Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake

Op-Ed: Justin Timberlake & The Super Bowl

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You never want to be upstaged.

Justin Timberlake was selling entertainment.

The NFL was selling drama.

Once upon a time the game was lousy, it was about the commercials and then the halftime performance. As for new groundbreaking commercials, that paradigm is dead. Steve Jobs and Apple established it, a few others rode on the coattails, and then it was done. Kinda like Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” promotion/release, once you’ve seen the trick it can’t be repeated. Kinda like SNL. It pushed the envelope forty years ago, with its original cast, when we all lived in a monoculture and television was safe, but now almost no one gets the references, there are no punch lines and the only ones who care are in the mainstream media trumpeting efforts the rest of us don’t care about. That’s the story of today, how the younger generations have broken free of the constructs of the older and the older just don’t get it, despite convincing themselves how hip they are by using iPhone X’s and driving Teslas. Just ask them how to use Snapchat, which is already passe. As for Instagram, which they’re bragging on, they don’t know it’s cooler to have a private account, and argue with me all you want but never has the older generation been so out of touch with the younger one since the generation gap back in the sixties, only now the baby boomers are holding the wrong end of the stick.

As for football itself, when the right wing, establishment paper of record says that millennials don’t care, then you know it’s spiraling down. Read the below if you’ve got a WSJ subscription, but it’s oldsters who are cheap, who don’t want to pay, youngsters know everything costs, and if they want it, they pony up, otherwise, they ignore it.

So you’ve got a 37-year-old Justin Timberlake trying to sell tickets and a new album. What you must focus on here is his age. You think he’s young, whereas he’s a married over-the-hill dad selling a formula that dried up years ago. Pop is dead. Better off to have a hip-hop act. But that would offend too many viewers. But that’s what art does, make you feel uncomfortable, make you question your preconceptions, make you wonder if it’s you or them.

In this case, it was definitely Justin Timberlake. If you thought his performance was significant you must be a young ‘un who never lived in an era where music drove the culture as opposed to being a sideshow. Timberlake was a highly rehearsed cheerleader, but the last I checked none of the sideline jumpers has ever become famous. He ran around on a field populated by coached “fans” and it was noisy and raucous and if this is your idea of entertainment, so be it. If you want to go to the show and jump around and feel good, so be it. I mean we all need an escape, but the truth is we live in challenging times and he or she who speaks to this wins in the end, those who play it safe ultimately lose out. This ain’t sports, this is art.

And when art is done right there is drama. That’s why you listen, to uncork feelings, to follow the story. There was no story in JT’s performance other than I’m cute, I’m rich, LET’S CELEBRATE!

I’m not in such a celebratory mood, Most of our country is not. That’s how we got into this mess, Trump appealed to the left out. So did Bernie, but Hillary and the establishment refused to believe times have changed.

But I know this is true. Which means no matter how much you said you liked JT’s performance I’m sticking to my belief that it was meaningless, other than the Prince interlude, especially when they overlaid the “symbol” atop Minneapolis. That had gravitas. But that only reminded me how Prince came to kill, and did. Anybody who followed him had to live up to him, and so far no one has. Even Bruce Springsteen looked small, even though first and foremost the Boss is about story and drama, the whole kit and kaboodle that cause triumph in music, that work irrelevant of hits.

So it was a great game. With a great story. Backup quarterback defeats the big bad Brady. Belichick doesn’t smile. It’s almost unbelievable. But when done right, that’s what sport delivers, it’s a metaphor for life.

But like I said, too often this has not happened in the Super Bowl.

But this year it did. It made Justin Timberlake look small. Like our entire music business. The Grammys, the institutions, they’re all in peril.

What makes hip-hop work is it’s not beholden to any of it. Radio, major labels, press, it can succeed as a result of its own culture. Not so different from when classic rock triumphed in the first place. Hit? What is that?

Last I checked choreography has nothing to do with music. Just because they danced on MTV that does not mean your record is worth listening to.

Justin Timberlake should never have done this show. But his manager couldn’t turn down the offer, to be in front of all those people, to sell tickets.

And that’s where music resides, in the marketing era. Where salesmanship eclipses art.

Go to the show if you want to. Drink your tequila, shake your booty, but when you come home I’m gonna ask you what it was all about.

And you’re gonna say “a good time.”

But music used to be more than that.

“Ahead of Super Bowl, Poll Shows NFL Is Losing Its Core Audience”: http://on.wsj.com/2BP1HY9

The Industry Responds

His performance has been universally panned by the press.

