Super Bowl LVI: Event Producers Give the Nostalgia-Inducing Halftime Show an A-

Event professionals shared their thoughts on the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show, headlined by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent.

Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show
Photo: Gregory Shamus for Getty Images

LOS ANGELES—As the Tupac and Dr. Dre classic goes, “California knows how to party…”—and the city of Los Angeles certainly showed some "California Love" during the memorable Super Bowl LVI halftime show, which helped set up a big win for the hometown Rams who defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20. The iconic rap song was just one of many nostalgic hits performed during the show, which drew Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and surprise guest 50 Cent, and marked the first time the halftime show featured hip-hop artists as the main act.

Taking place at SoFi Stadium—the buzzy new 3.1 million-square-foot venue in Inglewood, Calif.—the show paid tribute to nearby neighborhood Compton, Dr. Dre's hometown, which is considered one of the birthplaces of rap music. The sleek, all-white stage design featured a series of connecting rooms nodding to various Compton landmarks, including Tam’s Burgers, Dale’s Donuts, the Compton courthouse and the nightclub Eve After Dark, where Dr. Dre used to perform early in his career. Details like vintage Chevrolet Impalas and a massive photograph of the city rounded out the tribute to the City of Angels.

Overall, the show drew positive reviews, with the event producers we spoke to praising the A-list performances and clever scenic elements. Some viewers, though, longed for bigger production values and more innovative uses of technology. Here's what else our experts had to say.

Josh Kell
Letter Grade: A-

The show was simple, authentic and nostalgic. Choosing to put Compton front and center (rather than the greater LA area) for all to see made the entire experience authentic to Dr. Dre. Elegant in its simplicity, the white buildings representing where Dre grew up were reminiscent of Kanye’s performance of Donda in Chicago last year. And lighting up the entire field with LED lights sewn into fabric was bold. While it gave the map of Compton movement and added detail, it was certainly a break from the traditional field or flooring that allows for large, choreographed set pieces.

The music bathed me in nostalgia. It was hard not to love the show for anyone who grew up with Dre, Snoop, 50, Mary J and Eminem. But my favorite performance of the night was Kendrick Lamar. He could have easily played the radio hits like everyone else, but instead, he went back to his beginnings with "m.A.A.d city" and "Alright." It was electric. And for the show to be capped off with Dre on the piano playing the intro for "Still D.R.E."—I (almost) couldn’t have asked for anything more. If I had one complaint it was that Ice Cube didn’t make a surprise guest appearance and perform "Straight Outta Compton."

I was skeptical of the second-screen experience, but I couldn’t resist downloading the Pepsi Halftime Show app just to see how bad it would be. To my surprise, it added something to the show. Being able to jump between different 360 views of the performances, I was able to see even more detail of the set and performers. It was a true behind-the-scenes experience worth doing. It was actually so seamless that the feed on my phone was 15 seconds ahead of my feed on the TV, so I was able to see who was performing before anyone else in the room. And after the show, the app included bonus content, including how the set was designed and built. For anyone in this industry, it’s worth a watch.

My anticipation was incredibly high for the halftime show, and Dre and his crew somehow still over-delivered. Then again, I was clearly the target audience for this show, as my 14-year-old and his friends didn’t seem to know (or care about) half of the performers. It was a bit of an “OK Boomer” moment for me. And in a time where mindfulness is front and center—especially in our industry—watching Snoop Dogg crip walk is my Calm or Headspace. Fifteen minutes of him doing it isn’t nearly enough. I want to watch it forever. In fact, I’m going to head to right now to relive (for the fifth time today) one of my favorite halftime shows of all time.

Josh Kell is VP and executive creative director of Switch, a St. Louis-based experience agency. A creative leader in the industry, Kell uses his experience and knowledge to lead the strategy, development and activation of multiplatform campaigns for several of the world’s biggest brands.

Kate Brack
Letter Grade: B+

This year’s hotly anticipated halftime show at SoFi Stadium did not disappoint. Amid controversy and the criticism of rap’s languished debut, the production and performances stood the test of time and gave the audience a throwback experience that will not be forgotten.

The A-list production captured the essence of the global experience through the lens of LA nostalgia, and the influence rap has had on the music industry and culture for the past two decades. The juxtaposition of the 3D residential spaces cast across the vast, intricate map of Los Angeles set the scene for inclusion for viewers, an intimate glimpse into individual house parties with rap icons as the hosts. Subtle nuances like shape-shifting picture frames gave the performances a cutting-edge vibe.

