Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson Make History
Three of music's biggest stars helped to kick off Black History Month in grand fashion with much-ballyhooed performances at the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Feb. 3.
Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, and Beyonce, made history while more than 108 million people watched the telecast and another 72,000 filled the Mercedes Benz Superdome to witness the contest firsthand between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
"These women are at the pinnacle of the entertainment world and the biggest stage in the world is the Super Bowl, so this is as significant a Black History Month moment as we've seen," said Ronald Newman, operations manager of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Northwest.
The performances by the women marked the first time that the Super Bowl's entertainment included an all African-American lineup from the national anthem to the halftime show.
In 1998, the National Football League (NFL) commissioned an all black lineup for the halftime show to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Motown sound.
However, while Smokey Robinson, Boyz II Men, Martha Reeves, The Temptations and Queen Latifah performed at halftime, Jewel sang the national anthem.
College marching bands took center stage at the Super Bowl in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. That all changed when the late Michael Jackson became the first mega-star to perform a halftime show at the big game in 1993.
The King of Pop mesmerized viewers with his trademark, "moonwalk," as he belted out such hit songs as "Billie Jean," "Jam," and "Black or White."
N'Sync, Britney Spears, Phil Collins, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Nelly, Justin Timberlake and Bruce Springsteen are among the many to perform at the big game.
Jackson's dazzling show and Prince's 2007 halftime performance remain among the more memorable, according to music critics.
"This was a great opportunity for African Americans to really see the progress this country has made and, just two weeks after President Barack Obama's inauguration, it's a profound statement," Newman said.
"Jennifer Hudson has the pipes, she sang, 'America the Beautiful,' with the Sandy Hook Elementary School choir and nailed it, of course," said D.C.'s Roger Friedman, who is a writer and chief editor at Showbiz411.com. "Hudson is the voice of her generation, and she can belt it out in any weather, live without augmentation. Give her an A-plus," said Friedman, formerly of Fox News and The Hollywood Reporter.
Keys performed a jazz-like version of the "Star Spangled Banner."
"The fact that the Super Bowl entertainment was Keys, Hudson, and Beyonce was very cool. Let's appreciate it," Friedman said.
Beyonce proved not only that she can sing, "but that she can also entertain on a stage as big as the Super Bowl's," said Associated Press music writer Mesfin Fekadu.
"(She) was far better than Madonna, who sang to a backing track last year, and miles ahead of the Black Eyed Peas' disastrous set in 2011."
Prior to the performance, Beyonce had promised a special surprise for her fans and she didn't disappoint. Her band mates from Destiny's Child, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, joined her for a short medley of songs and the singer announced a new world tour to begin in June.
Keys, through her spokeswoman, said she had butterflies before the Super Bowl.
"I'm really excited about it," she said. "I've had to rehearse (the 'Star Spangled Banner') as if it is a brand new song. It is a brand new song [considering] the style that I'll deliver it."
Hudson called her performance with the Sandy Hook Elementary School students a privilege and said she felt the pain of the Connecticut School District, where a mass shooting took place in December.
Hudson lost her mother, brother and nephew in 2008 to gun violence, so the singer could relate to the senselessness of the tragedy that befell Sandy Hook.
"It was an emotional performance that had some players on the sidelines on the verge of tears," Fekadu said.
George Singleton, who studies music at George Washington University in Northwest, said the NFL and CBS television did a great service to the game and to African Americans with its choice of entertainment.
"The fact that we had just kicked off Black History Month and to have three of the best singers and performers in the world, who happen to be black, says a lot," Singleton, 22, said. "It says that everyone is paying attention. There is progress. It also says that on such a big stage, there is no bigger or better choice than our sisters, who rocked the house."