Poptimystic: Super Bowl XLIV

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In front of what may turn out to be the largest audience in Super Bowl history, Queen Latifah ripped off her earpiece, Carrie Underwood wore hooker platforms and Pete Townshend exposed his belly-button. Scandalous! There was also some (awesome) football played, but as far as Poptimystic is concerned, the only live television event that matters anymore is all about the tunes. Wondering why "Wake Up" by Arcade Fire is suddenly the theme song of the NFL? Feeling gooey about children's choirs? You've come to the right place.

Note: We assume the NFL Gestapo will yank this clip at some point. If that has happened, just imagine lots of patriotic diva-ism and think about square this league is.

In the beginning, there was Queen Latifah and Carrie Underwood. Latifah got off to a bit of a jerky start -- you can see her ditch the earpiece early on. She belted through "America The Beautiful," which football players appear to believe is our national anthem. We weren't sold until the children's choir joined in. Children's choirs are to skepticism as teflon is to sauteed foods. By which we mean that a bunch of smiling kids wearing matching uniforms and harmonizing will melt hearts every time.

Carrie Underwood sang the national anthem. She was ... whatever.

Early on, the first commercial for the NFL aired, soundtracked by The Arcade Fire's "Wake Up." This is a band that is famous for not licensing its songs for anything, but even if you didn't know that, it seemed like a weird pairing. A bunch of semi-recluse canadians living in a stone church and playing chamber pop does not seem to have much in common with a bunch of genetic super freaks hitting each other as hard as possible.

But "Wake Up" is about as epic as songs come, and it actually makes a pretty kick-ass soundtrack to slow-mo NFL clips. And it turns out that the band licensed the song exclusively for the Super Bowl to benefit Haiti, which is something like the opposite of selling out.

The Who continued the post-nipple trend in Super Bowl halftime shows by old men no one wants to see naked. Which has seen mixed results -- Prince was meant for infinite budgets and insane polish, but Bruce Springsteen was not.

Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are all that remain of what was once one of the three best rock and roll bands on the planet. They're still pretty awe-inspiring onstage, and it's hard to find a reason to call their medley of hits a failure. They started with "Pinball Wizard," played through bits of "Baba O'Riley," "Who Are You?," "See Me, Feel Me" and closed with "Won't Get Fooled Again." Townshend did his windmill guitar move and skimped on singing the long notes. Daltrey showed up.

Tommy and Who's Next may be the band's legacy, but almost all of their best music was written before either album was released. Shame they didn't dig that deep for yesterday's show -- think how amazing "My Generation" would have been, complete with the line, "Hope I die before I get old."

Below, you can compare yesterday's performance, complete with giant light-up disc and fireworks, with an old clip from the Monterey Pop Festival. One of them is maybe the greatest rock and roll performance ever and the other ... isn't.


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