What was missing for me was the reset. Where are we going from here? What is next? Nostalgia is the melting pot for creativity, a foundation for which we can draw inspiration and new ideas. SoFi is the epitome of state-of-the-art technology. Where was that technology? Where was the Megatron as it pertains to live performance versus playback? Where was the audience? The supporting characters, and a missed opportunity for this story. And where was the sky? Having toured SoFi, the possibilities of the entire space seem endless from a production standpoint. As we long to move forward, to springboard into the future after having marinated in finite focus on the challenges we face as a regional and global community, my hopes for this production were for the future. To be truly inspired—and only Kendrick Lamar gave us a glimpse of what’s next.

Kate Brack is the VP of design and strategy for Haute, an experiential marketing agency with offices in Austin and regional remote offices. Current clients include Dell Technologies, Fluence, GoTo Meeting, Marriott International and BMW.

Evan Babins
Letter Grade: B-

The world watched the Super Bowl in all its glory, but all this #eventprof did was watch the halftime show. The show’s set design was minimalist and simplistic, with most of the production value built within the houses or storefronts. The intro and opening number with Dr. Dre in his “studio,” which then rose onto the top of the stage, was a great start to what the show would eventually unwrap itself to be.

Everyone was trying to predict if and who would be a surprise performer, and the show didn’t disappoint—50 Cent did his iconic upside-down intro to "In Da Club" as part of the hip-hop legendary setlist. Additionally, when Eminem performed his part of the show, he brought Anderson .Paak to accompany him onstage, which was another big surprise no one saw coming.

From an AV perspective, I loved that the producers incorporated the entire venue to feel like it was part of the show with the graphics around the ribbons on the venue pulsating to the beat of the star-studded lineup. From a design perspective, the all-white set and stage gave me the high-end, clean, crisp feel that I think the artists demand and require to get their message across. The Super Bowl can feature all kinds of artists, not only rock stars.

Overall, I felt the show was super hyped up to be an amazing show, but it fell a little flat. The lineup had the potential to have a super creative and really exciting show, and I felt that the broadcast audience either saw shots of the performers or the environment but not the whole scene. While the show embraced hip-hop culture and proved that the Super Bowl is for everyone, it fell short on production and storytelling value.

Evan Babins has managed event logistics and technical event production for clients like Nissan Canada, Equitable Bank, Kia Canada, Novartis and Bristol-Myers Squibb. He is currently the events marketing manager at Klir, a tech startup that automates and manages the administration of water utility, where he produces internal and external live and virtual events in both Canada and the U.S.

Chelsea Wilson
Letter Grade:

Overall, this year’s Super Bowl halftime show was a fun one and super engaging. The talent really stole the show. The mashups were great, song choices spot on and the performers appealed to a wide audience. It really brought me back!

With that said, the build was very much a made-for-TV set and a majority of attendees at the stadium likely didn’t have the best in-person viewing experience. Well-thought-out content capture is vital, especially for something like the Super Bowl, but there was definitely a missed opportunity—the custom fabrication elements should have been more open to offer a 360-degree, engaging viewing experience for all attendees so nobody missed out.

I also understand the challenges that come with a super quick load-in, and in this scenario, I would have liked to see a little more attention to detail on the flooring—the LA map was fun, but not well-executed and ended up incredibly wrinkly. As people in our industry know, all those little details matter!

Chelsea Wilson is the founder and CEO of 3CS, a production-focused experiential marketing agency based in San Diego. Since launching 3CS in 2020, she’s led projects for Google, Lincoln, Netflix and more. 

Christian Henderson
Letter Grade: A-

I’d give this year’s Super Bowl halftime show an A-. It was fun, inclusive and full of hip-hop hits that span three decades. What was unique about this year’s show compared to other shows built around an amalgamation of superstar performers, this had a cohesive feel to it—everyone on that stage knew each other and seemed genuinely happy to be alongside each other. I jokingly think of it as Dr. Dre’s version of The Mickey Mouse Club.

The setlist was well-crafted with a build to the penultimate song, "Lose Yourself," which was poised to be the most impactful song played as it’s the most "jock jams" of all the artists’ catalogs. The physical set itself was simple but stylistic, yet it felt like it came from Dr. Dre’s pure love for his city, even down to its landscape and stereotypical architecture.

Christian Henderson is a senior manager for the talent partnerships group at G7 Entertainment Marketing, where he specializes in booking internationally recognized talent for corporate clients such as Workday, IBM and Salesforce. 

Matt Stoelt
Letter Grade: B+

Marking a triumphant return, the Super Bowl LVI Pepsi Halftime show returned to the field this year, following last year's format change with the performance held high above the fans in the stands at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay. Living up to all the hype of this year's official trailer featuring Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Mary J. Blige, this SoCal-centric show was all things Los Angeles. 

