage in, garbage out.” If you’ve ever heard polished (published) versions of their songs, you’ll know what magic a small army of dedicated sound engineers acting as editors can work.
And why are they so fond of their lyric “Looks like it’s gonna be a good night”? Its two-dozen repetitions were in direct contradistinction from the night viewers had.
Did you notice the biggest farce of the evening? If you paid careful attention to the audience behind the band—not the imported signers, but the actual fans in the stadium—you’ll have noticed that most of them sat rock still, evidently unimpressed by the spectacle they suffered through. Yet at the appointed ends of the band’s noise (songs), a crescendo of applause and cheering was heard.
Was this faked? Or at least augmented, the way laugh-tracks are overlaid on sitcoms shot “in front of a live studio audience”? I’d be willing to bet that it was.