I point you to:

“The Washington Post”: “This Is How Justin Timberlake lost the Super Bowl”: http://wapo.st/2nDODjY

“The Los Angeles Times”: “Justin Timberlake had nothing to say at the Super Bowl and wouldn’t stop saying it”: http://lat.ms/2E5BTsM

TMZ: “Justin Timberlake’s Halftime Show A Deaf-ing Disaster”: http://bit.ly/2E4CQ8N

So the question becomes, where does this leave popular opinion? Does this hurt his career or does the sheer fact of his appearance help him? No doubt Timberlake sold tickets for his tour last night, although his album is considered to be a complete stiff. So his fans support him, and those who don’t don’t. But one thing we’ve learned, is to be ubiquitous, to be considered all-encompassing, there must be a positive vibe about you and your career, and with this performance JT seems to have turned the corner, arguably to his detriment.

This has been the first time this has happened with a Super Bowl appearance. Seen as a marketing opportunity, there’s always been scuttlebutt about the performance but no negative outcomes were experienced, unless you count the people talking about Janet Jackson’s career, but maybe she just didn’t have another hit…

So, once again, you can always say no, and sometimes should.
If you’re courting the press, know the press can turn against you.
And we know if your album is a hit or a stiff within a day now, that’s what streaming service data will tell you.

So you’re best to go your own way, reinvent the paradigm, be happy you’ve got your core audience and prey upon it, because the bigger you want to be, the more chance you have to fall.

P.S. Press, especially traditional media, means less than ever before, but when the stars align and the outlets agree, it can sway national opinion/conventional wisdom.


If you were at the game, the performance made no sense what-so ever. It was totally designed for home viewing.

One whole side of the stadium watched the back of it. There were people running all over (off camera) trying. to get in place where he was going to be next. Marching Band members (with 60 Tubas) totally in the way of every one involved. (Trump should build the wall with Tubas- nothing gets thru 60 Tubas)

And when Justin ran up the aisle at the close- he simply vanished for the rest of the song. Don’t get me wrong Timberlake is a totally valid and gifted singer, dancer, actor – he excels at anything he does. At home the whole thing probably had nice continuity- at the stadium, it was the perfect time to go pee.

Joe Walsh


Right on Bob

Don Fox

Migos being the face(s) of NBA All Star Weekend with their (soon to be) smash “Stir Fry” is everything that’s right about the NBA. As you’ve said numerous times, it’s all about the Culture…

Miles Catalano


Geeez Bob.  Would it kill you to simply observe how talented and entertaining Justin Timberlake is? Why ya gotta be so mean?

Ali Harnell


It was boring and the audio overlap was poor.     The NFL has no one left to present for this halftime albatross.   This was actually luckily for the NFL a great game and this half time show bored me.  And as for the Prince thing it was cool but of course the purple imagery over MSP Gabe is that 10 second WOW moment.     Time for a re write for the Half Time Show.     Can’t imagine what that dull fest cost

Chris Apostle


Philadelphia came running on the field to the sounds of Meek Mill’s “Dreams & Nightmares”, a Philadelphia Rapper whom they respect.

I can’t remember or find one article on the web about what song the patriots ran out to.

Ohhh how times have changed. I love it.



Stone Cold Truth sir, Thanks.

Steven Carlson


Lighten up please.  It’s the SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOW.  Must we throw everything under the microscope?  Let’s have a good time for a few minutes while we watch a game – where I agree with you – will be gone in the next 50 years.

Steve Dukeheart.



Fuck the NFL.

Take a knee and BOYCOTT!



Both the Grammys (I watched as much as I could last night) and the Super Bowl halftime show tells me “I want a new drug”.
We went to Disney Hall today and saw Bernstein’s Mass conducted by Dudamel. It took a while to come down from a breathtaking performance of a piece written when the world was in turmoil. It premiered in 1971.
We definitely need a new drug.

Stephen Marcussen


with you Bob. thanks for saying it.

J. Bornzin


JT worked so hard trying to reach everyone that it looked exhausting. Would’ve loved him to bring out Janet Jackson – clean that slate that feels like she’s still vilified for. Or pick up a guitar and bring out Chris Stapleton.



I agree, the nod to Prince was classy and resonant, that’s about it.

Jenny Sjolund


I  wrote to you after halftime

As Mike Scott and The waterboys wrote in “The Whole of the Moon”

I saw the crescent. You saw the whole of the moon

Thanks for the Super Bowl wrap up

As Eric Burden sang

” we gotta get out of this place if it’s the last thing we ever do”


Rob Johnson


I Loved JT’s half time show, I thought he did a great job using the entire stadium even the selfie with the lucky kid in the crowd.  I think he pulled it off.

I loved watching Tom Brady loss, I don’t care who beat him, so long as he lost, an exciting ending and a good game in all.

I was unexcited about the commercials this year, sadly they did seem to miss the mark.

Fun afternoon of family time for me and the girls, but it was really nothing that memorable honestly

Dan Steinberg


When will the era of “A Chorus Line” dancing on pop songs be over? I turned the volume down but the visual  kept me hearing, “I hope I get this job, I hope I get this job.”

