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Madonna the latest name on washed-up entertainer list

Updated: January 7, 2012 8:17AM



The headline Monday at Entertainment Weekly declared: “It’s official: Madonna to perform at Super Bowl halftime show.”

It could have just as easily read: “It’s official: Madonna all washed up.”

As someone who can’t quite keep up with popular culture, I have long relied on the choice of the Super Bowl halftime performer to let me know when someone has officially become a has-been.

What’s that line from the 4G phone commercials: “That’s so 15 seconds ago?”

Being chosen to perform at the Super Bowl is proof positive that an act is “so 15 years ago.”

Most of you probably already knew that Madonna was washed up, and I admit that even I suspected it before Monday’s big announcement.

When Lady Gaga started doing Madonna better than Madonna, it was pretty obvious that time had passed her by.

Still, it’s always nice to have confirmation. It saves me the embarrassment of asking a younger person.

Come to think of it, though, it’s not ALWAYS nice.

I remember being considerably disappointed about arriving in the press center for Super Bowl XLI in Miami (Bears-Colts for those who have forgotten) and learning that Prince was about to perform a mini-concert for the news media to preview his halftime show.

It was heartbreaking to see how far the mighty Prince had fallen, not to mention how totally out of place the little squirt was in a football setting.

Still, I’m sure he put on a good, safe performance, which is what the always conservative NFL is looking for in programming this mass audience television event.

Being selected to play at halftime of the Super Bowl means that an act that once might have been considered edgy — like Madonna — has become so mainstream that hardly anybody in middle America would find it objectionable.

Look at the other halftime performers in recent years: Paul McCartney 2005, Rolling Stones 2006, Prince 2007, Tom Petty 2008, Bruce Springsteen 2009, The Who 2010, Black Eyed Peas 2011. Sure, they were all great acts in their time, but the Super Bowl would never have wanted them in their prime.

The Black Eyes Peas was also particularly tough for me, because I hadn’t even totally figured out what music they played, and then they were officially has-beens. It was the same feeling I got when the Smashing Pumpkins announced they were breaking up.

I started my list with 2005, because Janet Jackson and her famous “wardrobe malfunction” came in 2004, which muddies the water. But if you think back, it’s pretty clear that both her decision to perform and the exposed nipple were two sides of the same coin — a blast from the past trying to stay relevant.

But this is not a new phenomenon. By the time they did the Super Bowl, Michael Jackson (1993) and Diana Ross (1996) also were just the natural extension of the Up with People and marching band performances that preceded them.

(My own personal favorite halftime performer was trumpeter Al Hirt. Not really, but my dad really dug it.)

The New York Times reported last year that the NFL does not pay an appearance fee to the Super Bowl halftime acts, who are apparently more than happy for the anticipated bounce in album sales that comes from the extra attention.

I suppose the hypemeisters now want us to imagine some building tension over whether the Material Girl will do something naughty in Indianapolis, the site of the 2012 Super Bowl.

Folks, she’s 53, old enough to have seen Al Hirt play in Super Bowl I. Let’s hope she remembers that.



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