She Found Love in a Hapless Place – Rihanna and the Superbowl

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The revelation that she is pregnant goes some way towards explaining Rihanna’s half-time performance at the Superbowl, but it’s not an excuse. And I use the word ‘performance’ lightly. Shrouded in pink like the giant ghoul from the horror movie The Blob, she descended from the skies and, from the outset, seemed merely to be going through the motions.

I use the word ‘motions’ loosely, too, as they appeared somewhat limited, given the apparent precariousness of the set. Even her rats’ tail coiffure barely moved a follicle. It was as if she were holding onto a full bladder and just praying she’d make it to the end before engulfing her audience in a deluge.

And is it wise to don high heels standing on a ledge in mid-air, with baby number two growing inside you?

For the first few minutes, it was impossible to understand a word she was singing – well, shouting, really. Then, slowly emerging from the terrible throbbing racket of incessant thumping beats, a few of her hits were discernible, including the dreadful We Found Love in a Hopeless Place, whose repetitive lyrics were dredged from an even more hopeless place: a verbal wasteland that is the linguistic nadir of pop.

The baby bump did nothing to explain what should have been called the half-time masturbation show. From the moment Rihanna gyrated her crotch – the only bit of her that seemed willing to move, we knew what we were in for. Certainly not a show for an audience of well over 100million in the US alone, nor a show suited for family viewing and younger kids.

Rubbing her backside, then her front, several times, it seemed as if she was taking time out to pleasure herself between beats. We are used to over-sexualized displays from pop stars, but on this stage, it was nothing more than inappropriate and gratuitous exhibitionism.

There was some impressive choreography from the accompanying dancing sperm in sunglasses, though. If ever you’ve seen Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, you’ll get what I mean. They multiplied, too, and by the end were a veritable sperm bank.

Country music star Chris Stapleton  was even more lackluster in his rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, which was the other great musical letdown. Country music may be one of the US’s greatest joys, if music to slit your wrists to is your thing, but for the anthem at the Superbowl, it’s just not big enough. The anthem needs – and deserves – to be sung by a singer with a belter of a voice whose lungs appear to be bursting with pride, not someone who sounds as if they’re asking Blake Shelton if he wants another beer.

Still, it managed to move Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni to tears, although probably not as many as he shed when his team lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the dying seconds. I hadn’t known who to support before the game, but a man in tears will always give his side the edge. He is also a great deal hotter than Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Huge congratulations to him and his team, of course, but really, mate, you need to lay off the pies. He’s my age and looks as if he’s eaten six of me for breakfast. With fries.

Aside from the fantastically exciting and close game, there was plenty of entertainment from the ads. Serena Williams starred in two – for Michelob Ultra and Rémy Martin Cognac, a drink she has said she particularly likes. What a great endorsement for the French libation. I’m going to down a bottle for lunch and see how much my tennis improves.

I was less inspired by the Bud Light commercial, but that’s only because in Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, the man downed gallons of Budweiser on a daily basis. I’m sure there’s no link between this fine product and becoming a serial killer and cannibal, but I’m not prepared to take the risk.

I won’t be trying any Dunkin’ Donuts, either, not least because I’m sick of the sight of Ben Affleck and his simpering wife Jennifer Lopez, who fronted it. He’s a decent enough actor, but he’s no Al Pacino. With her, I’m always torn between two of her roles – Maid in Manhattan and Marry Me – as being among the worst movie performances of all time. And I doubt whether any donut, dunkin’ or any other sort, has ever passed those lips. Anyway, enough of the pair of them already! In any case, there probably won’t be any donuts left when Andy Reid gets wind of them.

A better pairing was Jon Hamm and Brie Larson, who were joined by Pete Davidson in the Hellman’s commercial. Brie as in cheese and Hamm as in Ham. It’s the kind of pun that should have gone down the plughole from the bath in which it was obviously dreamed up.

Food and drink have always featured heavily during the Superbowl’s commercial breaks, but amidst the donuts and The Big New Yorker – the world’s largest pizza – this year there was more of a nod to sensible consumption, particularly in regard to drinking. Pepsi with zero sugar, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra Lite, even alcohol-free Heineken. What’s that all about?

There were also some really left of field ads in the mix, including one for VMS menopause relief. That’s something of a mind leap to go from shouting, ‘Great touchdown!’ at your screen to, ‘What can I take for my night sweats?’ The Superbowl should be a place where women of a certain age can for a few precious hours not be reminded of how vile growing older is.

Jesus put in a couple of sneaky appearances, too. First came a sweet movie courtesy of featuring a lot of adorable kids and reminding us that ‘Jesus didn’t want us to act like adults.’ Really? The Gospels have loads of examples of when he basically told his disciples, not to mention, hundreds of other people, to grow up.

The next one stressed that ‘Jesus loved the people we hate.’ They were nice enough ads, but in this context, maybe one about Jesus teaching us his trick of turning water into wine would have been more appropriate. Not Wine Lite, either, thank you very much.

Disney reminded us of its 100-year anniversary, the exact date being October 16th this year. ‘You made this dream come true,’ it cooed, with clips from its hugely successful archive. My most lasting memories of Disney are dying fluffy animals, or unhappy animals grieving for their dying fluffy parents. More of a nightmare, really.

Superstars turned up in high numbers. Paul McCartney, Floyd Mayweather, Adele, Bradley Cooper – it’s not a Superbowl without the A-List celebs.

For me, man of the night was the Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Has anyone ever smiled as much during what must be the most stressful of circumstances? His beaming face pulled at my heartstrings just as much as the tears of Nick Sirianni had done.

All in all – half-time show aside – it was a great night for Fox TV At the start came the announcement, ‘Coming up, we celebrate America.’ It certainly did that.

And so, it’s all over for another year – sort of. The new NFL season starts on September 7th, which also happens to be Salami Day in the country’s food calendar. Don’t tell Andy Reid.