The band and the NFL waited practically three months longer than typical to verify the gig.
The Super Bowl halftime present has historically been of probably the most coveted gigs in music, with hypothesis about which megastar will gentle up the sport reaching Oscar-worthy ranges within the run-up to the late-fall announcement.
So why did the NFL and Maroon 5 wait practically three months to verify that the California pop group can be taking the stage in Atlanta on Feb. three at Super Bowl LIII with Travis Scott and Big Boi? Billboard reported in September that M5 would headline the set, which comes mid-way by way of what’s yearly the most-watched block of TV actual property. But neither the band nor the NFL would touch upon the file on the time. Or for a number of months afterward.
The first official affirmation from the notoriously controlling league and the radio-friendly band got here on Sunday (Jan. 13), lower than a month earlier than the large recreation. The phrase lastly got here after months of experiences that everybody from Rihanna to Cardi B, Adele, JAY-Z and P!nk had handed on the unpaid performance for numerous causes, from scheduling conflicts to a reluctance to dance, and, most significantly, as a present of solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a outstanding activist now greatest identified for taking a knee in the course of the National Anthem in 2016 in protest of racial inequality within the U.S. That transfer, in fact, led to Kaepernick's exile from the league and a raft of comparable protests from fellow gamers.
In distinction, the 2 earlier halftime performers, Lady Gaga in 2017 and Justin Timberlake in 2018, have been introduced on, respectively, Sept. 29, 2016 and Oct. 22, 2017.
In the interim, a change.org petition urging M5 to drop out of the present has garnered greater than 85,000 signatures, soaking up a lot of the media coverage that might usually have been reserved for the headliner hyping what is definitely a bucket record alternative for the veteran group with a squeaky clear picture.
"This is a difficult 12 months for it [playing the halftime show] and I'm undecided what the fitting reply is," says a veteran music trade supply aware of the mechanics of Super Bowl halftime performances; the supply spoke to Billboard two days earlier than the official announcement. "The bulletins are at all times dictated by the NFL, however it's method totally different this 12 months as a result of it's in Atlanta — the de facto dwelling of hip-hop — and there are points there due to tales about how they reached out to hip-hop acts and so they didn't wish to carry out."
Add to that the poor optics of two black hip-hop artists — Scott and Big Boi (born Antwan Patton) — performing in majority African-American metro Atlanta following the NFL's roll-out of a controversial new Anthem coverage earlier than the 2018-19 season, which many noticed as an try and silence any on-field protests. Those prompt guidelines, widely panned however at the moment on maintain and but to be enforced, would pressure gamers to both stand (and face a staff high-quality for any show deemed disrespectful) or keep within the locker room. Together they create what the supply deems a "very troublesome" state of affairs for Levine and the band members, all however one in all whom are white.
"I don't know what else they will do. If they'd identified what the response can be possibly they might have thought twice about it, however it's a kind of feather-in-your-cap, verify it off the record issues. Who wouldn't need that?" says the supply. "It's an unlucky mixture of the 12 months and the town."
Before Sunday's announcement, Jeff Rabhan, former artist supervisor (Jermaine Dupri) and present chair of the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, stated he suspected that the league determined to carry off on making a proper assertion so long as attainable to keep away from additional controversy and hold the deal with the playoffs for now. "They selected an old-school method of coping with it: simply don't discuss it and possibly it can go away," he stated. "Which doesn't work."
While Maroon 5 released a one-minute video on Sunday (Jan. 13) hyping the efficiency, they haven’t but made any public statements or appearances selling it. That's in distinction to Scott, who informed Billboard on Sunday — simply earlier than the NFL's launch — that he wouldn’t settle for the invitation till the league agreed to affix him in donating $500,000 to a social justice trigger. Spokespeople for the NFL and headline halftime sponsor Pepsi had not responded to Billboard's request for remark at press time.
