I Had the Halftime of My Life

Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably well aware that the Super Bowl is happening this weekend. Even if you aren’t a sports fan, this is the one sporting event that you can’t ignore. You may not know who is playing (the Seattle Seahawks vs. the Denver Broncos) or where the game is being played (MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ) but there is no escaping the media blitz that accompanies the big game.

As a football fan I am of course looking forward to the actual game, especially since my pal Peyton Manning is playing this year. Seeing him get the chance to win a long overdue second ring softens the blow that my Bills are not in the Super Bowl, nor will they be in a Super Bowl for the foreseeable future.  There are always the commercials to look forward to (you can watch a lot of this year’s ads here), though overall I think they have not been as fun recently as they used to be. And even in years when I wasn’t too excited for either of the teams in the game, I almost always look forward to the halftime show.

This year the halftime show will feature Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers; I’m extremely curious to see how they are going to meld their two different styles together. I have no doubt that they will figure something out that works though of course the real question of the night will be if we get another “wardrobe malfunction” courtesy of RHCP bassist Flea. All of the Peppers have a history of wearing nothing but a well-placed sock during a performance, but Flea seems to me to be the most likely candidate to try and do it during the Super Bowl. That would be ill-advised, as the weather is supposed to be pretty darn chilly on Sunday night for those kinds of shenanigans. Shrinkage and all. Though I do think that they might be able to fit Bruno Mars entire body in a sock – that is one tiny man.

The Super Bowl halftime shows have something of a checkered past. Some were great, some were terrible and some were controversial. Few of them, however, were all that memorable. Thinking back, though I’ve watched the Super Bowl pretty consistently for nearly 30 years, I realized that I only recalled a handful of performances. I have vague recollections of some other years – I know, for instance, that both The Who and Paul McCartney did the halftime show, but I’d be hard pressed to give you more detail than that. When I think Super Bowl halftime shows, I think of the following performances:

Super Bowl XX – Up With People (1986)

This is actually the first Super Bowl that I remember. For some inexplicable reason, I was a big fan of William “Refrigerator” Perry and I was all excited to watch the Chicago Bears play in the big game. I have vivid memories of it snowing that day and sitting at our coffee table with a mug full of hot chocolate. I may have only been nine years old and I may have had no other point of reference, but even I knew this halftime show was crap. See, kids, back in the early days of the Super Bowl halftime shows, they weren’t the music superstar laden events that they are today. They weren’t seen as an attempt to lure in non-football fans, so instead viewers were subjected to a lot of marching bands and drill teams. It.Was.Awful. Up With People did the halftime show a whopping four times. There was even an Elivs impersonator one year. It was a dark time for America.

 

Super Bowl XXVII– Michael Jackson (1993)

 

I realize that I skipped over what should have been a memorable halftime show for me in 1991 when New Kids on the Block performed, but I honestly have no recollection of this happening. I chalk it up to the trauma of what happened in the game, when the words “wide right” became permanently ingrained into the subconscious of all of Buffalo. I wasn’t even an official fan of the Bills at the time, but I was rooting for them and inexplicably even wagered a week’s worth of lunches with someone at school. I guess I had a soft spot in my heart for Buffalo even way back then. In retrospect, this game was a warning of what my Bills’ future would hold.

Anyway, I remember watching this game over at my best friend Shana’s house with a bunch of our friends; as a group, we weren’t really that interested in the game, but I remember everyone watching Michael Jackson and debating what we thought about him. This was right before the first of his child molestation charges would surface and then things with him would get really weird (and they were already pretty weird). He was still pretty popular, but not as dominant as he once was. This was the first halftime show that was basically just a concert (no Disney characters dancing around) and it brought in high ratings. This was a bit of a turning point; from here on in, major acts were consistently recruited to perform.

Super Bowl XXXV – Aerosmith, N’Sync and Britney Spears (2001)

 

This halftime show was an interesting meld of the old and the new and is actually one of the performances that I enjoyed the most, perhaps because it had a high probability of being terrible. A show comprised of Aerosmith, N’Sync and Britney Spears is not necessarily a combination that I would have come up with on my own – remember this was the pre-American Idol Steven Tyler, so there was a little more rock and roll associated with Aerosmith. The “Bad Boys of Boston” were no strangers to collaboration – see their duet with Run D-M-C – but this was something different. I just remember this performance being a lot of fun.

Super Bowl XXXVI – U2 (2002)

 

This was potentially the saddest of the bunch, as this was the first Super Bowl after September 11th. U2 actually did a great job with a nice tribute to those who died without getting too depressing. They stuck the perfect tone and it was really a beautiful performance.

Super Bowl XXXVII – Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, and Justin Timberlake (2004)*

 

Be honest – does anyone even remember that P. Diddy, Nelly and Kid Rock were even a part of this halftime show? Of course not. All anyone remembers is the fateful “wardrobe malfunction” heard round the world. I was watching this Super Bowl with friends in Massachusetts, where I’m sure I was annoying everyone there by not rooting for the Patriots and for cheering for a safety so that I would hit with my Super Bowl square. I actually saw the wardrobe malfunction as it happened – I was the only person really paying attention to the halftime show and I remember whipping my head around to see if anyone else saw what I saw or if I had just imagined that I just saw Janet Jackson’s breast.

This was the halftime show that would result in almost a decade of old white guys being selected to be performers, who were deemed to be less of a potential risk (sound logic since so many of them could barely move). This was also the halftime show that soured me a bit on Justin Timberlake; I never really respected how he hung Janet Jackson out to dry and forced her to take all the heat for what happened. I thought that showed cowardice and while I’ve come back around on JT, it hasn’t left the back of my mind that when the chips were down, he ran away.

*Oddly, this was the only full performance that I couldn’t find on YouTube – though of course there were plenty of videos featuring the offending incident.

Super Bowl XLIII – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2009)

 

I’ll admit that this performance is probably only memorable to me because I love Springsteen, but I thought he and the E Street band put on one hell of an entertaining show. It was high energy (unsurprising given their penchant for 3+ hour concerts) and though I may have been the only person rocking out at the bar, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Springsteen even livened things up a bit by sliding right into the camera, giving the world a (fully clothed) crotch shot.

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Super Bowl XLVI– Madonna (2012)

 

This was the first post-Janet Jackson halftime show that had the real potential for something interesting or racy to happen. Nothing all that ordinary happened – save for a few scantily clad men – but this performance is what convinced me that I had to fulfill my dream of going to see Madonna live sooner rather than later. She still had it, but she was slowing down a step and I wanted to see her before it would be disappointing. I’m thankful that I saw her that summer, based on what I saw at the Grammys this year. I know that she was injured, but she sounded terrible.

 

Super Bowl VLVII – Beyoncé (2013)

 

I am usually one of the only women at the bar where we watch the Super Bowl every year (minus the staff) so it is no surprise that I was the only person who was really excited to see Beyoncé take the stage and for the rumored Destiny’s Child reunion. I thought Beyoncé killed it and it may or may not have encouraged some slightly intoxicated men at the bar to try and do the “Single Ladies” dance.

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The past is the past; while these are the halftime shows that are most memorable to me, what about the future? If I was in charge of booking the talent, the following acts would be on my wish list:

  • Journey – My love for this band is well established, but I think that they would do a great job. Their new lead singer loves to run around the stage and would be exciting to watch. Plus you are hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t secretly like Journey. A performance of “Don’t Stop Believin” would bring the house down.
  • Kanye West – I know, I know – people hate this guy. He is a little delusional and insufferable. But having seen him perform live and experiencing the crazy genius that is Kanye, I would love to see what he would do with such a performance on such a large scale. It would be bat shit crazy and totally over the top – and I’m sure that half of the country would despise every minute of it. But it would be guaranteed to be memorable, regardless. The Internet might explode.
  • Foo Fighters – Probably my favorite band, I think that they would give us a rocking crowd pleasing performance. The real challenge would be convincing them to take the gig; the Super Bowl may be too corporate for their liking and they don’t really need the bump.

Who would you like to see perform at the Super Bowl? Who have been your favorite halftime performances? Sound off in the comments below – and enjoy the game Sunday!

