UPDATED: It’s official: As Variety reported back in September, Maroon 5 will headline the Super Bowl halftime show in Atlanta on Feb. 3, and the group will be joined by rapper Travis Scott and former Outkast member Big Boi.
Today’s announcement follows months of controversy concerning the performance. Critics ranging from celebrities like Amy Schumer to organizations like the NAACP have taken issue with the halftime booking — partially because the big game is taking place in Atlanta, the capital of black music in the U.S., but largely because of the NFL’s treatment of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been essentially drummed out of the league for kneeling during the National Anthem (a move many feel is based in racism) — and advocated for musicians to turn down the gig.
Performing at the Super Bowl now amounts to an endorsement of the NFL’s policies, and sources tell Variety that multiple artists of color — including Cardi B (who is featured on Maroon 5’s recent hit “Girls Like You”), Outkast, Mary J. Blige, Usher and Nicki Minaj — were considered or approached to perform with Maroon 5. It stands to reason that the announcement comes late in the football season schedule — Justin Timberlake, who performed at the 2018 Super Bowl, was announced on the preceding Oct. 23; Lady Gaga, the 2017 performer, was announced on the preceding Sept. 29 — because of negotiations dragging out. (Worth noting: the Pepsi-sponsored halftime performance is an unpaid gig.)
Maroon 5 now has two artists of color performing with them at the Super Bowl — one of them, Big Boi, an Atlanta native, although a large number of initial commenters on social media seemed unaware of who he is. Sources recently told Variety that Big Boi’s partner in Outkast, Andre 3000, was also in talks to perform — and an Outkast reunion, which last happened when the duo toured together in 2014, would have been a coup — but apparently declined.
Precisely 30 minutes before the official Super Bowl announcement was made, Scott issued a statement saying that in partnership with the NFL, he will donate $500,000 to Dream Corps, a nonprofit founded by CNN commentator Van Jones that, according to its mission statement, supports “economic, environmental and criminal justice innovators.” Scott nodded to the criticism he has received in a statement announcing the donation. “I back anyone who takes a stand for what they believe in,” he said. “I know being an artist that it’s in my power to inspire. So before confirming the Super Bowl Halftime performance, I made sure to partner with the NFL on this important donation. I am proud to support Dream Corps and the work they do that will hopefully inspire and promote change.”
Jay-Z, Meek Mill and the Reverend Al Sharpton were among the people who sources or reports said criticized or tried to convince Scott to decline the performance. But he, Maroon 5 and Big Boi are all affiliated with the Irving Azoff-helmed Full Stop Management, which apparently carried the day. While the group and the NFL were said to be seeking an Atlanta-based act and had spoken with the booming label and management company Quality Control, which is based in the city and also consults Cardi B, about assisting with the effort, the Texas-born Scott, whose “Astroworld” is one of the top albums of the year, is probably considered a sufficient coup.
Scott recently performed on a song with Migos rapper Quavo called “Huncho Jack” that references Kaepernick: “Take a knee like the ‘Niners (Kaepernick) /Join the team, don’t divide us (join them),” the line goes.
Other acts performing in town during the days leading up to the game include Cardi, Post Malone and Bruno Mars. In addition, local artists like Ludacris and Lil Jon will feature prominently at the Bud Light shows held on the weekend of the game.