Alicia Keys' bum note at the Super Bowl Halftime Show erased from history by the NFL

Every performer hits a bad note from time to time.

Perry Knotts/GettyImages
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Alicia Keys’ guest spot at the Super Bowl Halftime Show had a charmingly rough start that the NFL wants you to forget about. The internet never forgets. There is no such thing as a memory hole in a world where we’re connected 24/7. At least not when the event they’re trying to make us forget was seen and heard live by 126.6 million people. 

If you watched Usher’s bonkers Super Bowl halftime show live, you’d have heard guest star Alicia Keys’ voice crack a bum note as she began to sing “If I Ain’t Got You.” If however you’d watched the show later on YouTube, you’d have heard no such bum note. 

We only know this because of side-by-side videos posted to T̶w̶i̶t̶t̶e̶r̶ X (sorry, Chief Twit,) but the NFL isn’t acknowledging it. Fans devoted enough to watch both the live broadcast and the video posted to YouTube may have thought they were going crazy. 

Alicia Keys' bad not gets wiped by the NFL

Nope, just the NFL gaslighting us. 

To start with, the occasional bum note is part of the unpredictability of live performances. Unpredictability is why we pay arms and legs and firstborns to see our favourite artists live, instead of sitting at home and listening to the CD. A bum note here and there is all part of the fun. 

Having said that, live albums are overdubbed, and autotune exists. When live performances are mediated by technology, can we really expect veracity? 

I would say the Red Hot Chili Peppers blew the lid off the whole thing with their Super Bowl halftime performance a decade ago. Sharp-eyed fans noticed that their electric guitars weren’t plugged into anything. Flea put out a statement saying that they were given no other option but to play with a backing track and that they felt that the Super Bowl was too good an opportunity to pass up. Of course, they could’ve had their guitars plugged into something to maintain the illusion of a live performance, but that would be dishonest. 

It's a good explanation, and their honesty is laudable. 

Unlike other Super Bowl Halftime Show controversies, this one blew over and was forgotten about before the ink on their mea culpa. Which, I guess means rock fans and football fans alike accepted the explanation.


It’d be a real stinking double standard if this became a scandal while the RHCP incident was forgotten about. The Super Bowl halftime show just involves too much pomp and pageantry for every part of it to be live in the truest sense of the word. The takeaways are that Alicia Keys is still awesome, the NFL did what the NFL does, and if you want to see an artist being real, human, spontaneous, and imperfect, you’re going to have to leave the couch for that.

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