Song(s) for the Dumped*

Almost everyone has fallen in love. And just about everyone, at one point or another, has been dumped. It’s the circle of life in dating – sometimes you are the dumper and sometimes you are the dumpee, but you pick yourself up and move on to the next person until you find your soul mate (or you hit 30 and just marry the first person who asks that you can stand. Just kidding – sort of). Unless you met your partner when you were thirteen and were never “on a break,” everyone has experienced the heartache associated with a breakup. It’s one of life’s little rites of passage. Breakups aren’t fun, but it is something that everyone can relate to.

Everyone has their own method of dealing with the end of a relationship; the more ambitious among us channel their heartbreak by hitting the gym (I am not one of those people). Some people like to watch sad movies; others drown their sorrows in a bottle of whiskey or a carton of ice cream (or maybe both). For my money, there is nothing better than listening to some great break up songs. While love songs get all the attention and praise, songs that focus on the termination of a love affair can be extremely therapeutic. There’s nothing like cranking up some tunes and singing along at the top of your lungs with someone who can identify with what you’re going through. Some people find solace in sappy songs about love lost and the pain that they are going through, but I generally tend to favor songs that strike a more defiant, f*&k you tone. That is somewhat surprising as that doesn’t really fit my personality, but I guess when I am done I am DONE. Plus those songs tend to have a better beat.

So when a relationship comes to its conclusion, regardless of who ended it, I’m likely to blare one or more of the songs below to make myself feel better. The irony is that though I should associate these songs with bad memories, these are songs that I generally like. I’ll listen to them even if I’m not trying to get over something. A good song is a good song, no matter what the context. Maybe that is part of the process. Whatever the reason, these songs seem to do the trick.

Heather’s Breakup Song Hall of Fame:
“What it Takes” – Aerosmith

This is my original go to breakup song to listen to; if you heard this coming out of my room in college, it wasn’t a good thing (and I played it a lot).

Tell me what it takes to let you go.
Tell me how the pain’s supposed to go.
Tell me how it is that you can sleep in the night without thinking you lost
Everything that was good in your life to the toss of the dice?

“Since U Been Gone” – Kelly Clarkson

Grammatical issues in the title aside, this is a great anthem. When this is the first song you identify with in a relationship, it’s time to call it quits (sadly, that is a true story – be smarter than me).

But since you’ve been gone
I can breathe for the first time
I’m so moving on, oh, yeah, yeah
Thanks to you now I get, I get what I want

Honorable mention: “Stronger”

 
“Song for the Dumped” – Ben Folds Five

The song that gives this post its name may in fact be the greatest breakup song of all time.

Give me my money back
Give me my money back
You bitch
I want my money back
And don’t forget to give me back my black T-Shirt

“I’ve Done Everything for You” – Rick Springfield

Everyone knows Springfield’s hit “Jessie’s Girl,” which is a great song, but I think this song is just as catchy. It’s a little bitter, but it is danceable.

This one way love affair ain’t fair, it ain’t no fair to me
It’s all give and take and you just take
I can’t take it you see
Well, I’m givin’ up on love this time
Me and my friends, we’ll do just fine

“Somebody That I Used to Know” – Gotye

It is one thing to end a relationship that wasn’t working, it is quite another when one of the people pretends that the relationship never meant anything. This song perfectly captures those emotions. It’s such a pretty song that you don’t even realize how sad it is.

But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make it like it never happened and that we were nothing
 I don’t even need your love, but you treat me like a stranger
And that feels so rough

“What Goes Around Comes Around” – Justin Timberlake

The obvious choice here would have been “Cry Me a River,” but while I like that song I actually prefer this one. For whatever reason, the lyrics to this song speak to me more.

You know I gave you the world
You had me in the palm of your hand
So why your love went away
I just can’t seem to understand
Thought it was me and you, baby
Me and you until the end
But I guess I was wrong

“The Sign” – Ace of Base
You know, I never really paid attention to the lyrics of this song so I didn’t even realize it was a breakup song at first (even as I was singing along with it). Poppy and upbeat.

 

I got a new life
You would hardly recognize me I’m so glad
How could a person like me care for you?
(Why?)Why do I bother
When you’re not the one for me

“Don’t Speak” – No Doubt

Inspired by the real life breakup of band mates Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal, which must have been awkward for them to perform together (also see pretty much the whole Rumors album by Fleetwood Mac).

You and me
We used to be together
Everyday together always
I really feel
That I’m losing my best friend
I can’t believe
This could be the end
“You’ll Think of Me” – Keith Urban

I’m not really a country fan – though I find myself listening to it more lately – but this song is just really pretty.

 

And take your cap and leave my sweater
‘Cause we have nothing left to weather
In fact I’ll feel a whole lot better
But you’ll think of me, you’ll think of me

“I Will Survive” – Cake
This is kind of the ultimate moving on song, but most people like the Gloria Gaynor classic. I actually prefer this version by Cake. I always have to be different. Plus their version has cursing.

Oh now go, walk out the door
Just turn around now, you’re not welcome anymore.
Weren’t you the one who tried to break me with desire?
Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?

“So What” – Pink

This is a great song for when you are in full on spite mode. Pink does not strike me as a pint of ice cream girl. Plus she’s right – I AM a rock star.

So what I’m still a rock star
I got my rock moves
And I don’t need you
And guess what
I’m havin more fun
And now that were done
I’m gonna show you tonight

“You Oughta Know” – Alanis Morissette

I don’t think any list of break up songs could really be complete with this song that I remember terrifying my male class mates in college. “She’s so mad” they would say. Exactly, dummies

And every time you speak her name
Does she know how you told me you’d hold me
Until you died, til you died
But you’re still alive

“Wide Awake” – Katy Perry

Katy Perry songs tend to be more upbeat as a rule, but this song written after her divorce is good medicine for the broken heart.

I’m wide awake
Yeah, I was in the dark
I was falling hard
With an open heart
I’m wide awake
How did I read the stars so wrong?

“Goodbye to You” – Scandal

Yet another catchy song about being over a relationship that just isn’t working. Sometimes you just get tired of trying.

These last few weeks of holding on
The days are dull, the nights are long
Guess it’s better to say
Goodbye to you

Take your pick of Taylor Swift songs

Taylor Swift seems to have two speeds – falling in love and breaking up. She has mined her love life for material, making veiled references to past boyfriends (and not so veiled references in her liner notes). She’s good to listen to during a breakup because your love life is probably not the disaster that hers is.

I’m really gonna miss you picking fights
And me, falling for it screaming that I’m right
And you, would hide away and find your piece of mind
With some indie record that’s much cooler than mine

“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” – Bob Dylan

I love Bob Dylan and think he is an amazing songwriter. So it’s no surprise that he can write a great song about a breakup.

I ain’t saying you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.

Honorable mention: “It Ain’t Me Babe”

“The Dance” – Garth Brooks

This song is probably the healthiest on the list and the one that best surmises how I eventually feel after the end of a relationship – the pain of heartbreak is sometimes the price you pay for wonderful memories and experiences. What you choose to dwell on is up to you, but I eventually focus more on “the dance.”

And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance

Now it’s your turn – what are your favorite breakup songs? What do you listen to in order to get through the end of the relationship? Sound off in the comments below.

*Disclaimer – I am not currently going through a breakup. I’ve had this idea for a post for a while and finally got around to doing it. I’m actually really happy at the moment.

Boston – A Pop Culture Tribute

Given the tragic bombings in Boston yesterday, I can’t help but have the city on my mind. I have always loved the city of Boston; though it is one of America’s oldest cities, it also has a distinctively young vibe to it because of all the colleges and young professionals that settle in the area. After I graduated from college a large number of my friends moved to Boston, so I have been a frequent visitor to the city over the years (listen when people tell you to skip the climb to the Bunker Hill monument – it really isn’t worth it). I saw my first professional baseball and hockey games in Boston and it was the first major city I ever wandered around alone and unsupervised at the age of 11 (thanks inadequately chaperoned field trip!). As a Yankees and Bills fan, my sporting life in inevitable intertwined with the city.  I have so many fond memories in Boston that while I would weep for whatever city this happened to, this attack had special resonance to me.
To send a little love Boston’s way, today’s blog will feature some of my favorite Beantown inspired pop culture. The city has been the setting for many movies, books and TV shows and has given the world many actors and musicians, so it didn’t take long to come up with a short list of all the ways that Boston has influenced the world of pop culture.

