Best And Worst 2021 Super Bowl Ads Super Bowl LV was Sunday, and as always, a lot of viewers tuned in for the over-the-top ads. Bud Light and Robinhood were standouts, but Dolly Parton fell flat with a rework of her hit "9 to 5."
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Flat Matt, Falling Lemons And Digital Dolly: The 2021 Super Bowl Ads

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Flat Matt, Falling Lemons And Digital Dolly: The 2021 Super Bowl Ads

Flat Matt, Falling Lemons And Digital Dolly: The 2021 Super Bowl Ads

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SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Football fans bored by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' drubbing of the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday's Super Bowl may not have found much relief in the commercials or the halftime show either, according to NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Here's his review.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: For me, one of the most inspiring entertainment moments from Super Bowl 55 was the version of "America The Beautiful" performed before the game by H.E.R., complete with a rocking guitar solo.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUITAR)

DEGGANS: Now, I'll admit, I didn't expect much from the halftime headliner, The Weeknd. Though, he's a wonderful singer, he doesn't really dance or command the stadium in a way you'd expect from a glitzy Super Bowl halftime star. Still, the staging of his halftime performance was impressive - a massive set and an army of dancers on the field decked out in red blazers and bandages, aping a look from his recent appearances, during his hit "Blinding Light."

(SOUNDBITE OF 55TH NFL SUPER BOWL TELECAST)

THE WEEKND: (Singing) Until I feel your touch - Tampa Bay.

DEGGANS: Good but he's no Beyonce or J.Lo. And that sense of holding back a bit, not quite cutting loose in the way an unbridled Super Bowl celebration usually involves, spilled over to the ads. Indeed, one of the most buzzed about ads was the most solemn, a rare commercial appearance by Bruce Springsteen for Jeep, pleading for left and right to meet in the middle one month after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: We need the middle. We just have to remember the very soil we stand on is common ground.

DEGGANS: Most ads seemed to sidestep or ignore the pandemic, taking place in a world where people don't wear masks and gather freely. One ad that acknowledged the tough year we've had without explicitly mentioning the virus or politics was Bud Light's commercial for its seltzer lemonade, which featured people pummeled by lemons inexplicably falling from the sky.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) 2020 was a lemon of a year.

DEGGANS: A bit more fun was Cheetos' ad with Ashton Kutcher, his wife, Mila Kunis, and Shaggy, with the singer advising Kunis to cite his hit whenever Kutcher caught her eating his snacks.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

SHAGGY: Just tell him it wasn't you.

ASHTON KUTCHER: (Singing) But I caught you at the counter.

MILA KUNIS: It wasn't me.

DEGGANS: And "Hamilton" star Daveed Diggs won the cuteness award for his spot with the Muppets from "Sesame Street" for DoorDash, which lists all the things stores in your neighborhood can have delivered.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

DAVEED DIGGS: (Singing) They're the culinary artists with delicious cuisines.

DAVID RUDMAN: (As Cookie Monster, singing) That famous cookie shop in the magazines.

DEGGANS: Toyota pulled at viewers' heartstrings with a poignant ad featuring Paralympian Jessica Long, a champion swimmer whose legs were amputated as a child. She was shown swimming through pivotal moments in her life, including the instant her mother confirmed her adoption from an orphanage.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Beth Long) It might not be easy, but it'll be amazing. I can't wait to meet her.

DEGGANS: Unfortunately, such joyous and entertaining ads weren't that common. A few commercials were downright infuriating, including an ad from the NFL touting $250 million in spending to fight systemic racism without acknowledging how it failed to support former quarterback Colin Kaepernick when he tried kneeling during the national anthem to protest systemic racism and police brutality. Even during an evening where ads are as big a part of the event as the game, some levels of spin are a bit too much to take.

I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF Y SOCIETY, DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK ET AL.'S "THIS ADVICE [INSTRUMENTAL]")

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