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Superstars share stage, plant flag for Latin pop in front of massive audience

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Jennifer Lopez and Shakira didn’t perform together during Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show. They battled each other.

This was a high wattage, electrifying explosion of musical muscle, as the two superstar performers used the massive Super Bowl platform to celebrate Latin pop and its boundless energy, and expose the big game's massive audience to something it hasn't necessarily seen before.

Not this big, at least, and not in this glimmering a package. It was a youthful presentation that never took a breather and left viewers at home gasping for air. And it played to the incredible strengths of the two performers, who shook and shimmied and left everything they had on the stage. 

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This was not your father’s halftime show or even your older brother's, and it made the classic rock showcases of the not-too-distant past — the 2005-10 run of performers that saw Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and the Who hit the stage — look positively sleepy in comparison. (We'll leave Prince off that list because, you know, Prince.) 

Shakira threw down the gauntlet for Lopez, opening with a medley of hits that segued from “She Wolf” to “Empire” to the buoyant “Whenever, Wherever.”

A few licks from Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” led into her using a piece of rope as a prop, tangling and twisting it around her wrists, while fireworks ripped around the outside of the stadium.

She was joined by Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny — clad in an all-silver get up that looked borrowed from "The Wizard of Oz's" Tin Man — who assisted her on “I Like It Like That,” and she then fell backwards off the stage and into the arms of crowd members on the field and sang “Hips Don’t Lie” while crowd surfing. And she did it all seemingly without taking a breath.

Shakira leaped at the camera, essentially daring Lopez to match what she had just thrown down, and J. Lo took the challenge and ran with it.

Lopez hit the stage on a mock-up of the Empire State Building, a nod to her New York roots, and filed through her catalog of hits in rapid fire succession, blasting through “Jenny from the Block,” “Ain’t It Funny” and “Get Right.”

Surrounded by dancers, she charged down the stage and did a baseball slide reminiscent of Springsteen’s move at the 2009 Super Bowl, and then took to a pole on the stage to show off the skills that nearly earned her an Oscar nomination for “Hustlers.”

“Love Don’t Cost a Thing” led into a duet of “Mi Gente,” on which she was joined by Latin pop superstar J. Balvin (like Shakira, Balvin hails from Colombia), and a rollicking “On the Floor.”

Pitbull duets with Lopez on the studio version of “On the Floor,” but was not on stage Sunday; similarly, many thought Gloria Estefan was a shoo-in to cameo during the show, given her deep roots in Miami music. But neither performer was anywhere to be seen.

Instead, the appearances by Bad Bunny and J. Balvin nodded to the present and future of Latin pop music, as both performers are leading the genre into new heights of worldwide popularity. (Both performers rank among the most-streamed artists on Spotify; Balvin — who brought a rainbow-colored paradise to the Fox Theatre last fall — is No. 4 on the list.) 

Lopez — who at one point was draped in a flowery Puerto Rican flag — and Shakira came together at the end of the performance for a rousing “Let’s Get Loud,” a pumped-up sports jam made even bigger by the enormity of its setting and the dynamic between the two performers.

Together, they made a statement for global pop, and without getting political, they made a declaration about the changing face of America. It was a friendly competition between the two women, but in the end they came out on the same team.

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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