With back-to-back sets from Colombian pop force Shakira and Bronx-born superstar Jennifer Lopez, Sunday’s Super Bowl Halftime Show in Miami packed a lot into its 14-minutes-and-change runtime. It contained bits of at least 20 songs, incorporated influences from all over the globe, and briefly gave the spotlight to two of Latin pop’s biggest current stars, Bad Bunny and J Balvin. It all added up to a revue with both dazzle and smarts, a high-energy dance party also containing gentle political provocations, and a reminder that those moments when America has opened itself to other cultures’ ideals are often the times when the country is at its best.
“The Super Bowl is a very American event, as American as it can get,” Shakira said during Thursday’s NFL-sponsored press conference. “...It’s also going to be a reminder of the heritage of this country, which is one of diversity.” The singer embraced this ideal with vigor, showing off her varied talents while tearing through a set that referenced her rock roots and looked forward to Latin pop’s future. She kicked off the show with the loopy title track from her 2009 album She Wolf, a disco-strings-assisted ode to female wildness that really should have been a bigger hit (its surreal lyrics and sweetly shy baying make it feel ripe for the TikTok age). She then segued into “Empire,” a refracted power ballad from her self-titled 2014 album, during which she whipped out her guitar. Its churning riffs provided a springboard into the agitated strings of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”—merely a lead-in to an instrumental of Shakira’s slinky 1998 track “Ojos Así,” which gave her an opportunity to show off her signature belly dancing.
For her hypnotic 2001 crossover hit “Whenever, Wherever,” Shakira led a phalanx of dancers through choreography that was both serpentine and stomping. This segued beautifully into her interpretation of the late-’60s boogaloo hit “I Like It Like That,” also known as the main hook of Cardi B’s 2018 posse cut “I Like It.” Cardi watched the goings-on from a stadium suite, but a glittered-up Bad Bunny was there to perform his verse, and to have a back-and-forth with Shakira over a salsa-tinged version of her “Chantaje” and his “Callaíta.” That led into the grand finale of “Hips Don't Lie,” where Shakira fell backwards into a crowdsurf, paid tribute to her Lebanese-Colombian heritage with a zaghrouta (an Arabic ululation of joy) and some thrashing mapalé (an Afro-Colombian dance), and closed her six-minute set with an ecstatic karate kick.
If anyone could follow such a kinetic display, it was J. Lo. She played off her Hustlers role in a way that seemed to be alerting the Academy of what they were missing by not nominating her, and suggesting that the Oscars telecast would be too small a stage for her talent anyway. Opening with the old-school rundown of her career that is “Jenny From the Block,” Lopez commanded the stage in studded black leather, descending from a lit-up dancer’s pole to meet an army of miniskirted-motorcycle-gang backup dancers. She segued into the leaned-back groove of the “Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix)” then quickly dispensed it for the skronky clamor of her 2005 hit “Get Right,” which she punctuated with a crotch-first slide reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen’s at the 2009 Super Bowl.
Lopez ascended the pole once more, twirling on it as lasers shot into the sky and dancers massed around her. Suspended in midair, she performed a freestyle-tinged “Waiting for Tonight” while her dancers writhed, updating Bob Fosse for the pop-residency era and giving her a boost on their shoulders. This summoned J Balvin, who laid down a snippet of his Major Lazer collab “Que Calor” before he and Lopez triumphantly blended his 2017 smash “Mi Gente” with her 2001 hit “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” While Miami’s own Pitbull didn’t appear for his Lopez collaboration “On the Floor”—Mr. Worldwide performed his Blake Shelton duet “Get Ready” during Sunday’s pregame show—its run-through was spirited, with Lopez’s harness-clad backup dancers swaying in time with the song’s sinuous hook.
From there, things got poignant and pointed. Scattered around the Venus-symbol-shaped stage were lit-up cages, where young dancers—including Lopez’s 11-year-old daughter, Emme Maribel Muñiz—sat and waited. Muñiz led a slowed-down version of her mother’s early-career hit “Let’s Get Loud,” backed by other children in American-flag-sequined sweatshirts. As the tempo increased (with Shakira assisting on drums), Lopez reappeared in a massive, furry cape that had the American flag on its exterior and the Puerto Rican flag on its interior. She yelled out “Latinos!” and flashed the cape’s lining—a reminder, along with Muñiz singing “Born In the U.S.A.,” that the island is part of the United States. Combined with this imagery, the “Born in the U.S.A.”/“Let’s Get Loud” mash-up that briefly followed gave Lopez’s song a dancing-at-the-revolution spirit, especially given the “keep politics out of sports” maxims that defined opposition to Colin Kaepernick’s anti-NFL protests.
The show ended on an exuberant note, with Shakira rejoining Lopez at center stage. After the two engaged in a brief booty shimmy, Shakira launched into her 2010 World Cup anthem “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),” which was accompanied by her and her dancers quick-stepping through champeta, another Afro-Colombian style. (Shakira apparently worked on the choreography with an 18-year-old from her hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia.) Lopez returned for a final run-through of “Let’s Get Loud” with some salsa and aerial moves, and ended the set side by shimmering side with Shakira.
It was a whirlwind of a halftime show, the opposite of last year’s wan Maroon 5 performance in so many ways: the connection to the game’s host city; the global reach in terms of genre and style; the dancing (so much dancing!); the surprise guests that actually made sense. This halftime show, the first in which Jay-Z’s Roc Nation had input, charted a potential course for not just the NFL’s mid-game spectacles, but for other organizations’ big moments as well.
While at first the dual-headliner setup seemed like a way to hedge bets, given that neither Shakira nor J. Lo had charted a Top-20 single in the U.S. since 2014, it paid off beautifully: There were two halftime shows’ worth of (mostly upbeat) music and dance, along with a potent message to be proud of where you came from, lift your voice, and raise hell. Shakira and Jennifer Lopez embodied these ideals with heart and gusto, and in the process opened doors to worlds far beyond Miami.
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork