Months of Planning For 12-Minute Super Bowl Half Time Show

    31 January 2020

    Many Americans will turn on their televisions or computers Sunday to watch the championship game of professional American football. In 2019, about 200 million people tuned in to the yearly sporting event called the Super Bowl.

    Most of these viewers probably are football fans. However, other people watch to see the Super Bowl halftime show. The musical performance takes place during a 12-minute break in play in the middle of the game.

    Over the years, the halftime show has presented many kinds of music, from New Orleans jazz, to Latin and Caribbean sounds, to Motown. From hip hop, to hard rock, to country and pop.

    FILE - Michael Jackson performs during the halftime show at the Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena, California, Jan. 31, 1993.
    FILE - Michael Jackson performs during the halftime show at the Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena, California, Jan. 31, 1993.

    Audiences have enjoyed legendary singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett. They have heard international superstars – Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Madonna and Beyoncé – and boy bands such as NSync and New Kids on the Block. The shows have also included non-musicians like comedy actor George Burns; Cirque de Soleil circus; and even Olympic hockey players.

    "You kind of tune in to the Super Bowl to be surprised," says Peter O'Reilly, a top events official with the National Football League, or NFL. "...Game day is about moments, creating moments that pull people together and that they talk about forever."

    On February 3, the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs will face each other in Super Bowl 54. The battle will take place in Miami Gardens, Florida.

    And when the players head inside for a mid-game rest, entertainment superstars Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will help fill the center with sound, light and movement. Hundreds of people are involved directly and indirectly with making months of hard work into as perfect a performance as possible.

    Super Bowl performers are not paid for their appearance. But, most artists recognize the professional value of commanding the Super Bowl's massive audience. For others, playing the halftime show is also a personal goal.

    "Ever since I saw Diana Ross fly off into the sky at the halftime show, I dreamed of performing at the Super Bowl," Lopez said earlier this year. "And now it's made even more special not only because it's the NFL's 100th season, but also because I am performing with a fellow Latina. I can't wait to show what us girls can do on the world's biggest stage."

    Mark Quenzel is the NFL's top vice president of programming and productions. He says choosing performers for the show is difficult. "The Super Bowl draws such a broad audience," he says, adding, "Who is going to do the show that is the most interesting to 200 million people?"

    Finding big performers is not the hardest part of putting together the concert. The NFL usually decides on the stars months before the football season begins. For example, league planners have been considering the 2021 Super Bowl for several months already.

    The real difficulty is in organizing the show. Planners have to create performances that do not interfere with the play schedule, that avoid damaging the field and that keep the huge audience entertained. At the same time, the needs of the entertainers must be considered.

    Quenzel says the planners work a lot with the performers.

    "We want them to do a show they are comfortable with. A show the majority of the 200 million people watching will know the songs they are singing," he said.

    "We want them doing what the audiences have never seen before. These performances are driven by the artists. Our job is to pull it all together — in 12 minutes, by the way."

    I'm Caty Weaver.

    VOA News reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    audience - n. a group of people who gather together to listen to something (such as a concert) or watch something (such as a movie or play) : the people who attend a performance

    legendary - adj. very famous or well-known

    stage - n. a raised platform in a theater, auditorium, etc., where the performers stand

    entertain - v. to perform for (an audience) : to provide amusement for (someone) by singing, acting, etc

    comfortable - adj. feeling at ease and happy: not worried or troubled

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