Why Isn’t Jay-Z Playing the Super Bowl?
The announcement Sunday that Bruno Mars will headline the halftime show at Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., should have been cause for celebration.
After all, Mars has current hits and broad appeal. His album Unorthodox Jukebox reached No. 1 and has three big hits: Locked Out of Heaven, When I Was Your Man and Treasure.
The problem is that this Super Bowl is the first ever in the New York area, and there are many obvious choices with ties to the metropolitan area. We have a few suggestions.
Of course there’s New Jersey’s favorite son, Bruce Springsteen. The Boss in 2009 gave perhaps the best Super Bowl performance in the past decade. His music connects with the heartland and with the older male demographic that watches the NFL.
It probably hurts that Springsteen played just five years ago — but it shouldn’t. Heck, the Patriots and Steelers seemed to be in every other Super Bowl for years. And Springsteen starts an Australian tour on Feb. 7, meaning he would have been available and geared up.
Then there’s another New Jersey resident, Jon Bon Jovi, who’s never played the Super Bowl. He also would appeal to NFL fans, though he hasn’t had a No. 1 song since 1988.
But the act that immediately came to mind was Brooklyn native Jay-Z.
The rapper has had a slew of hits in the past decade, not the least of which is 2009’s five-times-platinum New York love letter Empire State of Mind. That song would have been perfect for the Super Bowl. His new album — Magna Carta/Holy Grail — topped the chart, as did the song Holy Grail with Justin Timberlake.
Jay-Z could have brought Timberlake back to rehabilitate him from his 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” with Janet Jackson. And when Jay-Z and Timberlake played Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park on Aug. 13, Timberlake sang a strong version of New York, New York.
The Jay-Z / Timberlake tour was a smash, and perhaps the best concert we’ve seen all year. And Jay-Z now is on a solo tour that finishes up Jan. 31 — right before the Super Bowl.
It might hurt that Jay-Z’s wife, Beyonce, was the featured performer at last year’s Super Bowl. And maybe the people who decide these things thought hip-hop wouldn’t connect with viewers. Though with choices such as Madonna, who’s cared about that before?
We suggested Mars as a better halftime performer after Madonna was chosen for the 2011 game. Pretty much anybody would have been better than Madonna. She ended up mouthing moldy songs and moving with the grace of Betty White.
But two years ago, Mars was much bigger than he is now. He was in the midst of a tour for his album Doo-Wops & Hooligans, which had two No. 1 hits — Just The Way You Are and Grenade — that between them sold 10 million copies.
But by the time the Super Bowl rolls around, Mars’ current disc will be 14 months old.
We have no doubt Mars will be entertaining — really entertaining.
It’s just that, unlike most of Mars’ music, Jay-Z’s songs are big and brash, just like the Super Bowl. He’s a New York native and resident, and his style of hip-hop, truth be told, really does connects with male aggression, as well as broader audiences.
He’s so popular now, he would have been perfect.
Which means you’ll probably see him at the Super Bowl in two years.