Last year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show was oddly (though unsurprisingly) anticlimactic, wrapping up a year of high-profile musical acts openly refusing to take the gig out of respect to Colin Kaepernick—who had accused the NFL of conspiring to blacklist him over his famous on-field protests against police brutality and general racism. Maroon 5 ended up headlining the show alongside Travis Scott and Big Boi, and there was also this whole thing where people on the internet wanted someone to do a SpongeBob Squarepants reference (that did end up sort of happening even though it was obviously shoehorned in). It was basically just Pepsi saying “here’s what we were able to put together, enjoy.”
This year, Pepsi and the NFL were able to rope in both Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, with pretty much no public pressure to acknowledge any cartoons or very obvious mistreatment of specific people. The actual performance was also relatively short on excessive gimmicks (sorry, Lady Gaga’s drone army), opening with Shakira doing her solo thing for (what else) a medley of hits while surrounded by dancers.
Lopez’s entrance seemed like the biggest moment early on, even if she did it without jumping down from the roof of the stadium or bringing out any lackluster sharks. Instead, she just appeared standing on what looked like a small replica of the Empire State Building and jumped into a (you’ll never believe it) medley of hits. It at least seemed like a more energetic and dramatic set, with Lopez taking some breaks to put on her own little dance clinics, but then it all popped off with Lopez’s daughter Emme Maribel Muñiz singing her own little interlude that exploded into a proper duet with her mom and then a dance-off between Lopez and Shakira (with both of them singing their respective World Cup songs!).
It didn’t reinvent the Super Bowl Pepsi Halftime Show wheel, but it also didn’t do anything especially stupid or misguided. It was arguably the best kind of Halftime Show, with a focus on music, dancing, and fun cameos (J Blavin and Bad Bunny!)—and it did it without an appearance from SpongeBob.