Hot Topic: The significance of having J Lo and Shakira performing at the Miami Superbowl Final

Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show

Not only did they provide an exuberant party, filled with jubilant voices, megamixes of their global hits and unquestionable talent, their half-time show was, as chief pop music critic Jon Pareles put it, “a no-nonsense affirmation of Latin pride and cultural diversity in a political climate where immigrants and American Latinos have been widely demonised.”

In the 54th year of the Super Bowl, this year marked the first that saw the historic half-time show headlined by Latina performers. Guest appearances from fellow Latino artists Bad Bunny and J Balvin added to the shows poignance. 

Both Lopez and Shakira appeared aware of the significance of their Super Bowl appearances. Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent told Reuters “I think that being at the Super Bowl ... is very symbolic in away, and I feel we have a great responsibility to the Latinos around the world,” 

“There is a lot to celebrate about our Latin culture, and it is a great opportunity to be on this very important stage,” she added.

During Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud,” segment, she performed the 1999 hit-release draped in a giant flag coat — one side of the flag featured the red, white and blue colours of Puerto Rico, and on the other the red, white and blue colours of the U.S. flag. It was a powerful show of solidarity to the island where her parents were born, which was only recently rocked by a damaging earthquake.  

"Born In The USA"

The singer, alongside her young daughter Emme, then broke out into a touching chorus of “Born In The USA” by Bruce Springsteen which resonated with many US-born Puerto Ricans.
Meanwhile, children in small, glowing cages were seen dotted around the playing field. This evocative imagery, according to many on social media, served as a reminder to President Trump about his "zero-tolerance" immigration policy, which has seen the separation of hundreds of parents from their children at the U.S.- Mexican border. Some of the children separated from their families were housed in what was described as “cages” at detention centres. 

While the chorus of the song portrays a picture of solidarity, audiences should be aware of the irony of the whole song whose lyrics are critical of American foreign policy. Lopez selected her chorus carefully. 

Shakira said in a pre- Super Bowl press conference, “I think Latinos are going through a difficult time in the U.S. right now, and I think it’s very important for us to convey a message of unity and also to show what a relevant force the Latino community is in this country, how much we have to offer, our idiosyncrasies, and our culture that is so diverse.”  

Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show

Shakira, a three-time Grammy award-winning singer, grew up in Barranquilla, Colombia and also lived in Miami for a time. It might have been impossible for her to believe at the start of her career that half of the Super Bowl show would be sung in Spanish, and this significance was something she recognised. 

"Being at the Super Bowl is very symbolic in away, and I feel we have a great responsibility with the Latinos around the world," she explained to Reuters.
"There is a lot to celebrate about our Latin culture, and it is a great opportunity to be on this very important stage."

Latin music- a growing trend

While the subtle acts of political comment were scattered throughout the performances, the Latin vibe would also have been enjoyed by many of the 100 million viewer world-wide audience.

A study by Nielson revealed that in 2018 Latin music grew by almost 50 percent, in comparison to 17 percent for the market as a whole. It’s growth continues, and Latin music now makes up a fifth of all video streaming. No doubt this Super Bowl performance, which gave worldwide audiences a fifteen-minute taste of Latin music, will support its growing popularity. 

These figures also reflect the demographic changes occurring in the U.S. From 2017 to 2022, the Hispanic population is predicted to make up 58 percent of the population growth, representing more than 20 percent of the country’s population.

The NFL- A game growing in diversity? 

As wider demographics for the U.S. continue to change, so do those of American football fans. The NFL said there are 30.2 million Hispanic fans in the United States, an increase of two million since 2017.

"The league's Hispanic fanbase has continued to grow rapidly," said an NFL spokesperson, "and our outreach to the Hispanic community is an important year-round initiative". 

"We also have a robust, season-long content plan to engage our US Hispanic fanbase including broadcast partnerships with Fox Deportes, ESPN Deportes and Entravision, as well as dedicated social media channels providing customized NFL content in Spanish." 

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs

However, the league’s increasing Hispanic fanbase and the selection of Latina performers is in stark contrast to the reality of the players on the field. According to the Miami Herald only 16 of the NFL's 1,696 players in the 2018 season were of Hispanic origin. Therefore the decision could also have been a tactical one in order to continue to recruit more players from Latinx backgrounds.

In a city such as Miami, where the population is 70 percent Hispanic, it would seem bizarre to not book two, multimillion-selling Latinas for the halftime show. The duo, Lopez and Shakira used their Latina roots to heavily influence their performances. They subtly tackled Latinx diaspora, though the statements were always draped in jubilation. This was a Superbowl party with a purpose.

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