This probably won’t last, so enjoy it. They were better than the Who. Give the Black Eyed Peas that. Look: Super Bowl Halftime Shows are atrocious as a matter of principle, an overblown tribute to the startling decrepitude of our old rock stars or the appalling tackiness of our new ones, and with apologies to Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones, and even Bruce Springsteen’s crotch, I’ll take young tackiness every time. So the Peas wore porno-Tron outfits, don’t so much sing as just yell at you semi-rhythmically, have no good songs other than “I Gotta Feeling,” and had to literally airlift Usher in just so they had one guy available who could do the splits. And yet, as a dumbfounded nation watched Fergie bray “Sweet Child O’ Mine” while grinding awkwardly against Slash, you felt way more affection for her than for him.
The mere presence of Slash is just depressing anymore — the dude is just permanently for hire, available to any menace-lacking pop star on earth who needs quick, innocuous shorthand for Dangerous Rock-Star Attitude. Slash will show up at a high school production of Fiddler on the Roof and play the “Sweet Child O’ Mine” riff for 90 seconds if you pay him $50. He is the Akon of hair metal, and that is no kind of thing to be. At least Axl is still legitimately self-destructive; at least Bret Michaels appears to be enjoying himself. Slash, by contrast, needs a new agent, and by new agent I mean any sentient human being who doesn’t have an email auto-reply set up that says, “Yes, absolutely, we’ll be there.”
As for Fergie. Ah, Fergie. She is basically Plan 9 from Outer Space in human form. Camp incarnate. Terrible in a stupendously charming way, like reality television, like Taco Bell, like chillwave. The perfect avatar for an era where pitchiness is a virtue, where amateurs are more famous than professionals, where to be too good at something is to invite accusations of elitism. She is somehow both 3008 and 2000-and-late. As if by some whimsical series of misunderstandings she’s to be permanently mistaken for a globally famous pop star, and she’s making the best of it. Just as you would. Her “Sweet Child” is delightfully ramshackle and ill-advised, delivered with a three-pack-a-day hacking rasp and a vindictive-kindergarten-teacher undertone. It was like a wisely deleted karaoke-bar scene from Up in the Air, and it gave you bums something to complain about on Twitter for awhile, and as such it was tremendously successful. Andy Warhol would’ve loved her. He would’ve worn earplugs half the time, but still.