If Prince hadn’t passed away from a fentanyl overdose at his Paisley Park recording studio and home on April 21, 2016, it’s likely that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer would have headlined the halftime show in 2018 at Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
Minneapolis being Prince’s birthplace, and the fact that he gave one of the greatest halftime performances ever at Super Bowl XLI in 2007, would have ensured an invitation for the multi-Grammy winner to perform at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Before the early 1990s, the halftime show was based around a theme. Super Bowl LII should go back to that format, and the theme should be a Prince tribute.
I’m sure Minneapolis wouldn’t have a problem with various artists performing their own versions of Prince classics. You could book people like Madonna, Daft Punk, John Legend, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, Slash, Rihanna or Drake — any major artist who would want to pay tribute to Prince. You could simply bill it: “A Prince Tribute with Special Guests.” The mystery of “special guests” would heighten the viewer’s curiosity of who will pay tribute.
Lately, the halftime show has become a mix of artists doing duets and linked melodies. Super Bowl 50 had Bruno Mars, Beyoncé, Mark Ronson and — oh, yeah — the headliner, Coldplay. For the tribute to one of the bestselling artists of all time, artists could sing an individual Prince song or do a duet with another artist.
Drake and The Weeknd are artists close to being Super Bowl halftime show performers. By their album sales, they’re not quite there yet, but give it time. A Prince tribute would be a chance for the two artists to be on that massive stage that would make them even bigger household names.
Imagine Rihanna covering “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Pharrell and Daft Punk putting their own spin on “When Doves Cry” or “Little Red Corvette.” Who wouldn’t want to see Bruno Mars sing a “Kiss” cover?
There’s no telling how many artists would want to take part in the short tribute set. They would only have to perform one song and perhaps a joint medley of “Purple Rain” at the end.
When an individual artist is selected to headline the halftime show, the audience is basically guaranteed a routine set of the artist’s greatest hits. Social-media chatter before Lady Gaga’s halftime performance focused on who would be joining her. The Prince tribute could be packed with several music surprises. It’s the reason why the Grammys are a ratings juggernaut for CBS every year.
When the game is one-sided and the dip trays start smelling a little strange, the halftime show is the one treat for people who have no interest in the contest’s outcome. What’s a bigger treat to the host city than a tribute to one of its most accomplished native sons?
Prince’s performance of “Purple Rain” in a downpour at Super Bowl XLI is one of the single greatest live performances ever broadcast. The hairs on the back of my neck still stand up when I watch it on YouTube. Next February, if a Prince tribute at Super Bowl LII manages to get close to capturing something as magical as that, it would extinguish anything that a solo artist or band would do at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Taylor Swift and Rihanna are great artists, and they’re overdue, but a tribute to one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the rock ’n’ roll era would be a worthwhile break from the norm. And, most of all, it would be really entertaining.
Millions of Prince fans around the world would appreciate it, and I’m sure the city of Minneapolis would as well.
D.C. Cutler, of Rogers, is a retail merchandiser.