Entertainment

01.27.14

Inside New York City’s Super Bowl Music Blitz

Your guide to the week in music as New York gears up for this weekend’s Super Bowl, kicking off with six nights of concerts from VH1.

At first, they may have seemed like strange bedfellows, particularly when one recalls that “The Super Bowl Shuffle” is a thing that happened, that exists. But over the years, music and football have become quite the happy couple. Super Bowl Halftime Shows are no longer kitschy theme park spectacles, but bonafide entertainment events. The selection of who will sing “The National Anthem” is one of the most talked about casting decisions in entertainment each year.

As the Super Bowl has transcended, over the years, its status as just the year’s biggest football game to the year’s biggest pop-culture event, the union of music and football has only become stronger. With this year’s championship being held in one of the music industry’s most influential capitals, New York City is doubling as a week-long concert venue. And VH1, especially, is seizing on the Super Bowl’s entertainment-tinged transformation with a blitz of its own. A concert blitz.

“VH1’s Super Bowl Blitz” is six nights of live concerts in the New York/New Jersey area, each of which will be streamed live on VH1, VH1.com, and on the VH1 App. Beginning Monday with rapper J. Cole in Queens, each night leading up to Super Bowl Sunday will feature a concert in each of New York City’s five boroughs, culminating with singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw in Montclair, New Jersey, near where the big game will actually be played.

“We’ve been doing the concert series with the NFL for close to seven years now,” Tom Calderone, VH1’s president, tells me. But whereas past concerts were one-off events on the Friday or Saturday before the Super Bowl, this is the first year that every day of the week will feature live music.

“People love to give you the comment of ‘it’s strategy’ or that it’s some high-falutin’ plan,” Calderone says about the decision to expand the concert series this year. “But the truth is we were sitting in a meeting with the NFL and they were like, ‘It’d be great if you did a couple of nights.’ So we expanded to Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. And then J. Cole called so we expanded it more. And then all of a sudden it became clear that the demand was there from the talent and the audience for a full week of concerts.”

The Blitz begins Monday at 11 p.m. EST with J. Cole in Queens. Tuesday will be Janelle Monáe in the Bronx, Wednesday is Fall Out Boy in Brooklyn, Thursday will feature TLC (!!!) in Manhattan, Friday stars the Goo Goo Dolls in Staten Island, and the whole thing ends with Gavin DeGraw Saturday night in New Jersey.

Landing the talent wasn’t a hard sell, either. As has become abundantly clear in recent years, whether it’s Beyoncé causing a blackout (OK, maybe she didn’t cause it) with her ferocious halftime performance, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake galvanizing the television and music industry with their controversial pasty stunt, or Jennifer Hudson moving the nation to tears with her rendition of “The National Anthem,” that music has permanently intertwined itself into the fabric of the Super Bowl.

“It’s such a cliché that rock stars want to be sports stars and sports stars want to be rock stars,” Calderone says. “But it’s true. Now more than ever music is such a big part of the Super Bowl. It’s become a pop culture event.” For the audience, it’s a matter of entertainment—a bonus element tacked on to an event we already look forward to each year. For the artists, it’s a chance to promote themselves, too.

“In this case with the Bowl being in New York, artists are looking at it as a bigger event than ever,” Calderone says. “It’s going to be the first cold-weather Super Bowl. There’s all the handwringing over whether it’s going to snow. There’s so much news around it. Now the artists are even more excited than they were when we booked them.”  

Though it’s likely going to be a bitch to pull off—“I bought boxes and boxes of hand warmers and feet warmers for my staff,” Calderone says—it’s all in the name of inclusion. The Super Bowl is an event that everyone in the country looks forward to each year. So why shouldn’t we all—not just the people lucky enough, rich enough, or connected enough to score tickets—be able to partake in all of its surrounding festivities?

And it’s not just VH1…the entire city is in blitz mode, turning New York into a week-long concert. John Legend will perform at the McKittrick Hotel on Wednesday. Kings of Leon will headline a concert at Time Warner Cable Studios Thursday. And Friday and Saturday night? A breakdown of the big events happening those nights is below:

Friday
-VH1 Super Bowl Blitz: Goo Goo Dolls
-Shape and Men’s Fitness: John Legend, Mary J. Blige and Marc Anthony
-ESPN 10th Annual Super Bowl Party: Kendrick Lamar & Robin Thicke
-JBL Party: Maroon 5
-Citi and Live Nation’s Evenings With Legends: Black Keys
-Pandora Presents Party: Imagine Dragons

Saturday
-VH1 Super Bowl Blitz: Gavin Degraw
-Eighth Annual DirecTV Celebrity Beach Bowl: Paramore
-Bud Light Main Event Concert: Foo Fighters and Zac Brown Band
-REVOLT Concert: Drake Featuring Special Guest Diddy
-WFAN's Big Hello To Brooklyn:Red Hot Chilli Peppers feat. New Politics, MS MR, J. Roddy Walston & The Business
-Maxim Party: Kendrick Lamar
-DirecTV Super Saturday Night: Jay Z

Oh yeah, then there’s the actual Super Bowl itself, which will feature performances by Queen Latifah, opera singer Renee Fleming, Bruno Mars, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And, maybe if we’re lucky, a Seahawks or Broncos cover of “The Super Bowl Shuffle.”