Sunday (Feb. 6) will mark the Black Eyed Peas’ second appearance at the Super Bowl. Don’t worry if you don’t remember the first time. It was for a small audience.
“Last year when The Who played, the Dolphins owner gave us a VIP booth,” will.i.am recalls. “Right before the Who went on for halftime, they played ‘I Gotta Feeling.’ We jumped outside [our suite] and we were jumping up and down. The whole section turned around.”
When they take the stage Sunday at Arlington, Texas’s Cowboy Stadium, the Peas will have considerably more people watching: Like 100 million more. And they are ready. While much of the 12-minute performance remains a secret, will.i.am promises it will be interactive, possibly involving the field, not just the stage. He also says he’s trying to fit in eight costume changes, and he’s not kidding. On Thursday, the AP reported that the Black Eyed Peas would be joined by Slash and Usher during their performance.
Even before the group’s impromptu appearance last year, they have been preparing for this moment for a long time. In an interview I did with will.i.am that first appeared in Variety in January, he noted that the Peas have played two season kick-off concerts and a number of Super Bowl pre-shows, all in a bid to get to the big game.
“We’ve been working our way up to play the Super Bowl. We worked hard,” he says.
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The Black Eyed Peas’ appearance marks a return to contemporary pop for the Super Bowl; the last six years featured classic rock acts such as the aforementioned Who, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney.
The challenge for any act is figuring out how to present a mini-concert in such a short time span that authentically represents the group. “How do we perform this song living these bits out? Does it flow right? Does this seem like 12 minutes of a good time?,” will.i.am says are some of the considerations in determining song selection.
The other issue is how do you keep the party going, given that potentially half of the viewers will be upset if their team is losing at half-time.
“How do you keep the energy up even with the cats that are getting their booty whipped?” he says. “That’s the odd part of the half-time show. Half of the people are going to be excited, half of the people will be pissed. Hopefully, when we go on, it will be a tie,” he laughs. The Pittsburgh Steelers are favored in the the game against the Green Bay Packers.
Remarkably, this won’t be the biggest audience the Peas have played in front of, but it is the most exciting for will.i.am. The group played in front of an estimated billion people during the World Cup and with so many different cultures watching, he says there can be a bit of a disconnect. Not so with the Super Bowl.
“I’m American. I know what the Super Bowl mean. I know the history of the Super Bowl,” he says. “I know it’s our unofficial holiday. I know every single brand is coming with the dopest commercials. I know what it means. It’s more than a hundred million people because of what happens after the Super Bowl. You have everyone talking about it. ‘Did you see the half-time show? I loved it. I hated it.’ I want them to have a conversation.”