I'm not a huge sports fanatic, but it doesn’t take one to know that the super bowl was this past Sunday. Whether you were rooting for the eagles, patriots or bashing the entire franchise because your team didn't bring the steam, you probably witnessed, or at least heard about, what all music lovers look forward to each year. The halftime show. This year, Justin Timberlake had the honor of being the talent. As I was scrolling through Facebook, I noticed a good bit of my friends on social media voicing their dislike for how he chose to execute his performance. To quote a few of my musician friends, "It was over-produced."
Personally, I have not seen the performance yet. When it comes to events that receive this much attention, I find it entertaining to see the reactions before I do the research. You know, like Wikipedia. It allows me to see the opposing side of "the majority" a little clearer. Backwards, I know. I think of it as an outline of what to look for when I study the performance myself.
So, while I commit myself to analyzing Justin's performance, picture this:
Your favorite pop star is on tour right now. You check the schedule and it turns out that they will be performing in a city not too far from you. You and a couple of your friends decide to purchase your tickets early and start to create plans for the road trip. I can't imagine your excitement. You get to be in the same room as the performer whose music, time and time again, has inspired you. You'll be surrounded by plenty of other dedicated fans who also went out of their way and/or pocket just to share this experience. You've arrived. Cheers and screams fill your ears as you are just minutes away from being practically inside of the songs on your playlist. The show starts, but what you hear aren't the sounds coming from the stage. Instead, these are the technical enhancements coming from the sound booth. Impressed or disappointed? Welcome to the world of production.
After great review, I found Justin's performance incredibly satisfying, tasteful and all things good. Honestly, it exceeded what I would expect from such an event. So, earlier, when I mentioned that I noticed that a good bit of my social media friends were not impressed, I also noticed that those same friends did not attend the Super Bowl. We often forget that the "live" performances we have access to through sources like YouTube and Facebook aren't necessarily to impress the "tech fans." Instead, they are specifically catered to those who invested in the "live" experience for themselves. I apologize for all the quotations, but we need to bring attention to what's already had attention brought to it. Technology has allowed us a great amount of access, but with access comes depreciation. It's my theory that our expectations have been raised. We're conditioned; as humans should inevitably become over time, with the help of special effects, production discoveries and social media.
The question of the hour: with access to all these technical advances, what do you consider to be a "good" (there's that word again) performance? Personally, I love contrast. I can appreciate an artist deciding to alter the delivery of their music simply for the sake of the experience. It's actually comforting when some of the notes from the original recording are changed to harmonies and a dance routine is highlighted over the chorus. In layman's terms, I like when the artist puts on a show. Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate the early tradition of recreating the entire track on stage using techniques like swapping their layered vocals out for backup singers, but I also appreciate the artist making room for creativity.
While we're on the topic of the super bowl, there were also a lot of opinions floating around about Pink’s not-so-spirited National Anthem performance. With this came my own research as well. It was no secret that Pink was suffering from the flu this past Sunday. I even went as far to find out from radaronline.com that she was asked by the producers to lip-sync, an age-old tradition that Britney Spears ruined for me. Regardless, of the suggestions, Pink, in all her spunk, decided to perform the National Anthem live. I thought it was amazing, especially considering her condition. She might not have nailed every note, but at least she was actually singing, right?
I liked the contrast between the two performances. Of course, it would have seemed disrespectful had Pink thrown in a dance routine while singing our country's anthem, but she also had the opportunity to short cut her "live" performance. Is it wrong for me to think that it would have been just as disrespectful had she agreed to lip-sync? It's not often the super bowl comes around, let alone the opportunity to perform with all eyes on you. I admire Justin's creative approach. Regardless of the production, I don't think it would have been more satisfying to watch a standstill, one stage, live vocal performance by Timberlake. Here is where I found myself wondering if my opinion would be altered had I attended the super bowl, but of course it would.
All in all, when you view live performances online, your experience is second hand. Point, blank, period. There's not much maneuvering around that. I'm all for the use of technology to improve a live performance, especially considering how much technology is used to create the tracks we are all too excited to hear. I also believe that when it comes to the world of production, there is a time and a place to pick and choose which enhancements should be used. I respect these two artists for making the choices they did. So, here's my thought: when it comes to viewing live performances online, has your experience been less impressive because of the performance, itself? Or is the lack of hype and possibly nostalgia the cause of a not so satisfied review?