Maroon 5 did send some messages, just not the ones people were looking for.
Maroon 5 and lead vocalist Adam Levine’s halftime performance at the Super Bowl in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday didn't reach the heights of other recent halftime shows. And instead of addressing an ongoing controversy in the NFL — whether players should be able to kneel during the national anthem — it reopened up an older one.
The show kicked off with fireworks bursting from a stage designed like the letter "M," as the band opened with "Harder to Breathe" and worked through other hits like "Misery" and "This Love."
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Levine then entered the crowd as he sang the band’s iconic ballad, “She Will Be Loved.”
But Levine seemed to emphasize his own sex appeal more than any specific messages as he cast off his shirt and bared his many tattoos as he sang "Moves Like Jagger."
Some viewers compared it to Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl halftime show with Justin Timberlake, when Timberlake ripped her top to reveal a decoration around her breast in what became known as a "wardrobe malfunction." Some argue that the incident took a toll on Jackson’s music career and popularity, though Timberlake performed during last year's Super Bowl.
Many Twitter users noted a double standard in how people react to male celebrities’ and female celebrities’ nudity.
“Super Bowl halftime nipple rules feel inconsistent,” ESPN host Katie Nolan tweeted.
Maroon 5 also attempted to use their stage to share a message when they performed "Girls Like You," which celebrates female empowerment, backed by a gospel choir clad in blue robes.
Before even taking the stage, Maroon 5 and Levine’s performance were embroiled in controversy.
Maroon 5 and rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi committed to the performance after other artists reportedly backed out in protest of the NFL banning players from kneeling during the national anthem at games.
In May, the NFL established a new policy stating it would fine any league or team personnel who refuse to stand and “show respect” to the United States’ anthem and flag. The decision came after former NFL player Colin Kaepernick inspired widespread protests when he kneeled during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutality and racial inequality.
Artists like Rihanna and Pink reportedly refused to perform because of the league's new policy, while Jay-Z mentioned he declined an offer in a song. Cardi B also recently revealed that she said no to performing at the event until Kaepernick is rehired.
Comedian Amy Schumer refused to participate in a Super Bowl ad as a sign of support for Kaepernick and created a Change.org petition demanding Maroon 5 cancel their performance.
Kaepernick's attorney has accused the league and its team owners of intentionally blacklisting Kaepernick after his protests.
Maroon 5 agreed to perform after the NFL promised to donate $500,000 to the organization Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Travis Scott also agreed after the NFL said it would donate $500,000 to Dream Corps, activist Van Jones’ criminal justice reform group.
The NFL said the performers would "let their show do the talking," but there seemed to be no gesture toward it any of the songs by Maroon 5, Scott or Big Boi.
Scott rocketed to the stage in the middle of the show, but much of his rendition of No. 1 hit, "Sickomode," was bleeped out for curse words.
Some Twitter users compared the show unfavorably to recent ones by Lady Gaga and Beyonce. Other users called the underwhelming and boring.
Big Boi performed his hit with Outkast, "The Way You Move," though without former partner Andre 3000. His fur coat may have been the loudest and most exciting part of the performance.