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Thursday, July 19, 2012
NFL should go bold for Super Bowl musical act

By Jane McManus

David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen
Van Halen would be a Super Bowl choice if the NFL continues with its trend toward blasts from the past.

David Lee Roth said last week that performing at the Super Bowl is a "dream job." And really, he is right -- because it's a job. The NFL is just about the only entity around with as much interest in retired, semi-irrelevant musical acts that haven't had a hit in 20 years or so.

Call it the revenge of Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.

Apparently, Van Halen has been floated as a potential halftime act for The Big Game, which would be in keeping with the preserved-in-amber status of many of the acts chosen to entertain America as two football teams get a pep talk.

Van Halen was formed in 1972 and peaked in 1984 before Roth left to do that bikini video for California Girls. Its chart-toppers practically qualify for Golden Oldie status. The raw sexuality of Roth's tight pants -- which I'm sure women who came of age at the dawn of the MTV era remember well -- has been, well, tempered by the years.

Yep, Van Halen is officially safe. If they can just stay together as a band.

Madonna was a little past her prime when she was chosen to perform at Super Bowl XLVI.

The NFL is all about picking safe acts after Justin Timberlake exposed Jackson's breast. (And how did Jackson get all the blame for that?! Timberlake skated away while she was the scorned woman. Typical.)

Since that moment, the NFL has put safety in front of musical relevance. It has chosen acts that at one time might have been bold and fresh, but who now live on a diet of recycled hits. After Timberlake, the NFL presented Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen and The Who.

And with all-male acts, no nipples to expose!

Too be fair, Madonna was picked last February. But it was a decade or two too late. Part of the fun is guessing which little known rebel is going to give the finger to world, so thanks, M.I.A.

The NFL also had the Black Eyed Peas two years ago in Dallas. The band was modern, but a syntho-pop act that was apparently ill-equipped to do a live show. The show even had a theme that year, the evocative and puzzling "Tron Legacy." The whole thing was pretty tuneless.

Even the Peas were served after their expiration date.

The NFL needs to turn off the phonograph, walk away from the fax machine and hang up its Nehru jacket. Daddy-o, please do not give us Boston, Air Supply, Sheena Easton, Asia, Motley Crue, Bryan Adams or the Partridge Family this year.

Now that the Supreme Court has decided not to make CBS pay those wardrobe malfunction fines to the FCC, perhaps the NFL can invite the right act for halftime.

Of course I'm talking about Jay-Z and Beyonce. It's a 2-for-1. Two genres, both artists at the top of their game, and you can feel relatively comfortable that one isn't going to de-pant the other. After all, they have Ivy Blue to think of.

If the NFL acts now maybe they can get a bonus Alicia Keys, an actual musician who plays the piano and writes her own music. She is also able to perform it outside of the confines of the studio without wilting.

How very un-Peas of Keys.

Some people say Jay-Z, Beyonce and Keys should perform in 2014, when the Super Bowl comes to MetLife Stadium. Aside from the near-certainty they will be playing in the greatest blizzard to hit the Northeast, it would be perfect.

Or the game could get back to its roots.

Back in the days before lip-synching, when singers held real microphones in their hands, the Super Bowl had marching bands like the one from Grambling State University entertain the dozen or so fans who were aware of the event.

Did you know Carol Channing performed in 1970 and '72, that Up With People was sandwiched in between the Channing appearances and performed several times in the '80s? The NFL even had a salute to Louis Armstrong in '72 with no less a songstress than Ella Fitzgerald added to the mix.

Then in '74 Miss Texas played the fiddle. So I guess that's a mixed bag.

But then the sport settled on having salutes to cultures organized around a theme, like Paris, Mardi Gras, Motown or the Caribbean. The halftime show wasn't a band, it was a party! That era ended in 1990, when the NFL couldn't choose between a salute to New Orleans or to the comic strip Peanuts, so it somehow married the themes. I don't remember the actual show, but I imagine a poor Charlie Brown encountering Lucy after a hard night on Bourbon Street.

You'll never learn, Charlie Brown.

Then in 1991, the NFL had the brilliant idea of incorporating New Kids on the Block to -- get this -- a Salute to the Super Bowl! But what really got the ball rolling on the Show-Tack-U-Lar that we know today was Michael Jackson's 1983 performance. Ratings went up, more money for ads, and now we have the event that all Americans must watch or risk being arrested for practicing Communism. Your choice, Comrade.

I'll put it gently; David Lee Roth is not going to take the NFL where it wants to go.

This is the year to draft Jay-Z and Beyonce. If not, there are other acts out there -- the Foo Fighters, Adele, Maroon 5 -- worth discussing. If not, I hear Grambling still has a pretty good marching band.