Count pro wrestling legend Goldberg among those who weren’t quite amused by Rihanna’s crotch- and attention-grabbing antics at last Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show.
On the car podcast he co-hosts with Adam Carolla and Matt “The Motorator” D’Andria, Goldberg — whose full name, outside of WWE’s squared circle, is Bill Goldberg — expressed his disgust with the spectacle.
“I thought Rihanna was frickin’ horrible,” he said, according to Fox News.
“I was disgusted by it. That’s all. Let’s just say that. I thought it was horrible.”
He did have praise for Chris Stapleton’s rendition of the national anthem — which the hosts agreed was well-performed, reverent and didn’t draw attention to itself.
And there were two other things Stapleton’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” had over Rihanna’s halftime show, in Goldberg’s book: Stapleton “didn’t grab his crotch every 15 seconds” or “make it about himself.”
Yes, well, these things don’t usually make for a good rendition of our national anthem (just ask Roseanne Barr), but the first part also doesn’t make for a particularly good halftime show — particularly when the performer is pregnant.
Granted, this is nothing new. I’m going to paraphrase and clean up the language a bit here, but the (very liberal, I might add) comedian Lewis Black had an excellent routine about how you could be in a coma for a full year, wake up for the Super Bowl halftime show, and be fully caught up to speed on just how much further American popular culture had gone down the toilet in the prior 365 days.
Did you enjoy this year’s Super Bowl halftime show?
Yes: 4% (1 Votes)
No: 96% (27 Votes)
This was back after the 2004 halftime show, mind you, which was the year where the phrase “wardrobe malfunction” entered the national vernacular. Almost two decades later, part of the problem with Rihanna’s performance stemmed from the fact her wardrobe functioned all-too-well, I’m afraid — and what she did with it was equally cringey.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic footage and language that some readers will find offensive.
— Joe Has Dementia (@RokerGlasses) February 13, 2023
And yes, I know the old liberal argument: “You’re afraid of your kids seeing this? Why aren’t your kids in bed, then?” OK, fine — but what about adults seeing that? Because a quick poll of, well, me indicates this over-18 doesn’t want to see that, either.
Nor, in fact, was he alone. On his Truth Social media platform, former President Donald Trump called the show an “epic fail.”
“Rihanna gave, without question, the single worst Halftime Show in Super Bowl history — This after insulting far more than half of our Nation, which is already in serious DECLINE, with her foul and insulting language,” he wrote. “Also, so much for her ‘Stylist!’”
Another non-fan was Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid — who, despite not having seen the show, must have had some kind of premonition and told his players that if any of them were caught taking in the halftime spectacular, they might as well pack their bags and head on home.
“Coach Reid told us, he said, ‘If you go out to watch the performance, just keep walking, because you’re not playing the rest of the game,’” said Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs quarterback and Super Bowl MVP, during an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 14, 2023
Now, granted, this might have had something to do with a controversy from last year’s Super Bowl, where the kicker for the losing Cincinnati Bengals caused a stir by catching the Dr. Dre-helmed halftime theatrics.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 14, 2023
That said, despite the controversies, Rihanna’s halftime show was the second-most watched in history, according to Fortune, with over 118 million viewers. Only Katy Perry’s 2015 halftime show drew more, with 121 million viewers.
However, that could also be chalked up to the fact that the 2015 game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks was the most-watched Super Bowl (and television show) in history, according to Fortune; this year’s Super Bowl ranked third all-time, which could also explain the juiced numbers for Rihanna’s smut-fest.
(The second-most-watched Super Bowl of all time, 2014’s match between the Seahawks and Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos, was a blowout that was essentially over by the end of the first quarter, which might explain why Bruno Mars’ halftime show didn’t draw the same numbers.)
And cheer up: Not only did all those eyes catch the R-rated moments Rihanna worked into this year’s show, they also caught her criminally poor lip-syncing of already-terrible songs:
— ChrisCONVRDIST (@CConardist) February 13, 2023
— Alicia Baeza (@LemAliciaBaeza) February 13, 2023
I’d say “frickin’ horrible” is right, even if she had decided not to “grab her crotch every 15 seconds.”
But then, that last part is what the Super Bowl halftime show is all about, more often than not. Every year, the NFL trots out an artist or artists who aren’t young or hip enough to qualify as relevant, but aren’t so old that even senior citizens are asking themselves: “Wait, they’re still around?”
They’re given 20 minutes in front of a massive audience to rejuvenate their career(s). They can either 1) give the performance of their lifetime and remind us all why we liked them in the first place, or 2) gin up some kind of controversy, usually involving lewdness and/or vulgarity.
Guess which route is easier? And guess what that says about the musical chops of the “frickin’ horrible” legacy acts who go that route?
Author: C. Douglas Golden