The 2014 Super Bowl was the most watched in history, with an average 112.2 million viewers tuned in for the NFL season finale. But as the Seattle Seahawks trounced the Denver Broncos, each team could only have 11 players on the field at a time.
A proposed “Weird Al” Yankovic halftime show performance at American football’s main event would be a victory for that off-the-field 99.999 percent. And it would be a bracing celebration of cultural changes that have shrunk the distance between creative fans and the pop stars who once towered over them.
The idea of the accordion-wielding parodist following this year’s double bill of Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Super Bowl XLIX is unlikely, sure. But it could happen. As SPIN points out, a fan has filed a petition on Change.org asking the NFL to have Yankovic headline halftime at the 2015 Super Bowl, scheduled for February 1 in Glendale, Arizona.
According to the petition, booking Yankovic would be “accepted by the millions of viewers” and “would remain true to the standards and quality of the show business we have come to love and respect out of this prestigious event.” The petition also notes that the artists “Weird Al” is spoofing and other special guests could join him onstage. The campaign has roughly 4,000 signatures as of this writing. But it’s still early.
If the media reception to Yankovic’s welcome, chart-topping new album Mandatory Fun felt like thinkpiece-palooza, just wait until a prospective “Tacky” grand finale hits the misleadingly named University of Phoenix Stadium.
For one, the “Weird” Bowl would be strikingly symbolic of how fan participation has gone mainstream.
Part of what made the recent “Weird Al” triumph so sweet was the fact that it came so long after the internet and social media had allowed anybody to be a Weird Al — to the point that Billboard even takes fan-made videos, if not outright spoofs, into account in its charts (whether the success of Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” is a good thing is a conversation for another day). Fans could never do what the athletes on the screen do. But every day, they’re making art that can be more widely distributed than in previous eras. The guy who once sent a radio host his bathroom-recorded “My Bologna” would be up there representing the millions of people who create in his goofy footsteps.
Crucially, as Sasha Frere-Jones noted this week in The New Yorker, Yankovic’s appeal isn’t that he’s hilarious — though he can be — so much as that he’s reassuring. “What he’s sending up is the idea that he would ever be cool enough to live in the world the music came from,” Frere-Jones wrote. Amid all the traditional halftime-show pageantry, Yankovic’s presence would an endzone-dance for the common fan. (And a little reassurance couldn’t hurt viewers’ ability to sit back and enjoy all the TV commercials, either.)
Then there’s the more distressing fact that even as fans, epitomized by “Weird Al,” are becoming more like pop stars, pop stars don’t shine as brightly as they once did. It’s no coincidence it took combining the competent Mars with the veteran Chili Peppers to fill out this year’s Super Bowl halftime bill. Beyoncé, who dominated the 2013 event with a lights-out performance, is an exception, a rare case of old-school glamor in a pop environment of anxious attention-seekers. Album sales keep falling. If mass culture isn’t what it once was, why not embrace the masses?
The underdogs who could never be cool enough to live in pop’s fantasy world are marching down the field. The heavy favorites from the realm of supposedly serious music aren’t helping themselves — what was the choice of the blandly professional Mars if not the halftime-show equivalent to a prevent defense?
If by some Hail Mary the resilient “Weird Al” ends up on that field, he should first mark the occasion by dancing in the end zone. Might we suggest getting that cat Lil Bub and doing the Super Bowl Shuffle?
And the NFL would have to let him perform the new album’s brilliant “Mission Statement,” because nothing is more American — more Super Bowl — than a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young-style ode to “enhancing corporate synergy.” At the end of the day, we must monetize our assets.
It’s a paradigm shift.