Jan. 31, 2013 at 10:03 AM ET
The space between halves of the Super Bowl has far outgrown what was once a time slot allotted for food runs and bathroom breaks. The critical eye dedicated to the action on the field is also focused on the musical act that scores the coveted halftime spot.
It might be the highest-profile gig out there, but it's also the most fraught with hazards and it doesn't take much to make the 30-minute act memorable. In recent years performers got more attention for what went wrong rather than right -- Janet Jackson and her infamous "wardrobe malfunction" in 2004; M.I.A.’s middle finger to the camera last year.
So why would anyone take the job? Well, the giant global audience that makes the Super Bowl the most watched event on television every year is the blessing and the curse for an artist looking to gain massive exposure -- or prove continued relevance.
The pressure falls squarely on Beyonce this year, and is heightened after her did-she-or-didn’t-she national anthem at the Presidential Inauguration. More people will be watching that much more closely -- is it live or is it taped?
So how can she succeed? Here are some lessons based on what’s worked over the past decade -- and what hasn’t.
Be young and hip
Well, OK, she’s already got that going for her. Because of that, she’s already starting way ahead of acts like The Who, which was a big-name get that would have been more appropriate for one of the first Super Bowls than it was in 2010.
Pick your songs carefully
Don’t be like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were in 2008. Of all the songs they’ve recorded over the years, whose bright idea was it to go with “Free Fallin’” as part of the halftime show? Patriots fans really needed to be reminded that their undefeated season was free-falling out into nothing?
More to the point: The Super Bowl is one giant party. The music should be fun and festive and get people pumped up for the second half. This isn’t time for a power ballad.
And know your audience. Shania Twain and No Doubt put on a fine show in 2003. But perhaps “Man! I Feel like a Woman” and “Just a Girl” weren’t the best calls given the mostly male audience at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Live in the moment
The 2002 Super Bowl was arguably the best halftime show of recent vintage, because it fit so perfectly into the country’s mood at the time. U2 headlined what was a tribute to the victims of 9/11, and “Beautiful Day” captured the moment perfectly -- looking back in sorrow and anger at the attack, but optimistic about what was to come.
It would be hard to match that effort this year, but hey, that’s why there are so many people involved in planning the show. Surely someone in the group has a good idea.
Don’t be a trainwreck
It’s like the Hippocratic Oath for halftime show acts: Do no harm.
Getting Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson to headline the halftime show in 2004 was a coup, and it was an excellent performance ... right up until that darned wardrobe malfunction. And yet, what does everyone remember? The incident that got the FCC involved and kept everyone at the network up at night for months -- and, not incidentally, didn't do much for Jackson's career.
Even if most folks aren't giving their full attention to the screen, they'll start to focus if the announcers point out something like an obscene gesture or a bad attitude. Plus it will get repeated for days on the news, right after the best and worst commercials. This isn't the time to get creative with expressing yourself.
It’s not like that’s not going to be the first question anyone asks anyway, at least this year.
And besides, what’s the worst that can happen? Even if Beyonce drops a lyric or isn’t at her best, everyone will have forgotten about it as soon as the second half kicks off. That’s the beauty of being the Super Bowl halftime act.