Jennifer Lopez and Shakira Restore Sparkle to Super Bowl Halftime

The two headliners performed sets heavy on dancing, spectacle and Latin pride on Sunday.
Credit...Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Yet the halftime show was also a no-nonsense affirmation of Latin pride and cultural diversity in a political climate where immigrants and American Latinos have been widely demonized. The explosive final segment began with Lopez’s daughter, Emme Maribel Muñiz, and a choir of children — some of them in lighted cages — singing Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud” and a snippet of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” as Lopez appeared wrapped in a feathered American flag cape that reversed to a Puerto Rican flag. It looked like recognition for both Puerto Rico and for the Dreamers, the American-born children of undocumented immigrants.
Culled from The New York Times, Shakira and Lopez were Latina superwomen, smiling pop conquistadoras backed by phalanxes of dancers. They sang, shimmied and thoroughly outshone the brief appearances by their guests, both reggaeton stars: Bad Bunny, from Puerto Rico, and J Balvin, from Colombia.

Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times
Both Shakira, on her 43rd birthday, and Lopez, 50, are multicultural success stories. Lopez was born in the Bronx but has reveled in her Puerto Rican roots, recording hits in Spanish and English while also thriving as an actress and a producer. (Her film and television company is pointedly named Nuyorican Productions.) Shakira made her way from Colombia to international pop stardom, drawing on globally assorted sources — the Americas, Africa, Europe and (flaunting her Lebanese ancestry) the Middle East — for songs about passion and uplift.

Both of them sing most often about romance and desire; both of them use songs and videos to insist that even with stardom, they are still just “Jenny From the Block” or a Colombian girl-next-door who dances barefoot in the street. Both are also among pop’s most savvy beat-seekers, finding and combining rhythms old and new — merengue, rumba, cumbia, samba, paseo, rock, disco, hip-house, reggaeton — to keep fans dancing now.
In some ways it was a no-brainer to book two multimillion-selling Latinas for a halftime show in Miami, where the city’s population is 70 percent Hispanic. It was also a kind of truce.
Lopez and Shakira performed a year after many musicians spurned the N.F.L. over its treatment of Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who protested racism by kneeling during the pregame national anthem and was not signed to a team afterward. Last year, Jay-Z’s entertainment company, Roc Nation, entered a partnership with the N.F.L., including advising on performers for the halftime show, and joined the N.F.L.’s social justice initiative, Inspire Change, which this year included a Super Bowl spot about a police shooting. Shakira is a Roc Nation client; Lopez is not. But booking them steered the halftime show away from black-and-white racial tensions and toward the joys of motion and seduction.
The N.F.L.’s pregame publicity had announced that there would be more songs than in any previous halftime show — but not more time than the allotted 12 minutes. With two headliners, that meant cramming a whole career into six minutes: more like greatest hooks than greatest hits.

Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times
The upside was that each segment — Shakira first, then Lopez, then together — was a kaleidoscope of rhythms, a demonstration of how much Latin (and Afro-Latin) music has contributed to American pop. The downside was that individual songs barely registered, though Shakira let herself linger over two of her best blockbusters: “Whenever, Wherever” and “Hips Don’t Lie.” She showed off the interconnections of Latin music by turning “Chantaje,” a reggaeton song, into an old-school rumba and pushing “Hips Don’t Lie” toward samba; she dared to crowd-surf without missing a cue. She also invoked Arabic and later African rhythms, unwilling to confine herself to one hemisphere.

Lopez placed herself as a New Yorker from the start, arriving on a skyscraper spire to sing “Jenny From the Block” and working through strenuous dance routines and wearing skintight leather and then even less. She perched on a pole, probably to remind fans of her role in “Hustlers” (for which she was snubbed by the Oscars); she did a slide on her knees that rivaled Bruce Springsteen’s stunt in 2009; she flaunted her famous rump. Lopez leaned on the dance-club part of her catalog of hits — a reminder that disco, too, has Latin roots.
And “Let’s Get Loud” — mingled with Shakira’s “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),” some Congolese guitar and some New York mambo — reached out to a wider world and more serious concerns than a one-night party. This halftime show was euphoria with a purpose.