Black Eyed Peas: Grey Cup Halftime Gig Fallout

Sept. 16 I confirmed that the Black Eyed Peas would play this season’s Super Bowl halftime show.

Black Eyed Peas Raunchy Grey Cup Halftime Show

The reaction of the public and media to the BEP booking has been mixed at best but criticism of Super Bowl halftime talent booked by the NFL is forever an inevitability. When you combine a colossal audience and hyper-politically correct culture, you can’t expect the NFL to get anywhere in the vicinity of cutting edge.

Though in the case of the Black Eyed Peas, a good many Canadians may be wondering why the NFL booked the act for the Super Bowl after the group was widely-panned in Canada’s media following what many regarded as an offensive performance at halftime of the 2005 Grey Cup in Vancouver.

The CANADIAN PRESS reported of the performance:

Black Eyed Peas were on the Grey Cup menu Sunday as the Grammy-winning recording artists put on an energetic - and raunchy - hip-hop halftime show before a sellout crowd at B.C. Place.

Led by demonstrative lead rapper Will.I.Am and sultry female vocalist Fergie, the Los Angeles quartet got the crowd of 59,157 out of its seats with Pump It and Don’t Phunk With My Heart. Things took a turn for the sleazy when Fergie - adorned in short shorts and a black tank top - suggestively shook her derriere during My Humps.

Their performance was a far cry from the usual conservative Grey Cup halftime shows. Last year, Canadian icons The Tragically Hip entertained the crowd in Ottawa.

That’s about as kind a review as you’ll find of the show, which was also widely panned by fans for lack artistic merit:

And there’s this from the EDMONTON JOURNAL of the performance:

“Until the Grey Cup halftime show I was proud to be a Canadian. Now I’m not. I’m ashamed, embarrassed and angry. There were young children watching that disgusting bump and grind and I can only imagine the horror with which the parents of those children witnessed that so-called musical display,” wrote one Journal reader. In an online poll, 82 percent of Journal readers said they didn’t like the BEP’s halftime performance.”

Apparently the performance, which has been scrubbed from the web with remarkable proficiency, so disgusted Canadians that they’ve taken to informing American media about it.

ESPN Around The Horn commentator Woody Paige responding to a Canadian reader’s “mailbag” question in the DENVER POST last week:

Hey, Woody, this is kind of a sports question (because it pertains to the Super Bowl), but it’s not really a sports question (because it pertains to the halftime entertainment). Do you think the NFL just set itself up for another “wardrobe malfunction” by enlisting the Black Eyed Peas for this year’s halftime festivities? If you need a reference to answer, just check out their Grey Cup Halftime performance from a few years ago.

— MikeyD, St. Clements, Ontario

MikeyD: Uh. I did just check it out. The NFL could be in trouble again. Not only did the Black Eyed Peas, particularly Fergie, use some language and gestures somewhat unsuitable for a United States TV censor, but they were lip-synching, and I thought we got over that with Milli Vanilli (although the greatest rendition of the national anthem in Super Bowl history was not sung live).

With that sort of reaction from Canadians to the Grey Cup performance of the Black Eyed Peas, why on earth would the NFL consider them for Super Bowl halftime?

Because that was then (2005), this is now.

The NFL already took what some would consider a huge gamble with the Black Eyed Peas in 2005, when the league booked them to perform during the Super Bowl pregame show the year after Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. That gig was 10 months before the Grey Cup performance and went off without a hitch.

The band also performed during last year’s NFL Kickoff Show from Pittsburgh on NBC and has gigged on countless other big, nationally-televised stages like Oprah, Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve production and the World Cup.

Fergie is also a current, high profile participant in the NFL’s breast cancer awareness program and has an ownership stake in the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

A source familiar with the staging of NFL Super Bowl halftime shows also informed me recently that the NFL has final approval on all facets of the performance, including: song selection, wardrobe selection, choreography and staging.

The NFL also enacts a contract for the performance that all members of the musical act and parties associated with the group must sign that includes specific language prohibiting anything approaching offensive behavior.

And then there’s the five-second broadcast delay, allowing the network airing the show to pull any questionable content from the performance.

It’s understandable that some people, especially those north of the border, would be concerned over handing the Black Eyed Peas an international audience the magnitude of Super Bowl halftime.

But with the group’s resume since the Grey Cup debacle and to the extent the NFL has the thing on logistical and legal lockdown, it appears the NFL has made a pretty safe play.

Whether people will actually watch is a whole ‘nother matter.