The selection of Maroon 5 as headline performers for the upcoming Super Bowl LIII halftime show — originally reported by Variety and confirmed by Billboard — has, unsurprisingly, been met with tepid enthusiasm, if not outright snark, from several corners of the Internet.
It makes sense. The band doesn’t quite have the legacy or esteem of a classic rock act like previous performers The Who or Bruce Springsteen, and arguably lacks the contemporary vibrancy of a current pop hitmaker like recent headliners Beyoncé or Bruno Mars. What’s more, they’re a group whose most visible members are straight white men — for the second year in a row, following Justin Timberlake’s headlining performance earlier this year — in a time when all cultural institutions are being rightfully challenged to be more inclusive with the diversity of their chosen performers and honorees.
With so many other major talents and commercial behemoths from the worlds of pop, rock and hip-hop still yet to play the most televised event of the year — Rihanna, Drake, P!nk, Taylor Swift and JAY-Z, just to name a handful — it’s undoubtedly surprising for many that Maroon 5 would be the next act to get the nod. But that’s not to say that it’s totally without logic, either. Here’s some of the reasons why the L.A. septet will be beamed into your living room next February.
They have more hits than you might realize. We’ve already covered this extensively in recent months at Billboard, but the number of smash hits that Maroon 5 have been able to amass over their decade and a half in the spotlight (at a fairly consistent rate) is nothing less than staggering. They’ve scored 22 top 40 hits, 14 of which have hit the top 10, and three of which — 2006’s “Makes Me Wonder,” 2010’s “Moves Like Jagger” and 2012’s “One More Night” — went all the way to No. 1. Throw in radio (and wedding) perennials like “She Will Be Loved,” “This Love,” “Payphone” and “Sugar,” and the group has more than enough universally recognizable jams to fill out a 15-minute Super Bowl set.
They also have one of the biggest songs in the world right now. Maroon 5 might not feel like one of the biggest pop acts in 2018 but your local top 40 station would beg to differ: Their most recent single “Girls Like You” has been No. 1 on Billboard‘s Radio Songs chart for eight weeks, and is only an historic Drake run from reaching the same spot on the overall Hot 100, where it currently sits at No. 2. It’s also one of the year’s biggest music videos, with its cameo-cluttered clip nearing 900 million views on YouTube — more than twice the number of plays for Childish Gambino’s incendiary “This Is America” video, even. Truthfully, it’s a much bigger and more recognizable hit than most recent SB headline performers — including Timberlake last year, Lady Gaga in 2017 and Coldplay in 2016 — have had to serve as a modern linchpin for their greatest hits set.
Adam Levine is a huge (and widely recognized) star. The Maroon 5 frontman will not only bring his easily recognized, falsetto-heavy brand of blue-eyed soul to the Super Bowl stage, but his own particular brand of celebrity, which includes a starring role as a coach on the long-running NBC hit The Voice and a tabloid and lifestyle magazine popularity that culminated in his being named People‘s Sexiest Man Alive in 2013. He’s one of the few stars in 2018 that remains highly recognizable and accessible to both younger music fans and their parents, as well as casual pop listeners and general pop culture observers who might be more likely to identify Levine from his face than from his songs.
They check the “rock” box while still sounding contemporary. Maroon 5 will be just the third band this decade to headline the Super Bowl halftime stage — following The Who in 2010 and Coldplay in 2016 — keeping the flame alive for those older fans wondering why classic rock doesn’t dominate the show the way it used to in the ’00s, when U2, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty all performed. However, they’re far from a traditional rock band at this point, increasingly pulling in influences from pop, soul, hip-hop and even EDM over the course of their career, changing with the times to make sure they continue to fit the sound of modern radio. At least in theory, they should allow the show to have the best of both worlds.
They’ll bring famous friends. Undoubtedly, Maroon 5 will follow the model of Coldplay a couple years ago with their set, and pull younger (and arguably more 2018-vital) stars to assist on their hits, and maybe even pause for them to dip into one or two of their own. Cardi B seems the most obvious choice, as the guest rapper on “Girls Like You,” and Kendrick Lamar or SZA could also make appearances, if their recent “Don’t Wanna Know” or “What Lovers Do” hits made the final set list, respectively. (Billboard has also reported rapper Travis Scott as a potential cameo, though the group don’t have a single with him yet.) And the group could also go the other way with it and invite Levine’s Voice co-stars Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani to the party — assuming CBS could stomach that much promotion for an NBC program, anyway. Regardless, it makes more sense for all involved if the band doesn’t have to shoulder the load on their own.