Rich Pagano


Most football fans I’ve known couldn’t care less about music.  The Super Bowl halftime show might be the only live music they’re exposed to all year.   Paul Lanning


Spot on…Jamie & watched Price at Superbowl just to remind us about talent & musuc

Michael K. Clifford


Oh, fuck off. It’s a football game This performance is barely a sprinkle on a wedding cake. He played his MONSTER hits, and tipped the cap to the GOAT from Minnesota, Prince.. Anything after that is just BLAH BLAH BLAH. Nice job JT! A+!

Chris Booker


Justin is talented but he is  Disney child a. even after all these years … using Prince was nice but nothing Prince would have condoned … and in interviews he was very clear on his not approval of this type of thing .. .Prince had his fellow musicians and performers hand picked and he played an instrument that Eric Clapton said he was the best !! wow where as Justin had an army of dancers and musicians and props .. cast of hundreds I am sure  he barely knew ..

Smitty Smith


i live in a different timezone, a different world where NFL barely impinges so i watched neither the game nor the half time ‘show’ but i know in my heart of hearts you are 100% correct in your analysis.    only ego, vanity and greed allow a musical act to say ‘yes’ to doing the half time show.   it is an almost definite damp squib because music no longer carries the weight.     in most cases, no matter how much gravitas, on the one hand, or showbiz, on the other, is applied to the presentation of the music, it does not capture the zeitgeist any more and the genre/culture that does, i.e. hip hop, operates in a new, intuitive, direct to the fan manner that has no need for the self indulgence of the half time show.

thankfully, according to your report, the game was memorable.
keep it up, bob, we all need you.

fachtna o ceallaigh


My family (wife and 2 girls) was more excited to see Pink sing the national anthem.

We are probably JT’s  target audience (we were watching with another couple in our 40’s and 5 kids between us aged 8-14) and what did we do during halftime? Mute the show so that we could play HQ Trivia, along with 2 million others! Granted I was the only real football fan there, but only 1 kid asked for us to turn the sound back on during halftime. Maybe the halftime planners should learn from Doug Pederson and take some risks.

Michael Cantor


Even Janet Jackson’s nipple, couldn’t save that disaster of a halftime show.

Robert Pisaneschi


When you talk about not being able to really get ahead without the machines behind you, you are absolutely right. The more your music sticks out with lyrics that really make people think, the more the younger generation gets uncomfortable. They are only used to glitse and glamor. Greatness isn’t enough anymore.



Amen. And if you pressed pause on the Apple laptop running stems into the PA, what would we have heard?

Micah Sheveloff


You’re right, Timberlake sucked– I like him better as an actor anyway. But Gaga last year was THRILLING!

Mark B. Spiegel


I felt the exact same. I kind of kept thinking “is everyone watching the same show I am”

It was so rehearsed, the coaches crowd took the authenticity out of it.

The game being so good made JTs performance feel that much smaller. For once, I will forget the HT show because the full show was so much better.

Jonathan Fordin


Omg Bob, thank you, this was what I was feeling watching this last night but couldn’t find the words! 38-year-old female here who got into radio 20 years ago when JT was THE thing. Couldn’t help but notice everyone one my age and above thought he was G-o-d last night. I was underwhelmed. Loved the symbol over Minneapolis but come on! Lazy. It was just JT coasting on the back of Prince’s talent. If I want to see an aging pop star do cover songs I can go to a casino In Oklahoma. My 69-year-old father thought JT was “great.” It should have been Eminem singing “Home” with Rihanna and ripping POTUS a new one. Now that would be gravitas.

Heather Larson


Instead he catered to a local audience that he already offended at his listening party at Paisley Park:


Brian Martin


Great point.  “Salesmanship eclipses Art”.  I spoke to an A&R rep last week about a Family Act I work with.  He said “I looked at their socials and they aren’t there yet”.  I said “Did you listen to their music?”. He got quiet.  “I said, there used to be a time when A&R people developed The Artists and their Repertoire.  Listen to the music, if you get it behind it the audience will follow.”  He then listened to the music and said “you’re right, they’re great.  But how do I market it?”  That’s the state of the music business.  Run by A&R people who neither understand Artists or Repertoire.

John Ferriter


I love the person who invented the Mute button.  Let’s just leave it at that.



So much anger at JT on Twitter right now, voiced in perspective of #metoo, how he slut shamed Britney to get ahead, grabbing Kylie’s butt, ripping off Janet’s costume and abandoning her to deal with the fallout, then not inviting her up yesterday. I’m seeing more tweets about this than there were about the game.

Dean Temple

P.S. And then there is this reaction:


I used Justin Timberlake’s performance to take a bathroom break. It was the least entertaining part of the production.

Jerry Szilagyi


You lost me, bro.

Yeah, Timberlake’s performance was meaningless. So is the Super Bowl. So is a ride on a roller coaster. Sometimes you gotta just let meaningless entertainment be meaningless entertainment.

Looking for significance in a Super Bowl half-time show is…meaningless. You probably still have a PBS station available somewhere on your TV? You could have cut over at any time.

Thanks –
Dan S.


I concur. I was watching the game with some kids, who were generally unimpressed with JT-but we all agreed the coolest part of the halftime show was the Prince tribute, especially the symbol. And what a game. What a game. Thank you, as always.

Stuart Gunter


Bob, those “fans” jumping around were dancers. Hired. Every one of ’em.

They had to be rehearsed to move on and off the field as efficient choreo.

Selling an idea of fandom.

Robin Black


Thank you for echoing my thoughts…

Michael Hope


Great, thank you. Couldn’t agree more. Kendrick Lamar would have been the best choice.

Brian Z Zisook


OK, I’m old – I admit it.  We watched the Super Bowl with friends, as we do every year and found the ads to be trite, except for the Ram truck ad which was repulsive to all of us.  The Halftime show was not even trite – it was junk food.  Well engineered but devoid of any value.  JT got his start in the mid-90’s, what does that tell you? It tells me he is a safe, trusted pro, who will do what he needs to do, no more controversy during a year when the very game itself is getting controversial.  It looked like an oldies act, like when PBS broadcasts 75-year-olds singing their 60’s hits to 70-year-olds.

Rich Eichen


Interesting no one mentioned the mic malfunction. You could hardly hear him. John Donable in Toronto


Music is a field longer and wider than any football field. It can at times burst forth with gravitas and it encompasses many forms of art…but that also includes sometimes simply being about having a good time, like most Salsa, for example.

I enjoyed JT; I appreciate his craft. But….you are right: no one has stepped on that big stage and made music that really rang the bell since Prince.

I continue to be much more concerned about the seemingly endless integration of the military with professional sport, particularly the NFL.  But I guess that’s another story.


Wally Wilson


Nicely said. I had no idea what I was watching so I left the room.

Deep Purple Forever!!
Mark Bryant


I just kept thinking Bring Aerosmith Back!

Queenie Taylor


Perhaps an N’sync on stage reunion would have been more dramatic and entertaining??

William Fong


Said on the broadcast it’s the years biggest moment in music.  Sad part is it’s true.  We are doomed.



Ease up there, pardner- JT was fine. It’s America.
Terry Maraccini


Right on brother. I was bored watching that.

But am I the only one who noticed in his choreography that he “took on knee” right on top of the NFL logo? Maybe it was too subtle… but that was the “art” I extracted from the performance.

Melissa Marchese
Hamilton, ON


One of the most intelligent things you have ever written is “But music used to be more than that” It has been to you and me and or contemporaries in this business.  But through a course of mistakes and cultural shifts music has become forgettable, fleeting and meaningless.  I grieve for the young people f today, who will never understand the pleasure and guidance we have benefitted from throughout our lifetime.

James Del Balzo


Sometimes people just want to enjoy some music as proven by Bruno Mars carrying the day this year. It doesn’t all have to be about politics and political movements and viewing all historical music through that lens is rose colored glasses of a person missing the 70’s political movements. The NFL would be stupid to put someone on at half-time that would alienate probably 60-70% of viewers if it got political.

Occasionally we all just enjoy just dancing or nodding along to a happy beat even if the new JT album is pretty terrible.

Adam Chudy


The announcers kept billing the Halftime show as “Music’s Biggest Night!”

How can 1 performance define a whole industry?

If this was true, everyone in this business is doomed.

The Grammy’s were just a week ago….

Brent Logan


If hip hop is “today” and is all we should be listening to, I can’t wait for what replaces it, though that will probably be worse.



As for Timberlake, who really cares? Bruno Mars might be a touch more contemporary and way popular, but Justin is the only white guy I can think of that can get away with performing that stuff without making me throw up in my mouth. The 8 minute half time show isn’t part of what’s real about the SB; its NOT part of that “metaphor for life” – its just another commercial and thats all its ever going to be. The only exceptions will be when art & commerce cross paths and you get one for the ages like with Prince.

Its easy to forget that before a guy named Charles Coplin was brought in 10 yrs ago (now long gone) to take over the half time show after Timberlake’s last one w/ Janet, the acts were even more innocuous than they’ve been since. Its the Super Bowl, Bob – not Woodstock; if you don’t like the half time show just do what the rest of the country does – eat.

Rob Wolfson


“Last I checked choreography has nothing to do with music.”


Dude:  Prince.

Steve Hurlburt


With all due respect, I think you missed the point.

I was thrilled that JT’s performance was a superficial extravaganza.  Do we really need meaning all the time? Award shows are being ruined by nonstop PSA type messaging.  I’m tuning out. I read, I understand, I empathize, I support change, now fuck off and let me enjoy a show without a guilt trip.

Super Bowl halftime is exactly the right time and place for a slick, huge, meaningless sound and light performance.  JT was perfect. My 9, 11 and 14 year olds loved it, as did my wife and I.

