Taking risks: good. Playing it safe: baaaaad. Anyhow, that’s become the orthodox verdict on modern artistic endeavor. An artist who takes risks deserves our admiration, in this view, even if those risks don’t pan out; an artist who plays it safe is a mere hack.
But is this view correct? Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show with Paul McCartney offers evidence that it is not. An earlier AdFreak post (see below) noted an AP story on the show that carried the headline, "McCartney Puts on Safe Show at Super Bowl," and that reflected the media consensus on the matter. Surely, though, the fact that it was "safe" is less important than the fact that it was good. A one-of-a-kind singer, backed by a highly polished band, performed some good material. Nothing to scoff at there. By contrast, while last year’s show may have taken risks, it’s hard to see how that compensates for its general awfulness. (People forget how utterly cheesy it was even before the notorious "wardrobe malfunction.") Given a choice between the work of a talented person who’s playing it safe and an untalented one who’s taking risks, why should we prefer the latter? The umpteenth iteration of Beethoven’s Fifth by a good symphony orchestra isn’t risky, but it has more artistic authenticity than the risky first performance of a stupid new song by a stupid new band. McCartney’s safe-but-satisfying performance ought to (though it won’t) knock the silly prestige of risk-taking down a peg.
—Posted by Mark Dolliver
Photo credit: Angelillo/UPI Newspictures/Newscom