Still The Best
We're about as far away from the next Super Bowl as we can possibly get so as we enter the NFL offseason and forget about football for the next several months I just wanted to highlight this amazing appreciation/analysis of what is near universally regarded as the best halftime show ever, Prince at Super Bowl XLI in 2007.
Song by song Dash offers an insightful and convincing breakdown of Prince's set selection and the artistic/personal/political statement he was making with each of the tunes which included some obvious hits (Let's Go Crazy, Purple Rain) but also quite a few unexpected covers (and covers of covers) by artists like Foo Fighters and Tina Turner. As with everything he did, Prince had a distinct vision of what every song was supposed to communicate and the set itself worked as a kind of artist's statement for an icon who was performing on the biggest stage of a legendary career. (He also fulfilled his pre-game press conference duties by giving a mini concert inside of a conference room instead of you know, just answering questions, like some mere mortal. Damn. RIP to The Purple One.)
For example, next up we get a medley of "Baby I’m A Star" and "1999" sandwiched around "Proud Mary". Of course the two big crowd-pleasing Prince hits make sense, but what role is "Proud Mary" playing here? Though it’s a Credence Clearwater Revival song, the definitive version of “Proud Mary” is Tina Turner’s version — and Prince is clearly belting our Tina's version of the song along with Shelby Johnson. It’s important to note that half of Prince’s bandmates on his biggest stage ever are women. And that context becomes even more resonant when we consider what Ike & Tina did with "Proud Mary". It was, in many ways, a reclamation of rock & roll as Black music, taking back a song by performing it better than the artist who wrote it.
"Watchtower" is a deep choice here: Bob Dylan is really the only other artist who is as key to Minnesota music history as Prince, and the definitive version of the song is Jimi Hendrix's — an artist whose impact on Prince is undeniable (if at times overstated). The important thing here is what Jimi did. "All Along the Watchtower" is another song, the second of this short set, that was written by a white artist and then definitively rendered in a rock & roll rendition by a Black artist. And this time, both the composer and signature performer are artists whose names were brought up in discussions of Prince for his entire career.
The NFL, being the NFL, has infuriatingly decided to not to make the unabridged HD performance available so here's a decent enough retrospective with some commentary from people involved and most of the Purple Rain performance.