Do we need to turn everything into a protest? Does all entertainment need to be heavy art with deep meaning that makes you uncomfortable?

The Super Bowl calls for a high energy homogenized pop act. I listen to Kendrick and Childish and Chance on repeat, but Super Bowl halftimers they are not.

Keep up the good work Bob.

Gregg Terrence


Thanks Bob,the commercials had more rap and hip hop than the grammys did.Stay well.Ted Keane


Your best. Full stop.



Jesus can’t people enjoy something and stop picking every damn thing apart? America has become a country where everyone is a damn critic. Kick back and chill for Pete’s sake.



You nailed it.   I watched only JT not the Super Bowl hoping hopelessly

After the first 30 seconds you could tell it wouldn’t ever ignite.

What a missed opportunity for a hip hop act. The right one would have been fun and enlightening.

Richard Vogt


Did you stay awake for Jimmy Fallon? You’d have witnessed a moving duet with JT and Chris Stapleton, which shows just how far superior a musician Chris is (despite JT’s wacky charm.) It’s worth a look and maybe a reassessment of Justin’s soulfulness.

Medea Isphording Bern


Seriously?  Other than a few audio misses, Justin and his Tennessee Kids killed it!!!  What’s wrong with wanting to go to a show and ‘feel good.’  ESPECIALLY with all of the chaos and peril going on out there in this crazy, fucked-up world we are living in!  Why would we want to feel more pain and sadness on Super Bowl night?  Are you kidding me????  This was the friggin’ Super Bowl Bob..  If done right, which it was done right…this was THE night to ‘escape’ from the chaotic bullshit we are finding ourselves in these days!!!  The horrible news stories, the zero leadership we have in place.  ‘WE’ needed what Justin gave tonight.  A ‘feel good, shake your booty, take a tequila shot,’ no need to worry for a few minutes rockin’ show.

Sheesh….  sounds like you need to take a shot of something yourself.  What’s your poison?  Go and have at it!

Lara Ellis-  Pinehurst, NC


As usual, you are pinpoint accurate. JT should have never taken this gig; he has no relevance, just fluff. The game was the perfect metaphor for life, time changes, some, the very few get to leave with everything they wanted, and the game can change instantly for the work of a few committed individuals giving more than themselves to win. Prince left more of a void than most realize, his SB performance is the standard and will never be repeated. He did it with class and supreme professionalism. Somehow Prince commanded the rain to keep time with his beat and how apropos the game was held in Minneapolis.
I’m happy Philly won, it is the nature of things, the harder working group won, and the old guard is now shuffling off stage making room for hopefully a more evolved alternative.
Allen Miller


I took the time to watch HBO’s “Roadies” for the one season it aired.  The one line I took away from the show and still pass on to my musician/business friends on a weekly basis involved a discussion betweeen two old music tour manager curmudgeons.  One asked “How’s the music business for you”.  The other responded “It’s not longer about the music. it’s about the spectacle.”  And that’s all I thought about watching Justin Timberlake. Talented guy. Mediocre songs. Saved his most tasty tune for last.  And after the game was over, I YouTube’d Prince’s Super Bowl performance.  I don’t think that type of performance will ever be matched on a media of that level. Because THAT was about the music.

John Hauser / Milwaukee, WI USA


This time, you are wrong.  Best Super Bowl halftime production ever.  In a year when the NFL had more off field than on field drama and significant audience loss, JT was a great choice to bridge the young-old gap.  The production itself rivaled Olympic opening ceremonies.  Music is but a sidelight in the big game, like it or not.  You speak truth to the lost relevance of music (other than hip-hop/rap, to which neither of us can accurately speak), perhaps not such a bad thing, since the relevance of our generation came from music as a protest tool.  The combination of a really good game and a great halftime show might even restore relevance to the NFL for a large portion of the country.

Bahnson Stanley


I couldn’t agree more.  JT is talented, but he’s peddling the same wares he had 14 years ago.  The crowd excitement was only in that fabricated circle on the field. Twitter was rife with comments about how still the rest of the stadium seemed.  I also thought the best thing was the Prince symbol spotlighted over the city, and I was surprised JT didn’t use the opportunity to bring in guests to extend that moment.

But I wanted to point out that the right, esp Fox, are now pounding this narrative of how the flag-hating, knee-taking left is killing football because the ratings are going down.  I know because my unfortunately-indoctrinated Trumpie friends are now regurgitating this nonsense (as they still watch and even attend games!)   It didn’t look like any of the players took a knee, though it was hard to tell from NBC’s cameras, but I’m pretty certain I saw many of the women holding the large flag on one knee, while others were standing.

And yeah, the commercials sucked.  Thank God for Hollywood and all the TV and movie trailers.  It’s ironic that the one thing we actually ‘produce’ anymore is decried so often by the right.  Better not kill that golden goose or our economy is really cooked.

