Dr. Dre hyped it ahead of time as “one of the best” halftime shows of all time. That’s setting an incredibly high bar. Prince, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, Madonna—over the years, some big names have delivered iconic sets on Super Bowl Sunday. But the 2022 Halftime Show, featuring the good doctor and a cadre of all-stars headlined by Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem, was all that was promised and more.
Snoop and Dr. Dre opened with “The Next Episode,” while perched on top of an elaborate set modeled after various parts of Los Angeles. And when the familiar opening to “California Love” began, the stage was surrounded by a score of dancers. The long-time friends and collaborators clearly had a blast recalling the glory days together in that sequence, and Snoop Dogg, clad in blue bandana print, deservedly lit up social media feeds subsequently with his smooth-as-silk dance moves.
That’s when it briefly went topsy-turvy. Just as Dr. Dre started to look a bit winded, the camera panned down to one of the rooms in the set, where 50 Cent—hanging upside down and surrounded by dancers—launched into 2003 banger “In Da Club.” While fun, 50 Cent (like Dr. Dre) appeared a bit out of breath by the end of it.
Again, the camera panned. This time, it found Mary J. Blige in white cheetah print, surrounded by a cadre of dancers in sparkling leotards, breaking into a supercharged rendition of the Dre-produced “Family Affair.” The performance was a triumphant return to the halftime show for Blige, who had a brief and ultimately unsatisfying cameo during the 2001 performance alongside headliners Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Nelly, and Aerosmith.
This time, front and center, Blige very clearly intended to leave nothing in the tank by the end of her performance. As she ended her last note, the queen of hip-hop soul dropped to the stage, flat on her back. It may be a little early to forecast, but this already feels like an iconic moment in the history of Super Bowl halftime shows.
On any other year, this might have been the end of the festivities. Instead, Kendrick Lamar entered the fray with his absolutely torrid “m.a.a.d. city” flow. Performance-wise, it was seemingly flawless: It’s almost like he heard Eminem earlier this week, calling him one of the most gifted lyricists of all time. Speaking of which, immediately following Lamar was the onetime Dr. Dre protege, emerging from an exploding platform and rapping his chorus to “Forgot About Dre.”
Unfortunately, what started strong hit a snag: Among the very few dead moments of the show was Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” which found him on stage stormed by another wave of dancers. Despite the catchy hook everybody knows, the verses of that song really came across as cheesy in comparison to the rest of the halftime show’s content. We really went through the classics just to get to that goofy bar about mom’s spaghetti? It could’ve easily done without it.
Things quickly got back on track, however, with a few nice moments in quick succession: Mary J. Blige and 50 Cent jamming together, up-and-comer Anderson .Paak on the drums surrounded by icons, and Dr. Dre taking the piano and playing a few notes of 2Pac’s “I Ain’t Mad at Cha.” Those chords faded seamlessly into the opening strains of “Still D.R.E,” which ended the program.
Though The Weeknd (2021) and Shakira and Jennifer Lopez (2020) did admirable work during the turbulent pandemic-era performances, this year was a clear return to form in terms of production possibilities for the Super Bowl production. Even more, it really did turn out to be—as Dr. Dre said in the lead-up—both a surprisingly effective tribute to hip-hop’s place in sports and pop culture, and a touching love letter to the City of Angels. Only Hollywood could write such a story: a star-studded performance going off without a hitch and then the home team walking away with the trophy.