When the NFL announced at midnight ET that Apple Music is the new sponsor of the Super Bowl Halftime Show, the Swift-iverse went into overdrive speculating that Taylor Swift will be the performer: The announcement was made at midnight, Taylor releases her new music at midnight (er, like 99% of all major artists in the streaming age) and her new album is called “Midnights.”
With no disrespect to the Swifties, there are actually many more-tangible reasons why Swift seems a likely front-runner for the Super Bowl Halftime Show — which, with an estimated 103 million viewers this year, is the single largest platform for a music artist in the entire world.
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First off, “Midnights” drops on Oct. 21 — and will almost inevitably be followed by a major tour. Swift was scheduled to do a major global stadium tour in 2020 in support of her 2019 album “Lover.” Obviously, due to the pandemic, it was limited to a single preliminary performance in Paris in September of 2019, “City of Lover,” which aired on ABC and remains her last live performance. Remarkably, “Midnights” will be the sixth album Swift will have released in just over three years: It joins “Lover,” her two pandemic-era albums “Folklore” and “Evermore,” and her two “Taylor’s Version” re-recordings of “Red” and “Fearless” — the rights to which, along with her four other pre-“Lover” albums, were sold in Scooter Braun’s controversial acquisition of the Big Machine Records catalog. Needless to say, she’s got a lot of material to air.
All of which dovetails into the fact that the Super Bowl is more-often-than-not used as a teaser for a major tour.
Yet a less-obvious reason lies in the Apple Music announcement — or, rather, the fact that Pepsi announced that it would not renew its ten-year-long sponsorship of the Halftime show this year. The sponsorship began in 2013 — the same year that Swift launched a long partnership with Pepsi’s decades-long arch-rival Coca-Cola. While sources reported that Swift’s deal with Coke prohibited her from playing a Pepsi-sponsored Halftime show, whether or not it did, it would have been awkward. (Of course, there was Swift’s 2015 criticism of the then-new streaming service over the fact that it wasn’t paying royalties on music played in trial versions, but it quickly changed the policy and she later expressed gratitude fo the move, telling Vanity Fair, “Apple treated me like I was a voice of a creative community that they actually cared about.”
Finally, there’s a more complex matter: After years of criticism over its handling of race-related issues that climaxed with Colin Kaepernick’s effective banishment from professional football, the National Football League made a strong effort to change the narrative by striking a long-term partnership in 2019 with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation organization on entertainment — including the halftime show. The past three years have featured entertainers of color almost exclusively: Jennifer Lopez and Shakira (2020), the Weeknd (2021) and this year’s multi-artist classic hip-hop extravaganza, helmed by Dr. Dre and featuring Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and 50 Cent, with Anderson .Paak on drums. While Swift is obviously a white woman, the past three years have gone a long way toward addressing the problem, and it seems possible that she would bring in performers of color to join her (although we won’t hold our breath waiting for Kendrick Lamar to reprise his performance on Swift’s “Bad Blood” remix).
And finally, three sources close to the situation tell Variety that it’s happening, although other close sources say that it’s not.
Reps for Swift, Roc Nation and the NFL did not immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment.
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