  • New Kids on the Block – I may have retired from my boy band ways, but there is no getting around the fact that for a few select years of my life, NKOTB was pretty much the center of my universe. All the guys are from the Boston area and often paid tribute to their city in their choice of attire. It is because of my childhood crush on Joey McIntyre that I find the Boston accent so charming. My infatuation with the group helped spark my interest in Boston and is probably why I know so much about the city today.

 

  • Fenway Park – I have my issues with the team that plays there, but I’ve always enjoyed my trips to Fenway. Next to Yankee Stadium(s), it is the ballpark that I’ve spent the most time in and I love the old time feel of the place. I always have a good time wandering around Yawkey Way before a game and I’ve had one of the best sausage and peppers sandwiches of my life from one of the stands outside the stadium. Fenway is a great part of the history of not only Boston, but of baseball, and I’m glad that it exists.
From my most recent trip to Fenway

From my most recent trip to Fenway

 

  • Dennis Lehane books – I am a big fan of the author Dennis Lehane, who wrote Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River and Shutter Island, and the majority of his books take place in the city of Boston. His novels have a noir feel and tend to portray the working class neighborhoods of the city (“Southie” is a particular favorite local of his); Lehane is from Dorchester, so he knows that of which he writes and his novels have an authentic local feel to them. He may focus on the seedy underbelly of many of the neighborhoods, but he does so with respect and love. His books have been successfully adapted into movies and I think the ease of that transition is due to the fact that he creates such a clear picture of the world that his stories are occurring in that it makes it harder for a director or screenwriter to screw it up.

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  • Cheers – Who wouldn’t want to go to a bar where everybody knows your name? The Bull and Finch bar in Boston was the loose model for the bar in Cheers and is used for the exterior shot of the bar during the credits (though the actual bar is much smaller). While Cheers felt like a lot of neighborhood bars, there is no denying that the show had a Boston flair to it – references were often made to the city and the sports teams and many Boston figures found their way into Cheers for a pint.

 

  • Dropkick Murphys – They are technically from Quincy, but I feel like that is close enough to count. Boston has historically Irish roots and the Dropkick Murphys’ brand of Celtic punk adequately pays homage to that ancestry. Their cover of the song “Tessie” became the unofficial anthem of the 2004 Red Sox team and their quest to finally win a World Series after an 86 year drought. I used to listen to Dropkick Murphys to get myself pumped up on the elliptical and before fantasy baseball drafts (when you are the only girl in the league, you need to bring your game face to be taken seriously).

 

  • The Departed – Lots of movies have been set in Boston, but I think The Departed is among my favorites. A great cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Jack Nicholson) and fantastic director (Martin Scorsese would win an Oscar) helped make this adaption of the Korean film Infernal Affairs (which I also have seen) so successful and memorable. And yes, that is a Dropkick Murphys song playing in the background.

 

  • Matt Damon and Ben Affleck – Both these actors have been ambassadors for the city of Boston during their careers. The two actors grew up together in Cambridge and have always been loyal to their Boston area roots. Their first collaboration, Good Will Hunting, was set in Boston and Affleck cut his teeth as a director with two movies that were both located in Boston (Gone Baby Gone and The Town). The city means a lot to them; in the wake of the bombing, Affleck posted the Facebook message “Such a senseless and tragic day. My family and I send our love to our beloved and resilient Boston.”

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  • Sully and Denise on Saturday Night Live – I always got a kick out of these characters played by Jimmy Fallon and Rachel Dratch.  These sketches never failed to make me laugh, even if they were exaggerated caricatures of how people see Boston residents. Besides, it is well established that I love just about anything associated with Fallon (though even I didn’t like the movie Taxi – that was terrible). This sketch features an appearance by another one of my favorite things from the Boston area – Conon O’Brien!

 

  • Aerosmith – My love for the “bad boys of Boston” is well documented and no list of my favorite things would be complete without them, even without the Boston specific focus of this list. After more than 40 years together, they still know how to rock; when I saw them live last year, they seemed just an energized as a band half their age.

 

I’m sure the list could go on and on; the Boston area has given us so much and now it is our time to give something back to them. All of my friends in the area were fortunately safe and sound yesterday, but many people weren’t so lucky. Boston is a resilient city and I have no doubt that they will come out of this terrible experience only stronger. The entire nation is thinking of them during this dark time. This message last night on the Brooklyn Academy says it all:

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Stay strong Boston – we’re with you!