Maroon 5's Super Bowl halftime show 'underwhelming' and 'bland'

While the lead-up to Maroon 5's appearance at the Super Bowl sparked a spirited debate about the decision to perform during a controversial year, their 14 minutes on stage will likely go down in halftime history as rather forgettable.

Pop band faced criticism for accepting gig as others turned down offer in support of Colin Kaepernick

Maroon 5's performance during the Super Bowl LIII halftime show Sunday in Atlanta, Ga., is being criticized on social media for being "bland" and "underwhelming." (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

While the lead-up to Maroon 5's appearance at the Super Bowl sparked a spirited debate about the decision to perform during a controversial year, the band's actual 14 minutes on stage will likely go down in halftime history as rather forgettable.

The pop group, led by frontman Adam Levine, performed hits such as This LoveGirls Like You and Moves Like Jagger skillfully but with little enthusiasm, leading social media users to call the show "underwhelming" and "bland."

Double standard?

Levine took off his shirt near the end of the act, exposing his nipples and leading people to point out the different reaction when Janet Jackson was shunned for one briefly exposed breast at the Super Bowl halftime 15 years ago.

The 2004 wardrobe malfunction controversy, which came to be known as Nipplegate, led to a network fine by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. It was eventually appealed.

Maroon 5's lead vocalist, Adam Levine, removed his shirt, which led viewers to remember the reaction to Janet Jackson and 'Nipplegate' 15 years ago. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Guest appearances

Special guests Big Boi (part of the Grammy-winning duo Outkast) and Travis Scott briefly joined the pop band on stage at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. ​But it was a cameo by SpongeBob SquarePants rocking out to Sweet Victory on the big screen that appeared to steal the show.

A million-and-a-half people signed a pre-Super Bowl online petition, asking Maroon 5 to perform Sweet Victory as a tribute to late SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg. The song was originally on an episode of the cartoon in which the character does its own halftime gig. 

According to the NFL, Maroon 5 donated $500,000 US to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America prior to the performance. That followed Scott's joint donation with the NFL weeks before the show to a social justice organization called Dream Corps.

Rapper Travis Scott was among the band's special guests. ( Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Controversial gig

The group's performance followed months of questions over who would accept this year's Super Bowl gig, after artists such as Rihanna and Pink reportedly turned it down in support of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Rapper Cardi B said she declined the lucrative opportunity as well.

"I got to sacrifice a lot of money to perform," she told the Associated Press last week. "But there's a man who sacrificed his job for us, so we got to stand behind him."

Kaepernick sparked a wave of protests by kneeling during the American national anthem to raise awareness of police brutality and racial inequality.

The star player, who led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2013, is now suing the League. He's arguing that owners have conspired to keep him off any NFL team since he became a free agent in 2017 because of his decision and the political firestorm it ignited.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35), both with the San Francisco 49ers at the time, kneel during the American national anthem before a game in 2016. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/The Associated Press)

#ImWithKap was trending during the day on Twitter, with celebrities such as rapper Common and Selma director Ava DuVernay among those using the hashtag. DuVernay said she wouldn't be a spectator or viewer.

"To watch the game is to compromise my beliefs," she tweeted. "It's not worth it."

Previous years have not been nearly as politically contentious for halftime performers. Justin Timberlake headlined the show last year with minimal fuss (aside from references to his "Nipplegate" involvement), and in 2017 Lady Gaga was the main attraction. Coldplay featured Beyoncé and Bruno Mars in 2016, the same year Kaepernick would later begin his anthem protests at pre-season games.

Atlanta-born songstress Gladys Knight, who was also put on the defensive for accepting an invitation to sing, belted out the Star-Spangled Banner before kickoff between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. R&B duo Chloe x Halle sang America the Beautiful.

Gladys Knight, who also faced criticism for agreeing to participate in the festivities, sang the American national anthem prior to kickoff at Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

'Historic opportunity'

Levine posted a message on Instagram immediately following the show which received a warmer reception from fans than the performance got on social media.

"We thank the universe for this historic opportunity to play on the world's biggest stage," he wrote. "We thank our fans for making our dreams possible. And we thank our critics for always pushing us to do better."

With files from the Associated Press

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