In-depth analysis of Super Bowl Halftime LII

Long-live Selfie Kid!

It’s no secret that Super Bowl viewers predominantly fall into two categories: football fans and commercial/halftime show enthusiasts.

Ever since the infamous Justin Timberlake-Janet Jackson nip-slip of 2004, the halftime show brings with it a certain amount of anticipation. Will there be another debacle of nipplegate’s magnitude? The last few years haven’t disappointed. In 2013 we saw possibly the worst image of Beyoncé ever captured during one of the best performances of her career. And 2015 gave us the long-lived reign of Left Shark.

Timberlake’s return to the stage at Super Bowl LII brought with it an internet conspiracy that there would be a surprise Timberlake-Jackson duet. And while that mania was going on, another side of Twitter was actually outraged that Timberlake was even allowed back at the Super Bowl, with the hashtag #janetjacksonappreciationday cropping up over the weekend. This was the result of a decade-old sentiment that  Jackson had been unfairly punished in the public eye for the wardrobe malfunction that certainly wasn’t her fault.

Jackson, for the record, didn’t seem perturbed by Timberlake’s performance or the speculation of a surprise appearance, releasing this statement on Saturday:

“To put to rest any speculation or rumors as to whether I will be performing at the Super Bowl tomorrow; I will not. Thank you for your support and I do look forward to seeing you all very soon.”

But disappointment from both sides of the Jackson camp was short-lived after a new halftime hero emerged Sunday night, taking social media by storm.

Enter: Selfie Kid.

As the saying goes, some are born great and some have greatness thrust upon them. In the case of 13-year-old Ryan McKenna, it was definitely the latter, as the middle-schooler from Massachusetts accidentally upstaged the big finish to Timberlake’s performance, simultaneously achieving living-meme status.

As Timberlake made his way up through the crowd for the show’s finale, McKenna saw what might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to nail a selfie with the aging popstar. Even though it was obvious by the teen’s slightly panicked expression and awkward movements that he had never heard “Can’t Stop This Feeling” before, he soldiered on, hastily opening his phone as Timberlake danced and sang his way ever closer.

Everyone watching knew what was about to go down. Timberlake, always the professional, recognized the delicate situation they found themselves in, and took it in stride leaning in for a mid-performance shot without missing a lyric. In that instant, Ryan McKenna died and Selfie Kid was born.

The internet’s reaction was predictable and immediate. The hashtag #selfiekid started trending almost instantly. McKenna was interviewed after the game and appeared on Good Morning America, reporting that he had received over 8,000 follower requests overnight. Truly the icon of a generation.

The performance itself? Well, nothing special, according to Ben Raddatz, a first-year Algonquin College media design student and freelance lighting technician.

“As a whole, his performance was good; but just the performance. He lip-synced too much, his mic was too quiet and the whole show lacked soul and any message (like Beyonce’s Black Lives Matter salute),” he wrote, weighing in via Facebook. He thinks that the better halftime shows in recent years have featured multiple performers and Super Bowl should stick with that formula.

The production value was there, for the viewers at home at least. Watching the television coverage was a bit like Where’s Waldo: JT Edition. He seemed to be all over the stadium. But videos posted on twitter during the show from the stands showed that some of the spectacle took place in centre field, with a there-for-tv audience of fans who all seemed to dance a little too well.

There were dazzling lights. He played some new and some old. Flawlessly choreographed backup dancers weaved about. But, everyone looked like they just stumbled out of a thrift shop. You’d think an A-list celeb like Timberlake would be able to get them at least some matching hats or something. Maybe it was “fashion”?

There was a momentary tribute to Prince, with the late pop star projected on a giant sheet as Timberlake played a white grand piano in the foreground. It was really touching and a little weird.

When it was all said and done, Selfie Kid really was the highlight.

We’ll see what next year holds.


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