Forgoing the typical stage "carts" and over-the-top large-scale production, this year's show took on a much more refined and scenic-driven approach. Producers converted shipping containers into a monochromatic, white LA streetscape with stages on the top and storefronts and sets on the bottom. The containers were situated on top of a massive digital print of a nighttime aerial view of the city, with integrated LEDs for streetlights. Classic low rider cars were placed on the field between the stages and served as mini vignettes for what seemed to be hundreds of dancers that alternated between performances.

Producers kept the technical production more low-key this year, relying heavily on the built-in LED screens of the new, state-of-the-art SoFi Stadium. In addition, an extensive array of ground-supported moving lights upstage resulted in a more balanced show for the television audience.

The show kicked off with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog, with an entire stage featuring a room-size studio mixing console raising from below to reveal Dre on one side of the field singing in tandem with Snoop Dog on the other side. Then, transitioning into a surprise performance of "In Da Club" by 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige took center stage, followed by a highly choreographed performance on the field by Kendrick Lamar. Next was an exploding reveal of Eminem on a rising platform who joined Dre on the main stage. Finally, wrapping things up, all six performers came together center stage to close out the show.

Overall, the show felt more refined and elevated. Although there were the expected big dance numbers, live bands and crystal-clear audio/video, it seemed to lack any significant, memorable moments. However, they have again achieved the impossible from a production standpoint, putting together a world-class performance in just under 14 minutes.  

Matt Stoelt is the CEO and creative director of Stoelt Productions, an experiential and creative firm with offices in Los Angeles, New York and Miami, and clients like Louis Vuitton, Instagram, Pandora, Lyft and Gymshark.

John Higgins
Letter Grade: A

Hip-hop itself was the true headline act. This year’s halftime performance was spectacular, bringing us back to the early 2000s, a time where iconic hip-hop artists including Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and Mary J. Blige reigned the charts. Shoutout to one of the next-gen hip-hop artists, Kendrick Lamar, as well for an amazing performance full of energy. Dr. Dre looked like he was orchestrating all the artists as he was weaved throughout their performances. 50 took us back to the club, Snoop brought the swag, Mary brought the emotion, Kendrick brought the hype [by] dancing on top of LA from a bird's-eye view and Eminem took it home. Right before he came on, Eminem’s appearance drew the attention of the crowd, and you could hear the roar throughout SoFi Stadium. Eminem brought us an additional guest in Anderson .Paak, who just looked like he was having the time of his life on the drums. The chance to perform at the Super Bowl is truly an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime.

Let’s talk about how cool the stage was. In my days of set and stage building, I’ve seen some pretty cool setups, but this "house" was awesome. It was interesting how each scene was different, and watching from the broadcast, I felt like I couldn’t catch all the details the first time around, so I had to rewatch it a second time!

Like the sun that never sets during a Swedish summer, it felt weird seeing the halftime show during daylight, when we are so used to seeing it at night. The performances were fantastic but it left me wanting more. With so many hip-hop legends in this lineup, we only got to see glimpses of their storied catalogs. Given the time restrictions of the halftime show, it felt rushed for what could’ve been something more if the artists were allotted full set lists.

John Higgins is the CEO and co-founder of OS Studios, a Project Worldwide Agency that specializes in gaming, live events and culture. Clients include Twitch, Activision Blizzard, Bud Light and eMLS.

Nichole Wardle
Letter Grade: A

“I want more! The 2022 Super Bowl half time show was what we all needed to bring us out of our COVID funk, and it did just that from the powerhouse artists of the late ’90s and early 2000s, to the art installation of the set (that, by the way, went to great lengths to highlight key landmarks in South L.A that mean so much to the hip-hop industry), to the masterful lighting and tech work. L.A. knew they had to bring out the big guns to honor hip-hop and pop culture in the city that gave it so much influence. Based on the number of texts I was getting from event pros across the country, they did their job to the greatest ability, and it is clear that this music (and our craft as producers) is still cherished and that nostalgia grabbed us all.

From an event producer's perspective, each year we wait for viewers to criticize the halftime show, but our industry knows what a “flip” entails and just how impressive it is to do this in an average of 10 minutes. This year they also had to overcome supply chain hurdles and COVID protocols. Based on this alone their creativity deserves a solid A. Some are arguing that the set could have used more flair and chaos, but for those of us who survived the past few years of industry upheaval, we did it with grit and determination. Bring it back to the basics.

As Snoop said, “This is what hip-hop and the NFL is supposed to be about: about representing, about change, about moving forward.” We as an industry are fired up to move forward after a performance like that. Perfect timing as we all are about to begin a monumentally busy 2022 season. This was the energy we needed. In Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg we trust!”

Nichole Wardle is the vice president of sales for PEAK Event Services, a tent and event rental resource with five showrooms across New England. The company rents everything from tents and furniture to glassware and linens, and offers more than 70 years of experience.

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