All best,

Rick Pascocello


Bob, get over it. I’m not a JT fan, and I’m a football fan only when my team is doing well, but give JT a break. Playing a Super Bowl, anthem or especially halftime, is something that any artist would jump at. It’s a venue so rare that everyone would love to play it. So Bob, stop being so cynical…me thinks old age has done something to you.

As for streaming, it’s the young kids/adults that stream and are always interested in the new. They will spend money on the newest, the latest and the greatest. So streaming is only measuring what this demographic does. However, most ALL people listen to music, and the system for measuring all people’s listening choices does not exist. My three kids, as an example, are 20 to 25 years old. They like good hip hop. They also like good, classic rock and roll. I’m surprised when I hear them listening to a song from my oldest memories. But good music is simply that, good music and I find that the kids of today are not biased against one type of music over another…they just want to listen to good tunes.

Bob, you seem to be biased against the labels. If what you say is true, capitalism will soon deposit them in the dustbin of history. So get over it and just enjoy the music you like. As a semi famous artist friend of mine likes to quote (from when we were in school together,) “Art is what I say it is.” Same goes for music.

Matthew Grandi


You’re only a few years older than me…
It’s okay if you (we, me- are) not as Hip or Young as you (we) once were.
None of us are.

Of course the NFL is loosing its Core Audience (You can thank Trump for some of that).
But it’s okay.  It’s Okay.  We’re all getting older.
And- there are too many distractions at everyone’s hands & fingertips.

I’ve got  two 13 year olds at home. I’m not particularly Hip (and certainly not Hop) to them.
Okay. Maybe that’s the special ingredient you’re missing.  The Parent Perspective.
I’ve got it, can’t change it and wouldn’t for the world.

Went to a small Super Bowl party (-20 people) adults and their kids… mostly the same age as mine…
and EVERYONE ENJOYED THE HELL OUT OF JT!  I thought it was good too.
And it was a SUPERBOWL GAME for the AGES.

But about the Half-time show…
It doesn’t have to ‘top’ or keep ‘reinventing’ itself to be enjoyable.
It’s all entertainment.  And JT is a great entertainer!
He delivered a fun experience!  People were into it at the party I was at!

There are only so many Princes, McCartney’s, Pettys, Stones, Aerosmiths, Chilies, M. Jacksons, Bosses, Brunos or Gagas, etc.
(I’m sure I left someone GREAT off the list).
It can’t always be an 11!

I know your thing is to draw lines in the sand… but come on, Bob.
It wasn’t ‘Up with People’ , ‘Carol Channing’ , or a state school marching band!
(Apparently that’s what people saw in the early years).

Ease up Pal or you’re gonna blow a gasket -and not be around for the next on in 2019.
Maybe a bit less criticism… and more just enjoying the show.
Hope we’re both here for # 53.

Kevin Patrick Goulet


Bob – When it comes to the “big game” and music, what caught my eye (on a 100-inch screen) is the post-game interview with MVP Nick Foles. Check it out on YouTube.  He’s holding his young daughter.  She happens to be wearing pink, cute-looking ear protection that resemble over-the ear headphones.
Why so interesting? Because they sported the BEATS logo. A close-to 50-second Apple commercial.
Bose got punked.

According to a May 2017 NFL-Bose renewal press release:
o Bose is “The Official Headphone and Headset of the NFL.”
o Bose is “The Official Sound of the NFL.”
o Bose is “The Official Home Audio and Speaker Sponsor of the NFL.”

We’ve all seen that “Bose” logo on headsets used by the coaches.

The NFL has banned players from wearing Beats on “Game Day” since the 2014 sponsorship deal with Bose began.  As part of the deal, players are not  allowed to wear Beats headphones before games or at any other time where cameras might be around at an NFL event. The game day ban runs until 90 minutes after a game has finished. The Beats ban also includes any training camp or offseason workout session where a player might be interviewed on-camera.

Problem? I say no.  Nick Fooles daughter doesn’t play football.

Kind regards,

Dave “Ross” Swerdlick
StoryCub, Inc.


I almost always agree with you on everything. But, not on this one.

While I thought the JT performance was overreahearsed and came off unauthentic, you simply can’t deny the raw talent this 37 year old white dad has. He has a full repertoire of not only hits, but really great music. It is almost 20 years of soul, pop, and hip hop blended together. The kind of music that really doesn’t exist anymore. Timberlake is a true talented star in today’s dull music scene as you oftentimes describe.

Not only was this a great business move, but it was very indeed enjoyable and a celebration of his body of work. The only disappointment was not seeing the NSYNC reunion. A little Bye Bye Bye performance would have been awesome.

Finally, I don’t understand why you hype hip hop music so much. I’m 41. I was lucky enough to grow up when hip hop was real. Tupac. Big E. NWA. Snoop. Dre. Too Short. The list goes in. Even Onyx. That was hip hop. Talent. Rhtyhm. Lyrics. Tone.

Today’s hip hop – while leading in streams – is pure trash. Kendrick Lamar and Drake are both nasal voices that are unveatable to listen to. All the others with strange names like Lil Uzi. Lil Wayne. God knows what else. These guys don’t even know how to rap or bring rhythm forward.

So, it’s one of thing for today’s kids to ignore the fact that hip hop truly died almost 20 years ago.  But, for you to hype this up ….  that’s just strange. You know better. You have heard real hip hop and real rap in your lifetime. These artists like Post Malone are completely talentless. Don’t gove ammo to these idiots running the labels today and pumping this trash to an audience who doesn’t know any better.

Kevin Vahidi


I watched the Superbowl last night, until the end.  No mean feat as I live in Kent and it didn’t finish until 3.30am.  But I was enthralled. I just couldn’t go to bed… I have been watching (some) American football for 36 years, and its only quite recently that I understood it (for years I never knew why they kept stopping and changing the teams!)…  But you are wrong about one thing, the NFL will get a massive boost from a great game like that: where it comes down to one throw from (probably) the greatest Quarterback of his generation, in the dying seconds of the game….. That is REAL entertainment.  Nail biting stuff – and I am not even a fan of the Patriots or the Eagles….  I can only imagine what it meant to them!  There will be more people watching next year, for sure.  Let’s hope its another great game.  But I agree about JT.  Irrelevant.

Keep up the good work.

Ian Penman
UK music and entertainment lawyer
Mayfair, London



Bob, you’re rather cranky this morning.

J.T.’s show was ‘precisely’ what the audience wanted.
The Superbowl is Disney Sunday Night on steroids!
This is the biggest family show on television!
I talked to people 6 to 70 years old about the show, and they loved it!
The ones I spoke with who ‘didn’t’ like it???…… people in the music business.

Justin Timberlake is growing older a hell of a lot more gracefully than you and I are.
Justin is a nice human being, and that came across bigtime last night.
The music business mavens are always looking for the show to top the previous one.
Justin gave the public what they wanted.
He didn’t take his clothes off and grab and throw his crotch around, which a lot of performers pass off as ‘entertainment’.
You think he didn’t sell tickets for his upcoming tour??? …. he sold a shitload of ’em!

And why are you whining about the ‘fake fans’ on the field?
They have been on the field for every single halftime show I have ever seen.
Justin was the first I can remember who got down on the floor with them,
smiled at them, made eye contact with them, had fun with them.
He wasn’t full of himself as so many others have been, he was a real person!

A solid, 15 minute performance by a total professional.
The performance focused on Justin, not the zaps, pows, explosions, and all the bombastic bullshit
that cover the shortcomings of lesser performers.
The Prince thing ‘looked’ like a hologram at the beginning.
It was a nice surprise. So it wasn’t a hologram….. who cares??
Justin’s interaction with the supporting players and dancers was friendly and genuine. And the U. of Minnesota Marching Band was classy as all get out!
When Justin went into the stands and gave that kid the shock of his life, it was a warm and funny moment.
He made the show as much about Minneapolis as about himself. He gave a shout out to Minneapolis at least three times. It’s been a long time since a halftime performer gave a shit about the city they were performing in.

And the production crew that pulled it all off in 15 minutes!!…. absolutely mind blowing!
Very few people understand how complicated it is to make something like that ‘happen’……
and on-and-off in 15 minutes!! Insane!!
A brilliant crew!! A ‘Minneapolis’ crew, by the way!

To me the performance was purposely Minneapolis-friendly, and I appreciated that.

All in all, to me, a flawless performance all around!

Don Hunter Powell


Yes, Timberlake was a bore. Yes, he was the safe bet. Timberlake is a household name that holds water in the eyes of the whitewashed masses, but in the end walked away all wet with a soggy, watered down performance that not even the ghost of Prince could save.

Yes, we get that you think “rock is dead” and yes, we get it you’re flying the hip hop flag these days. Do us all a favor though please, get up off yer knees and dust of your pants, yer not the only one sucking on hip hop’s jock, so are the masses.

Hip hop doesn’t need any more help or hype, look at the charts, look at the numbers, it’s all there, it’s all happening. Yay, good for them, they’re getting their due. But believe it or not, rock isn’t dead. Just because it’s not happening on the main stage in front of the masses, doesn’t mean it’s dead and burried. It’s alive and well all over this great big world, be it some unkown band ripping up some small stage in bum fuck nowhere or some kid stumbling on to some band for the first time and picking up a guitar as a result. The seed is stil there, that thing that made rock live and breathe in the first place is still alive, growing. It’s just like a grip of music genres with their core bases keeping it alive and just because you don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Remember when Alan Freed coined the term “Rock & Roll” and the naysayers said it was just a phase? Remember the same way people tried to dismiss hip hop? Fact is one is no better than the other, personal beliefs aside. Even though they’re all different kinds of music and we all have our likes and dislikes, at the end of the day they’re all still that, music. There will always be room in this world for all kinds of music. Some will be at the forefront making the waves and the dollars and others will be living on in whatever incarnation it thrives in until that wheel comes around again, just like everything does at one time or another.

