Rating Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show: Event Producers Give Jennifer Lopez and Shakira a B+
Event producers shared their thoughts on the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show with headliners Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.
The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers (31-20) to win Super Bowl LIV on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Football aside, the highlight for many viewers, including event industry professionals, was the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show, with headliners Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.
When the two women were announced as this year’s performers, some wondered how the singers would share the spotlight. Fairly easily it would seem. They each performed a medley of their dance-heavy hits, with Shakira belting out songs including “Hips Don’t Lie” and “She Wolf” and Lopez busting out fan favorites like “Jenny from the Block” and “Get Right,” as well a slowed-down version of “Let’s Get Loud,” in which Lopez’s daughter Emme led a chorus of children. The ladies were also joined throughout the show by Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny and Colombian artist JBalvin. Along with plenty of demanding choreography, Lopez even showed off her pole dancing skills during the performance, honed during her buzzed-about role in the movie Hustlers.
Earlier in the day, Lopez had tweeted at Shakira, saying “Let’s show the world what two little Latin girls can do.” The women are the first Latinas to ever headline a Super Bowl halftime show, and with the addition of the guest performers, it was the first all-Latin halftime show—a clear departure from last year’s mediocre Maroon 5 performance.
Also, for the first time, the halftime show was co-produced by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and the N.F.L. Last year, the league and the entertainment company entered into a multi-year partnership. As part of the agreement, Roc Nation advises the N.F.L. on artist selection for major performances like the Super Bowl. (Shakira is a Roc Nation client.) Plus, the evening’s musical performances, including Yolanda Adams, Demi Lovato, and the halftime show, are available on the Jay-Z-owned streaming service Tidal and at tidal.com/NFL.
Overall, event producers praised the stage technology and the show’s diversity and energy but told BizBash that other production elements were a bit lacking and missing a “wow” factor. Here's what else they had to say.
"This year’s show was a return to the diva art form following two lukewarmly received performances by Justin Timberlake and Maroon 5. Suffice it to say, both J.Lo and Shakira brought the sizzling fierce energy back to this stage that we’ve become accustomed to in the wake of Beyoncé (twice), Madonna, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga. Amidst a flurry of chatter about how exactly the two would share the stage, thanks to a slick production, the two soared both individually and as a pair. Not only did the show capture Latin pride through music and dance, another heartfelt highlight was J.Lo’s daughter Emme joining her on stage, backed by an all-girls choir, while singing a mashup of 'Born In The U.S.A.' and 'Let’s Get Loud.'
There was much for the audience to ooh and ahh over with pyrotechnics above the stadium, state-of-the-art lighting, and projection mapping on the stage floor. But the nonstop choreography is really what set this year apart. When you have two world stars whose choreography has the ability to blow people away on its own, you don’t always need a supersized technical production. Sometimes a skill with event production is having the ability to edit in order to let performers shine.
While it was hard to hear audio at times and there could have been more interaction with the audience at Hard Rock Stadium, overall the 12-minute production was certainly a show to remember in not only being historical but for packing in what appeared as effortless entertainment by both J.Lo and Shakira."
Letter grade: A-
D’Attoma is a senior vice president and oversees the events division at Shadow, an integrated marketing agency with offices in New York City and Los Angeles. Notable clients include American Eagle and Aerie, Moroccanoil, 1Hotels, e.l.f. Cosmetics, Torrid, and Conair.
"The 2020 Super Bowl halftime show delivered on the 'LIV' in 'alive' like a high-wattage musical version of Spanglish. From the minute Shakira and her crew hit the stage in red-sequined minis with sensible heels to J.Lo’s impressive set as a Versace-clad leatherbot, they were intent on boldly introducing mainstream America to their brand of Latina feminism—Latinidad (a sensibility shared by Latinx) coupled with fierce talent and full-frontal booty power. Along with that Black Widow trailer, it’s the prime of badass women.
I’m sure some will decry the overt sexuality (tongue wagging at the camera, really?). Despite the residual machismo-gaze aesthetics, two Latinas are sharing the biggest stage in the world and worked their asses off to get there. It may not be the most memorable show, but it was progress. Remember, last year we celebrated Adam Levine’s abs and tats.
