Shakira and J-Lo's Super Bowl show: an electric burst of energy

The two singers combined for one of the most scintillating half-time shows in years, a welcome return to form after Maroon 5’s underwhelming performance in 2019

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira did what they had to do at the Super Bowl half-time show this year at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida. It’s not an enviable task. The show has come under fire in recent years and plummeted to an all-time critical low in 2019 with the booking of Maroon 5. With an audience of approximately 100m people, it is still considered an enormous honor (Lady Gaga – the last truly stellar performer, in 2017 – rooted her documentary Five Foot Two in the journey towards her half-time show). Lopez and Shakira’s booking was a victory in itself on many levels: a win for Latin America (Lopez is from the Bronx via Puerto Rican parents; Shakira is from Colombia and had a base in Miami for years) and historic for female performers. Never before had two Latinas been booked to co-headline. In Miami, with its population over 75% Hispanic or Latino, it served as a fitting tribute to the city’s strong Latin American cultural heritage.

“I think the Super Bowl is a very American event, as American as it can get,” Shakira said in a press conference last week. “It’s also going to be a reminder of the heritage of this country, which is one of diversity and that’s what we will be celebrating Sunday.”

There are few stars as bankable as Lopez. A triple threat, she has a reputation for leaving crowds breathless, whether at her Las Vegas residency or on the silver screen, most recently in her starring role in Hustlers. Rumour had it she’d have 130 dancers on stage with her. Shakira, who celebrated her 43rd birthday on stage tonight, also follows in the tradition of singing and choreography from a bygone MTV era. Together they came to defy preconceptions about age, gender and race in music – a tall task.

So the pair had many messages to pack into an asthma-inducing 15 minutes, and none of their posturing detracted from the main goal: entertainment. Shakira took the stage first, donning a skintight red sequined outfit, bursting through her hits She Wolf, Whenever Wherever and Hips Don’t Lie, performing the latter while crowd-surfing, which is more than any white male rock headliner has done headlining the halftime show in years. Ahead of Sunday, there was criticism that Shak and Lopez’s booking overlooked the local Miami talent responsible for the surge in Latin American success in the US charts. But the duo took care of those comments with their choice of surprise appearances. Shakira was joined by Bad Bunny, dressed like the silver surfer, who appeared for a rendition of the boogaloo classic I Like It Like That (re-tooled by Cardi B in 2018).


Shakira’s medley seemed over in a flash (but not before she wagged her tongue at the cameras, causing some tweeters to joke that she was “licking out” the Super Bowl). She offered up one last high kick before it was time to make way for Lopez, whose opening statement chimed with her comment to the press last week that securing the half-time show is “like winning the Oscar”. She entered wrapped around a mock Empire State Building leather-clad as though re-enacting her role as Ramona in Hustlers (notably snubbed by the Academy), and announcing herself via her hit Jenny From The Block. She dangled, spun and thrust herself through the R&B slick Ain’t It Funny and horns-heavy Get Right, somehow managing to choreograph outfit changes as she busted out the 90s classic Waiting For Tonight while pole-dancing like a pro, then welcomed J Balvin on stage for Mi Gente and the club banger Get On The Floor. (Balvin and Bunny only appeared on their female counterparts’ terms, and appeared even more out of breath breezing around the stage for mere moments.)

In a bid to pass the torch on to future generations of women, Lopez brought her daughter Emme on stage for Let’s Get Loud. She quickly swung back to Hustlers mode, returning in a fur with an American flag on the outside and Puerto Rican flag on the inside celebrating her dual identities, as Emme sang a couple of lines from Springsteen’s Born In The USA (Shakira smashed the hell out of a drum kit for this). The final union of Lopez and Shakira centre stage was scintillating. Lopez towered in silver, Shakira shined in gold, their manes of curls whipped through the air, their limbs were flexed for battle, their faces were prepped for the kill. Backs facing the crowd, they left absolutely nothing on the dance floor, as they snapped their heads back and offered thanks in both Spanish and English while standing heel-to-heel, bedazzled cheek-to-cheek, glitter-y microphones ready to drop. It was the very American triumph both women had sought to convey: one that defies skin tone, mother tongue, or place of birth. The fact that they used an opportunity so rarely awarded to women, never mind women beyond a certain age, showed they were determined to make the most of their moment. Lopez and Shakira knew they had to bring the heat. Everyone’s eyes were on fire.


Eve Barlow

The GuardianTramp

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