Adam Blackstone provided some of the most iconic moments in pop culture history as music director. I know I will never forget Justin Timberlake opening up the Oscars back in 2017 with “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” In that moment, you had the Oscar audience primed to get out of their seats and dance. This moment set the tone for the show and became not only an incredibly fun moment for the audience but for viewers at home. I remember dancing in the living room, ready for a fun night with friends.
During our conversation, Adam spoke about building relationships with artists, chatting with them about their vision for a moment then ultimately crafting an unforgettable experience. This year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira was a moment that people talked about for days and weeks after the game. In the modern era of music, it’s very challenging to a live setting. Adam worked with Shakira and Jennifer Lopez to bring their music to life and blend their unique styles in a 14-minute mini-concert between halves at the game.
Adam’s work on this show is iconic, and this halftime show will go down in history as one of the most entertaining, and musically interesting shows. I know I added every single song from the halftime show to my workout mix after the show, and that is the sign of a genuinely iconic experience, and a fantastic musical director.
Awards Daily: This was the first halftime show that had two female Latinx/Hispanic performers at the center. What was your goal with the overall arrangement for the show?
Adam Blackstone: I am very excited people are responding to this in the way they did. They all have their own individual teams. I was the choice to be the musical director to bridge the gap through Roc Nation. What made this halftime show stand out from many other musical experiences was this was the first time we also had two headliners. In previous years, the Super Bowl would announce one headliner like Prince and then you got that surprise cameo from Beyonce.
One of the major pressures was that they were billed as co-headliners early, so you were not getting the surprise like in other shows. That presented a challenge for me, because it’s my responsibility to create a cohesive experience. When you think about two artists in a 14-minute span that was a challenge for their catalogues. My goal from the beginning was to represent each woman to their max. It was also to let each woman’s fan base feel like they were not slighted. We had to think about
Shakira’s global fan base. When I went to visit her in Barcelona there was a statue of her in the airport. None of the American women have that in their respected airports. This woman is a global phenomenon. The average Super Bowl viewer in America may not know her, so I had to craft that experience. Then for Jennifer, she is such an icon in so many different things, but my goal was to show that she is an actress, a dancer, her Latino culture. I wanted to show that she was a legend in her own way. My goals were to represent each woman in a limited time.
AD: Shakira and Jennifer Lopez are both incredibly fun artists with great catalogs How did you blend their styles to create a seamless show?
AB: Meeting with Shakira first in Barcelona, she was very clear about what she wanted from her catalogue. I also brought about some new influences to make the arrangement and presentation for the show. I said that we are going to include “Bad Bunny” and include “I Like it” and she was cool with that. I thought this would add the experience of the show and allow for the material to blend perfectly in the arrangement I was creating for the show. Using the live band aspect of the show made the music more cohesive.
Jennifer was coming off Vegas, and she had some staples in the show. I wanted to make this feel like one long show. The live band element, along with my arrangement, along with the staging and lighting all built to this. As the musical direction, it was on my job to feel “Hips Dont’ Lie” and “On the Floor” felt like they were part of the same show.
AD: This show blended entertainment and culture in the most beautiful and authentic way. How did you work with these women to blend their culture into the final product?
AB: Those girls are bonafide Latino, and all that they do are genuinely amazing. Shakira will always represent everything about her and Columbia, and Jennifer Lopez does the same thing with her work. I wanted to play off both of their sounds in this unique music space. “Aint’t that Funny” is hip-hop, and I was able to bring out other artists to play off their superstar sound and their hit songs. I got to work with both of these incredibly talented women and showcase their sounds in very interesting ways for an incredible concert.
AD: The moment with Jennifer Lopez’s daughter was beautiful. How did that moment, which blended “Let’s Get Loud” and “Born in the USA,” come about?
AB: I must say Jennifer had the idea to utilize her daughter. The resounding overlay was that her Latino culture and the overlay of the impact for Latino children in the culture. The race that we are does not dictate or change anything about where we are born. We are many different races and genders, but at the end we are American. America is looked at as a place to advance yourself, and I think that message is something she wanted to drill home in the performance.
We used her song “Let’s Get Loud,” and it’s powerful message in 2020. I used the music arrangement and worked with the director and the lighting team to help create an impactful moment on the stage.
One of my other favorite moments was working on the music arrangement to transition from this powerful moment to Shakira’s song from the Olympics “Waka Waka.” We found a way to blend these two songs to close out the show and highlight the connection that exists with the music experience we created throughout the 14-minute show. It was an incredible way to close out the performance.
AD: You have been the music supervisor at numerous events from celebrating the life of John Lewis to the BET Awards. You also worked on the Super Bowl with Justin Timberlake. What are your goals when tackling live events?
AB: My goal is to always bring the artist’s vision to the forefront. I like to work with the producer of the show. I also like to build a strong relationship with the artists. This helps the artists to know they can trust me with the work. There is no such thing as a small idea, and if an artist presents something, I want to figure out a way to make this possible. Artists have seen my work, and through building relationships with different folks I have been able to create experiences where different people have trusted me. I am accompanying and scoring their lives, and I want to bring respect to what they have created. This has allowed me to work with so many artists.
AD: This show has been lauded as one of the best halftime shows in the history of the Super Bowl. What does it feel hearing that reaction?
AB: It feels amazing. I was doing my job, and I was making sure things worked. After the fact and when I was able to fly home. I was able to sit back, watch the news, and be proud of the work I did. Tomorrow is not promised, and being a part of history and providing entertainment that I can pass along to my children is important to me. Being able to share with my daughter that I was part of the first halftime show that showcased two Latino women is a huge moment of pride. We set the bar for great overall entertainment. I think we all know J Lo and Shakira are superstars. They proved it with this show. We know this is the biggest concert of the year. It feels good to get good pop music.
Check out the show in the link below, and shake your booty to this incredible musical moment: