Coldplay-ing the Super Bowl


A Wall Street Journal reporter just broke the news that Coldplay will be the musical act for the halftime show at Super Bowl 50. Twitter has already erupted in “outrage.”


Taken in isolation, those are all valid responses to this news. You have every right to think that you will not enjoy a Coldplay set during the halftime show. But there’s a point at which this frustration becomes futile and draining.

From a business perspective, there are any number of reasons why it makes sense for Coldplay to perform at the Super Bowl: they’re very popular, they are unlikely to say or do anything perceived as offensive by censors or the FCC, and they’re about to release a high-profile new album with guest appearances by Beyonce, Gwyneth Paltrow and President Barack Obama. It’s not as if the Super Bowl needs a gimmick or an exceptionally high-profile act to draw in high ratings, but this choice is very much in keeping with the kinds of acts the NFL usually chooses.

Quick rundown of the last fifteen years, in reverse order: Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Beyonce, Madonna, the Black Eyed Peas, the Who, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Prince, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Janet Jackson, Shania Twain, U2, Aerosmith. The through-line there is popularity.

And that’s all the Super Bowl is: television’s biggest annual business venture. No one would ever claim that Super Bowl halftime shows are historically known to produce great art, or to boost the career of a fledgling talent in need of greater exposure. They’re designed to showcase a popular artist and fill time between several hours of the nation’s most popular sport.

It’s fair to wish that the halftime show served a more noble purpose, that it meant more as an indicator of an artist’s talent, success or ambition. But it’s none of those things. It’s a reinforcer of popular success and an attempt at reflecting the most mainstream taste possible. If you were already planning to watch the Super Bowl, the fact that Coldplay’s performing likely won’t change your mind. If you weren’t planning to watch, this news is moot.

And if you were on the fence, and waiting to see who they chose as musical guest, now you know. Choose accordingly. But if you don’t like Coldplay, don’t waste your breath complaining that they’re the “wrong” choice. The NFL can’t hear you over the roar of billions in revenue.

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