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The NFL has decided that deep down, we all just really wanna be listening to Maroon 5 plug whatever passable garbage Adam Levine feels like playing this year for the Super Bowl Halftime. It should be noted that picking Maroon 5 as your show-stopper reeks of a decision made by the most out of touch suits or an algorithm designed to determine if it was possible to divide bland by 0.
The insult being added to this injury upon ears is the fact that the Super Bowl will be hosted in Atlanta, a city that's loaded with a nearly endless list of iconic, fun and relevant music acts — things no one has accused Maroon 5 of being since the Bush administration. So in light of this obvious slight, here’s just a few artists who would make way more sense and be way more entertaining than Maroon 5.
This one is a no-brainier that’s so glaringly obvious, I have to assume that Usher had to have been reached out to by the NFL to gauge his interest in headlining for the Halftime show in Atlanta (he’s guest started before back in 2011 with the Black Eyed Peas), and that he simply turned them down. Not the craziest of theories if you consider Rihanna was originally the first choice for the halftime show before she turned them down in protest over the treatment of Colin Kaeprnick (followed by Jay-Z, followed by P!nk, followed by Cardi B).
When it comes to star power, you can’t do much better. Achievements? He’s got em’ for days to the tune of 8 Grammys, 4 BET Awards, 18 Billboard Music Awards and People Magazine's coveted “Sexiest Man Alive” award. Hits? You don’t go platinum as many times as he has without knowing how to craft a hook with mainstream appeal. Pair that up with his made-for-tv looks, gorgeous voice, abs and stage presence, and you have the can’t-miss, prime-time event of the season.
Outkast put an entire regional scene on the national map. Soul and R&B singers from the South making it big wasn’t a new idea, but hip-hop was all but dominated by New York and California. Though a few hip-hop artists would emerge every now and then to challenge the status quo, it was Outkast, that weird duo who were clearly ahead of their time, who kicked down the door for Atlanta to become THE hip-hop capital of the world.
As Andre 3000 put it, at the Source Awards in 1995, when he and Big Boi took home the prize for Best New Group, “The south’s got something to say.” And Atlanta has had the loudest voice in the genre ever since. In their heyday, Andre 3000 and Big Boi set trends rather then following them, blending neo-soul sounds with hard-hitting, rapid fire verse delivery and socially conscious lyrics. Outkast haven’t recorded an album since 2006 and haven’t played together since their 20th anniversary tour back in 2014 with no plans to reunite again. However, since Big Boi was announced to make an appearance at this year's Super Bowl Halftime, show the rumors have persisted that there could be a surprise Outkast reunion. Anything is possible.
Fromer DJ turned rapper, Ludacris, all but defined the sounds of the dirty south right out the gate. Never having precisely one album that was considered a “classic,” Ludacris found a way into pop relevance by crashing the top 100 charts with classic single after classic single. Sure it’s easy to argue that Ludacris's sound, while fun at the time, sounds dated as hell these days with the Atlanta Trap sound dominating hip hop, but there was a time when you couldn't walk anywhere in public without hearing a flavor of the month song featuring Ludacris — often times the best part of the whole song.
For better or worse, this was the man who had a hand in making “Baby” by Justin Bieber borderline-listenable. That alone is a feat before you even consider his decade long career of ridiculously catchy anthems for any and all occasions.
4) Drivin N’ Cryin
When it comes to Atlanta’s music scene, soul and hip hop are our chief exports, but there are plenty of other sounds and genres to be found in Atlanta. There are artists that may have less of a national spotlight but still have a dedicated local following. Drivin N’ Cryin is one of those acts (Read our recent interview with Drivin N’ Cryin here). They have been active in the music scene since forming in 1985, and I will be forever pissed that America chose to embrace The Black Crowes instead of them as the go-to southern rock band from Georgia.
That’s not to say Drivin N’ Cryin have been slouches in the success department. Their 4th album, Fly Me Courageous, went certified gold and spawned quite possibly their biggest hit with the title track. But save for a few rock radio staples like “Honeysuckle Blue” and hands down the greatest drinking song ever, “Straight To Hell”, they never really got the love they deserved for being the damn good band that they are. Backed by the distinctive vocals of their frontman Kevin Kinney and their lovable, blue collar background, Drivin N Cryin served as the last gasp of southern rock popularity before it was all but cannibalized by the garbage that is arena country.
Yes it’s true, Atlanta does have an active metal scene which, side note, really does deserve your love. And when it comes to metal acts from the ATL, none have had the level of mainstream success, without sacrificing their intensity, as Mastodon have.
The four-piece metal outfit have been active since 2000, capturing the imaginations of old-head metalheads and newcomers alike with their intoxicating mix of galloping rhythms, blistering guitar solos, utilization of both harsh and clean vocals and making the heady concept album cool again (for evidence see Leviathan aka: Moby Dick: The Musical and Crack The Skye aka: Pink Floyd meets Russian folklore). And while the band have moved on to a slightly more accessible sound since their concept album days (to finally net them a long delayed Grammy win in 2018), they still remain a hungry sounding, creative collective that serve as a success story for Atlanta’s underground metal scene.
Now' comes the part where I try to pretend I'm above the runaway mainstream success that is the Atlanta trap scene. But there's no way I can honestly pretend I’m over Migos yet. While the Atlanta three-piece is far from the originator of trap, they are the most popular and most successful at it. They took what started in the Atlanta underground scene and took it worldwide.
The secret to their success? Just good, old-fashioned ears for catchy beats and solid production and those three-part lyrical harmonies that Quavo, Offset and Takeoff utilize so well. Sure, 50% of those lyrics are nonsensical noises with the remaining 50% being verses that wouldn't sound out of place scribbled on the back of a MARTA seat, but damn if they don't make it all work.
Migos are hot right now, rappers have all but displaced rockstars as the new rockstars of pop culture, and Atlanta trap has found its way into the top 40 charts, completely cementing itself as the sound of pop music going forward. So expect the NFL to completely ignore all of the above, miss the boat by a couple of decades, and we should see Migos play the halftime show for Super Bowl LXXXV in 2050.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the King Of The South. With 10 albums under his belt, 3 Grammy wins and a catalog of hard hitting, chart-topping singles, the native of Bankhead is quite the accomplished M.C. The fact that he released some of this best material in the early 2000’s against the meteoric rises of Jay-Z, Eminem, Nas, Lil Wayne and Kanye West, while still managing to stand out as his own distinctive voice is an achievement alone. And that’s before we even get into how he may have even technically invented trap music (Him or Gucci Mane depending on who you ask. It’s a long story). If anybody embodies the spirit and hustle of Atlanta's music scene, past and present, it’s this man. Bonus points: He’s the only entry on this list to appear in a Marvel movie. Twice.
Would it be amazing? Yes. Could T.I reasonably hold a crowd at attention? Yes! Would the NFL consider calling him to host in spite of the fact that he is openly boycotting them and is also a rapper? A resounding, dead-on-arrival “no.”