The last time CBS aired the Super Bowl, the halftime show featured Janet Jackson, her exposed breast and some sunburst-shaped nipple jewelry that failed to become a fashion trend. Somehow, Prince got hired this year as an exemplar of wholesome family entertainment; presumably, network executives had only one request: “In the name of all that’s holy, don’t play ‘Darling Nikki.’ ” Prince obliged, although in his eleven minutes last night, he selected three other songs from the Purple Rain soundtrack, either because he wanted to remind people “Nikki” was on the same album or because he’s forgotten his entire back catalog from 1984 onward. (“Baby I’m a Star”? Really? Would any other Prince composition have been quite as random, with the possible exception of “Batdance”?)
The tiny genius did, however, do covers of “Proud Mary” (eh), a great bluesy snippet of “All Along the Watchtower” (release it as a single!) and three minutes’ worth of the Foo Fighters’ “Best of You” (huh?). Presumably, the last selection was payback for the Foos’ cover of “Darling Nikki” — as for the others, we can only conclude that Bob Dylan is on the verge of releasing a country-rock version of “Raspberry Beret” and that John Fogerty loaned Prince his bowling shoes last week.
Prince seemed determined to prove two points: (1) turquoise and tangerine don’t clash (2) he’s still one of America’s most underrated guitar heroes. He succeeded on both counts, though somebody else seemed to be playing the solo during the Foo Fighters cover. And if a dramatic white sheet concealed Prince just as it came time for the “Purple Rain” solo — well, chalk that up to the necessities of TV production and just be glad nobody got electrocuted performing in a Miami monsoon. It was still the best Super Bowl halftime show ever.