Resnikoff’s Parting Shot: The Super Bowl Soundtrack

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Think that football was the only athletic event at the Super Bowl?

Wrong!  The Who is renowned for their high-energy shows, their guitar-smashing finales.  This is a band predicated on energy, but Townshend and Daltry were unfortunately panting on lap one during their halftime performance.

And that was tough to watch.  This was hardly an ageless Mick Jagger jumping around; rather, it was a cringe-worthy performance on one of the biggest stages imaginable.  Songs like “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Pinball Wizard” are operatic challenges, not acoustic lullabies, and these format-stretchers quickly stressed their creators.

Anyway, that was the main event, at least from a musical perspective.  But plenty of other bands grabbed Super Bowl glow.  That included Carrie Underwood and Queen Latifah singing national anthems, and mega-bands like Kiss hawking Dr. Pepper.  Other huge names included T-Pain (in a self-parodying, auto-tuning spot for Doritos); Blur (powering Lance Armstrong through a Michelob Light ad); and will.i.am and Slash (a remixing team for another Who track, this time for FloTV).

Typical big-name artists for a big-name gig, right?  Well, not exactly.  Other commercials offered an interesting wildcard, and that is where bands like Grizzly Bear (Volkswagen), The Heavy (Kia), and Arcade Fire (for the NFL) shined through.  Plenty of dusty classics also grabbed exposure, including songs from ELO (Budweiser), Bill Withers (EA), KC & the Sunshine Band (Honda), and hey, even Maurice Ravel (Coca-Cola).

The list also included Cheap Trick, whose “Dream Police” was changed to “Green Police” to support an eco-friendly Audi A3.  Sellout?  Bands are over that stigma, but even so, Cheap Trick is doing this one for the environment (and another ‘green cause’ as well).

Anyway, funny how Kiss can coexist with Grizzly Bear on the same mega-broadcast, and the bands the lie in-between.  Sure, big brands love big bands and classics, but they also love edgier, indie-leaning artists.  That opens the door to some surprises, and a more interesting game for the music industry.

It also underscores just how unpredictable the music business is these days.  In the middle of a chaotic disruption, there really are no rules and lots of unexpected (if far-fetched) opportunities.  Perhaps the big question now is what type of lift these featured bands will enjoy – especially in the absence of on-screen identifications.

Oh, and the football game, the one between the Saints and Colts?  The biggest winner of all is the city of New Orleans, one of the most important musical spots in the world.  All in all, it was a fun game with an unexpected soundtrack.

Paul Resnikoff, Publisher.