For years now, the NFL has been bedazzling the Super Bowl with busloads of Hollywood stars and singers in an attempt to distract viewers from the fact that the game is usually a snooze-worthy blowout. But thanks to the New York Giants' historic last-minute victory Sunday night over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots, as well as an arena-rock-worthy halftime show from American icon Tom Petty, the people behind the big game finally got the mix of music and smash mouth right. (Except for the moments when it got things so, so wrong, which were also kind of great.) And so, we give you the first Super Bowl Musical Monday Morning Quarterback Report. (Also check out our take on Super Bowl movie ads — are you pumped for the next potential blockbusters?)
The Big Winners
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Classic rock has become the new standard at the big show, thanks to recent gigs by the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and last year's guitar-stroking extravaganza from Prince. And despite the suggestive beating-heart-pierced-by-Flying-V-guitar opening, laid-back Petty played his four-song halftime gig as if he were just strolling in for another night of work by the world's best bar band. No corny medleys, no hokey gimmicks, just unforgettable anthems that, frankly, by the end of the night couldn't have been more apt for both teams: "I Won't Back Down" (Giants), "Free Fallin' " (Patriots) and the nothing-but-hustle rocker "Runnin' Down a Dream" (Giants again).
Justin Timberlake: Though he mostly just got his ass kicked, the singer/actor proved his comic chops again in the hilarious Pepsi/Amazon "Magnetic Attraction" ad that mixed his slapstick abilities with a cameo from his "D--- in a Box" co-star, Andy Samberg.
Metal: As if the game needed any more aggro help, the Patriots entered to Ozzy Osbourne's iconic "Crazy Train," while the promos for Fox's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" pulled out Danzig's dark "Mother," a Toyota ad went indie by using Fu Manchu's "Mongoose" and the ad for the big-screen adaptation of "Iron Man" pulled out Audioslave's stomping "Cochise." And as the clock ran out, Europe's "The Final Countdown" brought an end to the Patriots' dream-turned-nightmare.
Kanye West: On the cusp of the Grammys, West's "Stronger" pumped over the loudspeakers as the soon-to-be world champion Giants ran out onto the field.
Jordin Sparks: Her dad, former Giants player Phillippi Sparks, never made it to the big dance, but his daughter did him proud with a stirring rendition of the national anthem in front of her hometown fans.
Alicia Keys: The Grammy winner plugged her upcoming tour with a rousing pregame medley that included "Fallin'," "If I Ain't Got You" and "As I Am."
Madonna/Shakira: Now we get how the Material Girl is the highest-paid female singer on the planet. Her brief appearance in an ad for Sunsilk hair products reportedly brought in millions. Shakira can't complain either. Not only did she get to plug her years-old hit "Whenever, Wherever," but she played alongside Madonna and Marilyn Monroe, which isn't bad company.
Alice Cooper: We have no idea what the original shock-rocker was doing crouching on the ground with his albino snake at the end of that Bridgestone Firestone ad (maybe lying in wait for co-star Richard Simmons to jog by?), but it worked.
Arcade Fire: The Canadian band's "No Cars Go" was used as a bumper by Fox during one of those dancing-robot bits, giving them massive exposure, though not likely the kind they desire. According to Pitchfork, although Fox asked permission to use the tune, it's unclear if the band gave its consent.
Kina Grannis: The unknown singer/songwriter, who won a Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl" competition and a deal with Interscope Records, was introduced on one of the world's biggest stages, singing her acoustic ballad "Message From Your Heart." The ad reportedly cost $5 million, so you better believe that they think she's got the goods.
Latch Key Kid: A close second to Grannis in terms of worldwide coming-out parties was the election-themed Coke ad scored to "Good Times" by Southern California musician Kid (real name: Gavin Heaney). The spot, featuring Democrat James Carville and Republican Bill Frist cavorting together, perfectly fit the mood of the cheery ditty about sharing good times with good friends.
The Flaming Lips: Our personal pick for the ultimate halftime band (think about it: aliens, spaceships, giant inflatable hands, dancing Santas and exploding confetti cannons!) subverted straight society for the umpteenth time when their proggy, Pink Floyd-like ode to running from lava flows, "Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung," accompanied a Ford Sync ad.
Bower: The fat guy who jump-started the car with his nipples in the Mountain Dew AMP ad? None other than Michael Bower, the guy who played Donkeylips on Nickelodeon's "Salute Your Shorts" and a budding rapper in the Eminem mode.
Paula Abdul: The "American Idol" judge's pre-taped, lip-synced "performance" of "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow," the first single from fellow judge Randy Jackson's new album, nearly rivaled the former pop star's infamous "baked potato" dance to "Vibeology" at the 1991 Video Music Awards. Save for the impressive male-dancer-assisted high kick/ split she pulled off near the end, the painfully '80s Janet Jackson rip-off tune and skinny-tie-era backup dancers made Adbul look like the Mrs. Robinson of dance pop. Judging those kids on "Idol" just got a lot harder.
Ben Roethlisberger: The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback's off-key warbling of "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" was supposed to be bad, we get it. But it was so bad, some Steelers fans might have preferred it if he entered a Superbike race instead.
Michael Jackson: At this point nobody wants to see the actual King of Pop in a TV ad, but the slimy digital reptiles doing the "Thriller" dance to promote the 25th anniversary of the singer's landmark album (oh, and SoBe Life Water too) were almost as creepy as a trip to Neverland Ranch.
LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Macy Gray and Missy Elliott: That fake-grinning, head-nodding Diet Pepsi Ad to the tune of Haddaway's club classic "What Is Love" was so cheesy that we agreed with "A Night at the Roxbury" star Chris Kattan when he yelled, "Stop it!" at the end.
"American Idol": Between Roethlisberger's lame ad and Abdul's crash-and-burn performance, not to mention bionic host Ryan Seacrest's painful "red carpet" interviews with the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, the show wasn't done any favors by its host network.