She almost stole the show from Katy Perry Sunday night, and Britt Julious argues that the return of Missy Elliott is exactly what pop music needs.
After Katy Perry rode through the Super Bowl stadium on a glittery, mechanical tiger and performed simplistic dance routines with dancing beach balls and sharks, Missy Elliott almost stole the show with her stripped down simplicity.
After an enforced almost decade-long hiatus due to severe complications from Graves’ disease (she once claimed the condition made it impossible for her to even hold a pen), witnessing Elliott in her most fun and seemingly healthiest form was a blessing bestowed upon an otherwise staid first half featuring Perry’s theatrics.
Elliott herself was not a surprise – her guest appearance during the Super Bowl halftime show was announced days before the game. What did surprise was the swift realisation that Elliott was sorely missed and that pop and hip-hop music have not been the same without her.
The current pop and hip-hop landscape is one littered with excessively manufactured acts offering little in the way of talent and relying too much on the sort of charisma that barely resembles charisma at all like Lady Gaga’s incomprehensible Artpop or Iggy Azalea’s fun but one-note Clueless-referencing video for Fancy.
In 2015, many of our mainstream acts survive because our standards are so low. When asked about her hiatus last year, Missy said she didn’t want to put out “microwave” records for the sake of putting her name out. Quality control is something she takes seriously.
Elliott represents pop music at its purest. I am sure she was calculated in each album’s singles or the videos she produced for each record, but Elliott feels like a bygone product of a simpler time when what really mattered was the music. She often used classic theatrics like slick dancing from child prodigies or progressive music videos featuring afro-futurist themes like in The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly). But her music truly made her a star.
Listening to Elliott was a study in genius, the kind we rarely witness today. To know her music was to know what it meant to be a true artist, not someone who simply pulled in the hottest or freshest producers, not someone who curated the right fashion aesthetics, not someone who solely wore costumes to distract from what lacked in her sound. Everyone remembers the garbage bag-like puffer costume of The Rain, but they also remember the flawless Ann Peebles sample and the stark, hypnotic beat.
We see bits and pieces of this in pop today. Taylor Swift removed her music from Spotify, certain that her fans would purchase her music – and they did. Sam Smith and Adele have broken through not with showy performances but with the strength of their voices and the universality of their lyrics. Beyonce dropped her most accomplished album overnight in 2013 with no warning. But for the most part, the pop world chugs along and we suffer because of it.
Watching Elliott perform on stage – lively, smiling, silly – articulated the differences between the then and the now. Elliott’s heyday was a prime moment for hip-hop and pop. She, along The Neptunes and Timbaland, made music that was both complex and enjoyable. Their heavy use of difficult-to-place samples, multi-layered beats, and catchy lyrics were both catnip for music nerds eager to soak up the encyclopedic knowledge of rap, funk, and R&B that drove their unique sounds as well as clubgoers just interested in something to bounce to. Pop and hip-hop don’t fit within those same lines anymore, with the consensus instead being slanted melodies and staccato, boring beats.
Elliott was a strange choice for Perry, a pop star who relies on theatrics as much as someone like Lady Gaga, but surpassed much of the same criticism because she favors Candyland-themed costumes over meat dresses. Elliott’s set only included a handful of dancers, a lit up stage and Perry as her hype person.
Her songs still up hold up speaking to the quality of the music. Yes, they sound like something of the immediate past, but it is a good past, a fun and exciting one. This is not music for the faint of heart and because of that, we remember it as if hearing it for the first time. Her set was simple. Still, it was something of a breath of fresh air. That simplicity is ultimately what made the entire halftime show enjoyable. Hours after the Super Bowl ended, a quick Twitter search showed Elliott was the second most trending subject on Twitter, even above Perry. Elliott’s set was the perfect reminder that if a song (or a performer) is truly good enough, they won’t need to play by the same rules as everyone else.
Source: The Guardian