As open as I am though, if you’re gunna sit there and tell me that acts like Lil Pump are still going to be relevant in 20 years, hell even in 5 years, I think you’re fucking nuts. He and his contemporaries may be on top of the game now, but let’s see who is doing what, where and how and in what capacity when that time comes.

That’s just my take on it from here in the cheap seats.

Jaymes Q Mayhem


“the older just don’t get it, despite convincing themselves how hip they are” – in other words, just like you.
You think by bashing your own generation and bragging about all the latest apps and streaming services you know
it somehow seperates you from “old people” and makes you younger. It doesn’t. Telling us that it’s
“cooler” to have a private IG account you seem desperate to come across younger, hence making you look
like dad jeans.

You know what’s f**** annoying and unfair to young people ?
The stealing of their culture, their last bit of opportunity of rebellion by old people refusing to acknowledge they’re not
part of it anymore and desperately intruding the youth’s own culture. Leave ’em alone.
Let the kids be kids ffs.
As for “Better off to have a hip-hop act” – uhm yeah, as if music was just about having an “act” that can be exchanged
on a whim depending on what sells best..?!  What’s your point ?
On JT – like him or not, the mere fact he’s performing at Halftime shows you he’s not a sideline cheerleader.
If he had done something more “meaningful” you would have complained how halftime is supposed to be
entertaining and about unifying all the different generations. Geez.
Really. It would be refreshing to read a post of yours every once in a while where the underlying tone of your
message is not how you’re still part of the young and the ones “who get it”.
Frank Baach


For the last few years I’ve been trying t put my finger on where exactly the deep-seated contradictions I often sense in your letters/viewpoints lie. Your Super Bowl piece made it click for me.

You end your recent letter with a statement that’s meant to show how benevolently pure your perspective and heart is:

“But music used to be more than that”.

Well duh, music IS still more than that… you just deliberately look in the wrong places. Maybe so you can have something to sardonically judge and whine about in your letter? I think so.

Just like the pop artists you critique, you do what gets you the result you want… artful or not.

Your writing is often a hot steaming pile of contradictions and myopic viewpoints deceivingly shrouded in your own brand of pseudo-omniscience.

Just because you have a high IQ doesn’t mean your presuppositions can’t be deeply flawed and paradoxical in their expression. It’s just that you’re intellect makes you super good at hiding and justifying them.

It seems when long standing, deeply held insecurity and jealousy find their home in a big brain with a penchant for arrogant criticism, something like the Lefsetz letter can result. I just wish sometimes that you’d align more yourself more thoroughly with the best of yourself. (please please please go dig into Jordan Peterson’s work!).

How is it you’re not obsessed with celebrity and entertainment over art? Your own version of entertainment-over-art, is your newsletter; The forum you use to provoke and critique from the sidelines.

You seek to shock-and-awe with your opinions and observations in what is often (obviously) a series of attempts to impress your notable (and sometimes celebrity) readers and gain the respect of those in high places. The more this works the more parties, concerts and exclusive events you get to go to, so you can snuggle up to those executives and celebrities and finally feel cool.

You write about the Super Bowl for the same exact reason Timberlake performs at it: to get attention and further your own agendas and feed that internal monster.

If you weren’t a walking contradiction you’d spend your time writing about something more important. Stop looking for art where it isn’t, and (again) start practicing what you supposedly preach.

But you can’t do that. And you know why.

If you truly cared about ART, truth and positivity, you’d set out to find it and write about it. Instead you whine about how you can’t find it in the idiotic places you’re looking for it (all the places it’s almost never found). The thing is, if you did what I’m suggesting, your precious letter would likely fall into obscurity just like the artists and songs which display truth-via-art.

What if you practiced what you preach and used the reach of your letter as a great way to bring light to great art/artists?

You use negativity and criticism in the same way popular artists glorify sex/money/fame and use shallow-hearted-chart-chasing-strategy to gain, increase and captivate an audience.

Does any of this ring true? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Adam Watts

P.S. Maybe you missed it (I know you get lot of e-mails)… but I sent you a great song by a great artist that was authentically/artfully created and meaningful in it’s lyrical content and it went unnoticed (“F’d Up Paradise” by Julia Ross). Why? I’m curious. And no, I’m not bitter about this:) I can resend if you’d like to hear it.


I’ve followed you Bob for a couple of years….I’m about the same age and share similar feels for the era..I’m a fan lest I would not be speaking.. .but..the last 6 months of your posts feel…hummm..what is the phrase for an old man who is disenfranchised?

You make good points but offer nothing positive…..the world moves forward no matter what came before….


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