Jennifer Lopez walked into Hard Rock Stadium in Miami last night with something big to prove. After being snubbed by the Oscars for her work in Hustlers, she still had the Super Bowl halftime show to show her haters, doubters, and the entire Hollywood establishment who refuse to accept her that she is a force. So, she brought a stripper pole. Two of them, in fact.
Going into this, 50-year-old Lopez and 43-year-old Shakira were making history as the first two Latinas to perform on the Super Bowl halftime stage. It was also the first time in the modern era that two solo women performers over 40 took that stage together.
Shakira began with a short set that covered her catalog in both English and Spanish, but didn't overshadow the main attraction. She ran us through "She Wolf" and "Empire" with a sample of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," including a guitar solo briefly played by someone who appeared to be Jimmy Page himself, of whom the camera work barely got a clear shot. She sang "Ojos Así" and took us back to the 2002 MTV VMAs with "Whenever, Wherever." There was a strange moment of doing the original version of "I Like It Like That" with Bad Bunny, but it felt empty without Cardi B there for a verse. Stranger still, Cardi was in the stands watching. Shakira closed out with "Chantaje" and crowd-surfed away during "Hips Don't Lie," clearing the way for Lopez's grand entrance.
Lopez doesn't do things by half measures and she was already guaranteed to do the maximum in this performance, with her Oscars moment snagged away. She started her set swinging from an art deco building, Miami mashed up with NYC, wearing in a leather bodysuit and a long, flowing pink skirt — invoking the monster energy of King Kong but the feminine looks of the girl King Kong holds hostage. There wasn't a chance in the world she was opening the night with any song other than "Jenny from the Block." From there, it was a medley of the greatest J.Lo hits, including "Ain't It Funny" and "Get Right" — both pointed message songs to those who failed to give J.Lo her propers. She changed outfits midstream, going from a BDSM vibe to a futuristic robot to segue into "Waiting for Tonight," during which she turned the whole stadium into a mid-2000s club.
As promised, J Balvin joined her onstage next for a mash-up of his song "Que Calor" and "Love Don't Cost a Thing." This is about where the whole world started Googling to find out where Pitbull, Mr. Worldwide, Mr. Miami was and why in the hell he wasn't there. (All we know is that he's got tour dates starting February 7, he had a pre-show performance, and he was in a commercial so…maybe he's cool with it?) We got a little bit of "On the Floor," and at this point Lopez gave up on singing to put on a floor show of her own: the woman can dance.
Lopez and Shakira know why they're at the Super Bowl this year: it's Miami, sure, and the NFL has taken enough flack for not being in touch with or reflecting their location so something with a Latinx flavour was an appropriate choice. But there has also been pushback the last two years to the Super Bowl passing up excellent women performers for middling men. Justin Timberlake's lifeless performance in Tennessee and Maroon 5's out-of-step with the location performance in Atlanta were rightly yelled down for not being Janet Jackson or literally anyone in hip-hop instead.
It's no accident that Lopez's daughter, Emme Maribel Muñiz, was bathed in the light of the symbol for womanhood as it covered the stage when the mother-daughter duo began the final phase of their performance — with diverse children's choir and Shakira on the drums (quick and welcome reminder that women can play drums!). The song choice had a not-at-all subtle message also: "Let's Get Loud" mashed up with a moment of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." It was a call to women, a nod that says we see you, but it was also a moment for Dreamers and immigrants, who have faced incredible adversity under the Trump administration. Many noticed that the kids performing with them were in what looked like small cages, evoking the sense that Lopez and Shakira were urging immigrants to speak up about the abuses they have suffered under the administration's brutal family separation policy. They also used the moment to pay tribute to the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.
The performance ended on an odd note, with Shakira and Lopez coming together to perform "Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)," the former's 2010 World Cup song. Perhaps it was also a moment of unity in which the duo hoped to speak to other people of colour, but the song's legacy of strife with the African nation after that year hasn't quite died out and it landed as an off choice.
The NFL let two women — not just any women, but women of a certain age— perform, turn it up, and even bring a stripper pole. And the world didn't collapse in on itself. See guys, it's fine.