A supply with first-hand information of the discussions, nevertheless, described the lengthy wait to announce the band's efficiency as "irritating" for all of the artists, particularly since most of them have been confirmed for weeks, and even months. All three acts have ties to Irving Azoff's Full Stop Management, although neither rapper has ever appeared on a Maroon 5 album; Levine is featured on "Mic Jack" from Big Boi's 2017 Boomiverse solo album. Cardi B, featured on their present smash, "Girls Like You," pointedly won’t be showing with the band, however somewhat enjoying an ancillary present sponsored by Bud Light on the evening earlier than the sport alongside Bruno Mars.
What explains the eerie silence from the usually amiable, press-friendly M5 entrance man Adam Levine? "It's most likely coming from Maroon 5's individuals, who didn't wish to enable the message to get out so that they had weeks and weeks of hate mail and torture," says a long-time publicist (unaffiliated with the band) who predicts the furor will seemingly proceed, however not essentially stick with the Grammy-winning band with greater than 20+ million in profession album gross sales. "It's moronic on the one hand that they're even doing it — it's not the largest gig of your profession when greater than 50 p.c of the world hates you for making the selection. I feel it hurts their model and it's a complete mistake on their half. But within the scheme of issues by way of America proper now, individuals will most likely overlook it as quickly because it's over."
What would the publicist have accomplished in the event that they'd been in an early assembly in regards to the present? "I might say as a publicist we suggest you don't do that," the publicist says, including that they might seemingly have pursued the identical tactic that the band and their reps have: months of radio silence. "It doesn't matter how big a stage it’s, there's a much bigger upside to say you handed [on it]. If it's a accomplished deal, although, I might say: Don't name consideration to the truth that you're doing it, as a result of there's no upside to that. Just let the gig occur, let those that know know and deal with it like a daily TV reserving, which you may not likely publicize that a lot."
Levine appeared on Ellen in November, practically a month after the information first emerged, and the singer performed coy with DeGeneres throughout an look that ought to have been his first promotional push for the everyday halftime media blitz. “It’s an amazing occasion, and there’s going to be a band performing or an artist of some type performing halftime… and it’s going to be nice no matter who it’s,” Levine stated cryptically. “Whoever is fortunate sufficient to get that gig might be going to crush it.”
While everybody from comic Amy Schumer to the NAACP and Rev. Al Sharpton have spoken out in regards to the reserving over the previous 4 months, Maroon 5's staff seems to have taken the highway prompt by the publicist: near-total silence. (A spokesperson for the band declined to touch upon the file.)
Gaga's look was introduced comparatively early, adopted lower than two weeks later with the "Shallow" singer telling Carson Daly that she wished to "Push the Envelope" and was launching a "Guest of Honor" contest with sponsor Pepsi that December. "I'm completely honored to be doing the Pepsi halftime present. We've already been pondering of all of the alternative ways we will make this a particular expertise for all of the NFL followers," Gaga stated on the time. By this time in January 2017, Gaga was taking followers behind the scenes for the set she stated, "I've been planning since I used to be four."
Even with the drama surrounding Timberlake's return to the Super Bowl following 2004's infamous "Nipple-gate" efficiency with Janet Jackson, and hot-take controversy over whether or not he would invite Jackson again as an indication of excellent religion, didn't totally overtake the NFL's typical "nothing to see right here" narrative. Timberlake hit the late evening reveals to advertise his halftime, joking with Stephen Colbert in late November and dropping the primary in a collection of BTS movies in mid-January.
Vic Oyedeji, who started the Maroon petition drive and was additionally behind the #NoKaepernickNoNFL petition urging individuals to boycott the NFL till Kaepernick was signed by one other staff — which racked up greater than 208,000 signatures — tells Billboard he began the Maroon drive as a result of he is aware of the halftime present is the spotlight of the Super Bowl, frequently besting the precise recreation in scores. "When Rihanna turned it down and Amy Schumer and JAY-Z spoke out I knew I needed to create a petition to see what of us needed to say about it," he says. Oyedeji says he's more than happy with the impact and the dialog he's sparked, even after the information that the present will go on as deliberate.
