Monday, February 15, 2016

Lady Gaga Pays Tribute to David Bowie at the Grammys

Lady Gaga was tasked with putting on the 2016 GRAMMYs tribute to the late icon David Bowie. She had Nile Rodgers with her, who produced two Bowie Albums: Let's Dance & Black Tie White Noise, to play guitar and help create the show. Gaga delivered a high energy performance that utilized the latest technology, which is something Bowie was always fond of doing.

And of course, it featured her in numerous costumes. She was able to seamlessly cram some of Bowie's biggest songs into the almost 7 minute performance, which can be difficult considering how much Bowie changed through the years. However, everyone involved were able to make it work. Her opening performance of "Space Oddity" utilized a new Intel projection technology, which projected the lightning bolt from Bowie's Aladdin Sane album cover onto her face. Luckily it worked well and matched up perfectly on her face. I personally loved her moving futuristic robot-looking piano.

Let us not forget though: The Grammys have only awarded David Bowie with one Grammy Award... Let that sink in. And he wasn't even first nominated until 1984 despite his acclaimed 1970s work. The fact that he wasn't very mainstream in the 70s is probably part of it, as the Grammy voters tend to go for mainstream even today, but especially back then. He should win a few more for his acclaimed new album Blackstar next year, though he sadly won't be able to receive them of course.

Songs featured:
Space Oddity
Ziggy Stardust
Suffragette City
Rebel Rebel
Let's Dance

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Most Memorable Super Bowl Halftime Shows

We've got another Super Bowl and Super Bowl Halftime Show in the books. This year featured Coldplay, Beyonce & Bruno Mars in what was an okay performance. It wasn't outstanding, it wasn't terrible. The best part was when the three joined together for a "Fix You"/"Up&Up" performance that showed clips of previous Halftime shows (which for some reason left off Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake...hmm). Overall though, it just felt like something you'd watch at the VMA's or Grammy's.

So what are the most memorable Super Bowl halftime shows ever?

U2 (2002) - U2 were tasked with performing just a few months following the 9/11 attacks. And really, no band is better to handle that sort of moment. They were the first band to resume concerts in New York City with some shows at Madison Square Garden just a few weeks after the attacks. They delivered in a big way at the Super Bowl. It started out with an upbeat performance of "Beautiful Day." That led into the more somber "MLK," which is when the giant screen of the names of every victim scrolled upwards to the top of the Superdome. That led into "Where The Streets Have No Name," which picked up the pace again and left viewers feeling hopeful for the future. It culminated in Bono revealing an American flag on the inside of his jacket, a visual that still resonates. U2 were able to take viewers along for a ride through so many different emotions, which might never be possible again.

Prince (2007) - If any word could be used to describe Prince's Halftime show, it would be: electric. It was a rainy night in Miami, but that didn't stop him from putting on an energetic show, utilizing the weather to his advantage, even featuring simulated lightning on top of the stadium. He featured numerous cover songs that surprised and delighted people: "We Will Rock You," "Proud Mary," "All Along The Watchtower," and the more recent Foo Fighters hit "Best of You." He ended the night by playing "Purple Rain" in the rain, which became the signature moment that people remember. Since then the NFL has basically forced Miami to put a canopy over the seats for them to host future Super Bowls in the Dolphins' stadium, in case it were to rain. I guess the rich folks insanely spending hundreds-thousands of dollars on tickets can't handle a little water. Prince, however, went out there and showed that a little rain never hurt anyone.

Diana Ross Leaves in a Helicopter
Diana Ross (1996) - Diana Ross ran through a string of her Motown hits, but the memorable part was at the end when she declared that her ride was there. A helicopter came down onto the field and whisked her out of the stadium, in what is clearly the most memorable exit from the Super Bowl halftime of all time. The show left such an impression that the NFL went for a Motown/1960s theme in the a few of the shows after this one.

Michael Jackson (1993) - This was the first halftime show that truly went for being a major event in itself, something that would become talked about alongside the game in the following days. Jackson memorably walked out and basically just stood there to a roaring crowd for a while. He then performed some of his biggest hits ("Billie Jean," "Black or White") in a large scale spectacle that hadn't been done at any of the previous halftime shows. The set ended a bit cheesy with "Heal the World", but overall it kicked off the Halftime show as we know it today.

Janet Jackson featuring Justin Timberlake (2004) - This one doesn't even need an explanation. Its memorable for Nipplegate, and we've all heard the story. Of course, the whole reaction was overblown and showcased how ridiculous the FCC is.

Paul McCartney (2005) - Let's be real: if the NFL went by without ever having one of the Beatles play the Halftime show, something would be missing from its lore. Paul delivered a stellar set as he always does, and the show featured a healthy amount of crowd participation, ending with "Hey Jude" that featured the whole crowd singing along.

Bruno Mars featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers (2014) - Bruno Mars was one of the younger performers, as they usually get someone with a large back catalog of hits. Bruno rose to the occasion though, including a memorable drum solo, which probably gave him a number of new fans. The show made for a good mix of slower moments with high energy, while the Red Hot Chili Peppers proved to make a solid pairing with Bruno and his band.

The Rolling Stones (2006) - The Stones did what they did best, rocked the house with a rollicking performance that could probably put people half their age to shame. What was memorable about this is how the NFL & ABC aired it on a five second delay and turned off Mick Jagger's microphone for two songs with lyrics that were too "sexually explicit." The band agreed to that beforehand so it wasn't a surprise, but it just goes to show how worried networks had become about live TV after Nipplegate in 2004.

Aerosmith, Britney Spears, 'N Sync, Mary J. Blige, Nelly (2001) - This one isn't really memorable for the performances aside from when they were all on stage to join together and play "Walk This Way." It perfectly encapsulated the pop culture landscape of 1999-2001, while having something for everyone. It was an odd mashup, but one that actually worked.

And a shout out to Katy Perry, Missy Elliott, and Lenny Kravitz. While the jury is out, it did feature a few possible memorable moments: Left Shark, Missy Elliott returning to the public eye unexpectedly, and Katy Perry on a platform that "flew" around on a wire, which made for quite a stunt.