Early on, both have had to overcome industry prejudice and stereotypical casting (remember Lopez’s Maid in Manhattan?). They’ve successfully crossed over both genre and language barriers. Both are known for their bodies: Shakira’s 'Hips Don’t Lie' was her breakout single; Lopez’s backside was fetishized long before anyone knew what a Kardashian was. But both have proved themselves to have staying power and range (especially Lopez).... They are each international superstars who have been continually underestimated in the U.S., despite the growing Hispanic population.
But back to the show. The professional but not especially groundbreaking performance itself was a sexy Miami cocktail of strip club and theme park, lit up in electric, Art Deco-inspired pastels. Crossed with notes of Cheer and Americana (at one point, Lopez literally wrapped herself in the flag made of feathers, of course, which reversed to the Puerto Rican flag.) Subtle it was not, and the set’s embrace of code switching, genre mixing, and language toggling also featured singer JBalvin and rapper Bad Bunny. While not as blatantly political as Beyonce’s “Formation,” in its own way it was a very important social statement.
U.S. Hispanic culture is a blurry mashup of different regions, dialects, countries and, in many cases, indigenous culture. So I was glad to see the N.F.L. didn’t try to make the set more 'appealing' to its largest TV audience of the year. I credit that unapologetic nod to Miami’s diverse and omnicultural heritage to Jay-Z, who has inserted himself as the N.F.L.’s cultural programmer. I shudder to think the notes J.Lo and Shakira would have gotten from a bunch of old white men worried about another wardrobe malfunction."
Letter grade: A-
Ong is the chief culture officer of Civic Entertainment Group, a New York- and Los Angeles-based experiential agency. Clients have included HBO Max, Quibi, YouTube, and Audible.
"Thousands of moving lights, incredible lighting design, integrated pyrotechnics, a 48-foot diameter LED stage with rich content, and over 130 dancers equated to one of the most well-produced and entertaining halftime shows of all time.
What I liked most about this year's show was the use of lighting to create a virtual backdrop, something often missing in Super Bowl halftime shows. This, combined with the dynamic movement of the staging and several arrays of embedded moving lights, bridged the gap between the stage on the field and the lighting in the stadium. Producers looked at this year's show through the lens of both the fans at the stadium and viewers at home, something all too often overlooked. From closeups on stage to the jib and overhead shots from above, the show was visually compelling and filled the stadium.
The use of fireworks and pyrotechnics on the roof of the stadium seemed to extend the show into the air, making it feel like a real spectacle. What felt new about this year's show was the use of well thought-out content on the LED floor versus physical set elements and props. At one point during J.Lo's performance, the circle stage transitioned to an infinity mirror in the center with four waterfalls spilling into the center. Also surprising was the center of the LED stage lifting talent on an elevator above the dancers and the fully illuminated, self-leveling dancer poles.
From a performance standpoint, I felt that it was entertaining and engaging, but not too over the top, which sometimes takes away from the overall experience. The dancers, choreography, and costumes were on point; however, being able to see J.Lo's silver outfit behind the leather chaps during her first performance created an odd look, and it was visible. Finally, the live orchestra, children in illuminated LED pods on the field, and concurrent stage performance once again gave the show a human element.
With just seven minutes to set up, patch, and be show ready, I think that the producers did a fantastic job of creating a well balanced, entertaining, and visually stunning halftime show."
Letter grade: B+
Stoelt is the C.E.O. of Stoelt Productions, a Los Angeles-based experiential marketing agency with offices in New York and Miami. Clients have included Lyft, Pandora, MAC Cosmetics, and Adweek.
“Even with two powerhouse women on stage, the production of this year's Super Bowl halftime show was the true star of the show. Kudos to everyone involved. I'm in awe at what those teams were able to achieve, especially given the limitations of time and location. The overall production design, the look and feel of the show, was incredible. Complemented by complex staging, captivating lighting, dynamic video elements, and pyrotechnics, the show looked incredible.
Somehow the costuming was also able to match the rest of the production both in intensity and color seamlessly. My only qualm is that because the production was so entertaining it at times overwhelmed the performances. In 2020, you can pretty much count on dance-heavy, lip-synched spectacles, and while the choreography was very impressive, the show at times seemed to marginalize both Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. Obviously there are time constraints, but it felt as though they were rushed, trying to pack as many of their hit songs into the timeslot as possible. The saving grace was standout authentic pauses from the storm like J.Lo's daughter joining her mom on stage. What a moment.”
Letter grade: B+
Whetsel is vice president of G7 Entertainment Marketing, a full-service agency specializing in entertainment-based marketing, talent booking, and production with offices in Nashville and Chicago. Clients have included Adobe, Amazon, Cisco, Salesforce, and Workday.
“There is no doubt that both of these performers are highly talented dancers, so it was a safe choice to highlight the large, choreographed dance numbers. I would say the smartest production move was building a stage that could screen content and animation through the floor to enhance the dance numbers. This allowed for the addition of visual elements that melded into the performance, rather than requiring the audience to switch between watching a screen and watching the fast-moving performance. It made for an element that is essential (the stage) to be not just functional, but also customizable for the two performers. As far as other spectacles are concerned, there was no shortage of pyrotechnics, lighting, wardrobe changes, and lasers—effective, but expected safe choices.
I would say that there could have been a more creative way to combine the talents of the two performers and their audience fandom. Aside from the bracelets, there wasn’t much built-in audience engagement and with today’s technology that is a missed opportunity. We’ve seen the feasibility of programming wearable audience elements to interact with sound, vibration, etc. and this technology simply was not showcased. I also believe the creative art-focused animatronics we see at festivals is becoming more mainstream and a unique way to add customization and culture into live events.
As we enter this new decade, audience integration and immersive, experiential animatronics will allow for much more visually interesting production elements, and I look forward to seeing these televised events taking bigger risks."
Letter grade: B+
Gonzalez is the creative director of Westhaus, a Los Angeles-based event production, design, and management company servicing the entertainment industry.
"This year, the main stage floor’s screen content and bird’s-eye-view content was, to me, the third start of the show (after Shakira and J.Lo). Technology and display capabilities allowed for a truly unique integrated storytelling experience, bringing the live performance, music, and lights (plus fireworks) all together in a way never done before. The video screens on the main stage floor were not only used for content display, but also acted as another source of a light show. This was a truly amazing concept, production, and final execution.
It’s not an easy thing to have all the stakeholders buy into the idea of having that many screens, moving parts, and layers of coordination. When humans make a mistake or a hydraulic has a misfire (like the Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver), it can be forgotten as just one part of the show. But if the main stage doesn’t turn on, you have a real problem. Therefore, I love the fact that the production team and all the stakeholders took a chance and brought to life an amazing show with a new level of technology and video.
The show’s only limitation was the stage design. The overall design was solid, and the fireworks and light show brought the whole thing together. However, there weren’t many new stage pieces introduced to help tell the story, besides J.Lo’s entry. With amazing performances and strong lyrics, I feel this was a missed opportunity that could have provided more wow factor.
I would position this year’s show as a B+ when compared to the last five to seven years. Strong delivery, but limited in 'wow' factor. This point of view and criticism (if any) comes with a world of respect and admiration for the team who put this year’s show together. It is not an easy job, and in our industry where many say 'yes' to production they cannot deliver, the team behind this halftime show truly provided a lot of entertainment."
Letter grade: B+
Sahba is the C.E.O. at Thinkingbox, an interactive production company that brings digital and experiential production together, with offices in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and New York. Past and current clients include Warner Bros., LionsGate, Paramount Pictures, Starbucks, Pinterest, Ford Motor Company, and Verizon.
"For the first production under the partnership between the N.F.L. and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, the pressure was on to deliver a high-energy, engaging halftime show. They mostly delivered.
Shakira served up a more than passable start to the show. The boldly colored costumes paired with energetic dancing kicked off the show in style. The quick succession of songs, most not widely known to the audience, didn’t quite come together to feel like anything more than an opening act.
While the transition between artists seemed clunky, once Jennifer Lopez took the stage, the show quickly gained steam. J.Lo always commands any room she’s in, even if it’s the biggest in the world. She is an artist who knows, and plays to, her strengths. Lopez played all the songs her fans would want to hear, while delivering a top-notch dance set wearing her usual sparkly, scant costumes. The pole dancing felt a bit unnecessary, and she appeared uncomfortable trying to balance in front of it. The rest of the moves worked well for her.
The stage itself really stood out. As technology continues to advance, what was once something to stand on has transformed into an interactive and key show element. The floor 'disappearing' was a real highlight. I was a little disappointed by the lack of any other technology used in the performance, given the advances currently available. Since the stars of the show were dancers, I didn’t expect they would rely on equipment and machinery to tell their story.
For all the teasing about guest stars, most didn’t add much to the show. I like how Lopez included her daughter in the act. The cages and Puerto Rican flag, together with the few lines from 'Born In The U.S.A.,' seemed designed to make a point in a subtle, Super-Bowl-appropriate way. The inclusion of dancers from around the world seemed to make a better one.
I like how the two artists came together for the last songs and wish they had more interactivity throughout. However, the end felt anticlimactic. Perhaps, had we been in the stadium and could see the fireworks live, it would have felt more like a finale. Something was definitely lost in translation. Overall, Lopez and Shakira brought a little bit of Latin style to the rest of the world in a solid performance."
Letter grade: B+
Pieter is an independent event producer based in Los Angeles. She has produced events for notable companies including iHeartRadio, Hulu, Freeform, TheWrap, and Radio Hall of Fame.
“With such powerful and talented artists as Shakira and Jennifer Lopez enlisted, I knew that Roc Nation was going to turn out something impressive. But while last night's halftime show was entertaining overall, I could not help but notice an underlying imbalance in the production of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez's performances.
Shakira's opening performance was solid but lacked the sort of excitement and spectacle that we crave during the halftime show. Her song edits were a touch too abbreviated, creating an awkward sense of punctuation. Her costuming was attractive but not jaw dropping. Her choreography was well executed and true to her style, but again, not spectacular. Perhaps the most exciting elements of her segment were the flaming fireball motion graphics on the large circular LED stage beneath her.
Then, just as I was starting to lose faith, Jennifer Lopez took the stage, leaning out powerfully from the spire of an Empire State Building-esque structure like a glamorous Versace-clad Kong. Immediately, Lopez turned up the dial on the halftime show.
As I watched Lopez pound the stage with her army of dancers, hitting every mark, I could not help but feel as if Shakira's performance was reduced to an opening act, a crowd warmup for Lopez, the main star of the evening. For an event such as the halftime show, the power and success of a performance is not only dependent on the talent of the artist but on the entire production design, and with this in mind I could not help but feel that Lopez's team entered the arena with a stronger vision of how the star would be framed.
In contrast to Shakira's performance, Lopez's act was multifaceted and dimensional. In addition to utilizing the entire stage in her routine, she cleverly incorporated height into the performance ascending a tall, slowly rotating pole to perform ‘Waiting for Tonight’ and then standing atop the shoulders of her harnessed male dancers. To heighten the effect, her performance integrated motion graphics on the LED stage which mimicked projection mapping, adding an additional layer of depth and dimension.
As the show came to a close with both Shakira and Lopez singing together on stage, I could not help but feel that I had just watched a high-stakes competition and would next need to vote on which artist put on a better mini-concert utilizing the same production resources (staging, video, lighting, etc). In the end, while the halftime show felt divided and inconsistent between the two artists' performances, the overall result was still entertaining and a vast improvement from 2019.”
Letter grade: A-
Kuppig is founder and creative director of Tyger Event Design & Production, a New York and Boston-based experiential design and event production company. Clients have included Rolex, Nascar, Ocean Spray, Delta, and Deutsche Bank.