"I’ve blended feelings about it and I'm form of dissatisfied that they determined to carry out," he says. "But I'm glad that that stage has now been tainted, and anybody who performs on it beginning this 12 months is — in impact — aligning with the NFL. And that's why these artists backed down, and now it is going to be more durable to search out artists to carry out. I'm very pleased with that."
"They [the NFL] bought spooked by the petition and so they did what they at all times do: they thought, 'If [the Maroon 5 booking is] a complete win for us, we don't want the controversy,'" says Rabhan. The former main label A&R exec, who has attended a number of Super Bowls — together with 2003's, the place former shopper Michelle Branch performed a pre-game set alongside Santana and Beyoncé — says he spoke to a really outstanding member of Atlanta's hip-hop group earlier than the announcement who stated the NFL "didn't even attempt" to make a honest effort to achieve out to the town's giant African-American music group to land a headliner who higher represents the town's wealthy R&B and rap historical past.
He additionally notes that he didn't totally agree with the goal of Oyedeji's petition. "It wasn't asking for something besides to place stress on them [Maroon 5]," he says. "Do they not need anybody to play? Is it boycotting Maroon 5? Because they haven't accomplished something incorrect right here, they're only a band within the enterprise of performing for individuals. As a supervisor, that's a troublesome state of affairs, as a result of generally I imagine in speaking." When the petition first got here out with its plea to Maroon 5 to take a possibility to "stand on the fitting aspect of historical past" and select the gamers over the league, Rabhan says the group had a possibility to say "we assist this and it's necessary to us… we're huge soccer followers and we stand behind Colin, we assist everybody's alternative for freedom of speech, we assist the gamers and we're not selecting a aspect.'"
What would he have endorsed if he was their supervisor? In Rabhan's guide, getting out in entrance of an argument is greatest coverage, somewhat than avoidance, which he believes solely stokes the fires. None of it surprises him, although, as Rabhan mentions that he's labored with the NFL Players Association previously at Tisch and has gotten a first-hand style of the "iron fist" the league's homeowners rule with. "By not accepting it or caving to the stress you don't ahead the motion in any respect and also you're not altering minds," he says. "But to say nothing, or not take a stand, that's the [traditional] playbook and that's the place the NFL has gotten damage over time."
The longtime producer of the halftime present, Ricky Kirshner, and the longtime director, Hamish Hamilton, in addition to greater than half a dozen outstanding publicists who've labored with previous halftime performers declined to talk on the file with Billboard in regards to the evident delay within the Maroon 5 announcement.
In gentle of the weekend affirmation, Rabhan despatched Billboard an up to date perspective on Monday (Jan. 14): "I'm glad the NFL lastly realized that bringing Pepsi into Coca-Cola's hometown was harmful sufficient," he says of the No. 2 cola model getting into Coke's company yard, and the clever determination so as to add ATLien Big Boi to the roster. "But not having somebody from ATL's wealthy musical historical past share the stage with Maroon 5 would pressure each self-respecting southerner to take a knee as nicely." Additionally, various different outstanding ATL acts will likely be enjoying Super Bowl adjoining events in the course of the week, together with Migos, Lil Jon, Ludacris, Lil Yachty, Lil Baby and Future.
Speaking of taking a knee, Oyedeji tells Billboard he's give you the right reply for the way M5 and their collaborators can rise above the noise, a suggestion he added to his petition web page on Monday. "I’ve nothing in opposition to the band, this isn't about them and so they simply bought caught within the crossfire," he says. "I'm saying the one method for them to protect their fame is to take a knee throughout their set to indicate the lots of of hundreds of thousands of individuals watching their solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and the gamers who’re protesting police brutality."
What else may assist tamp down the stigma? "A nice efficiency with Travis [and Big Boi]," says the veteran supply acquainted with the machinations of halftime reveals, who doesn't count on M5 to make any assertion in the course of the present. "People are gonna hate on-line both method."
Additional reporting by Jason Lipshutz.