There are two kinds of people that endure the beer-drinking, 7-layer-dip swilling, stained finger shenanigans of Superbowl Sunday; those that are there for the game, and those that just want to watch the halftime show. Admittedly, I watch the game for both as a fair-weather NFL fan. Surprisingly enough though, the show as we know it is a relatively recent thing.
Starting in the 60’s, the Halftime show was all about local marching bands, drill teams and the occasional singer or educational musical group like Andy Williams or Up With People. That changed in 1993, when Michael Jackson performed the first ‘true’ Halftime show.
Since then, we’ve seen nipples, dancing sharks, aging rockers and holograms. What a spectacle.
18) The Who (2010) It wasn’t the best performance from these aging rockers, but as a long-time fan, it was good to see them do their thing and play some of their better tracks.
17) Shania Twain, No Doubt, and Sting (2003) Not sure what was going on with this short show. It was more of a quick car ride with the radio on scan, than a coherent performance. Shania did a quick version of “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” with no dancers, No Doubt did a song, then Sting came out for a duet with Gwen Stefani for “Message in a Bottle.”
That was it. At least there were punk-rock cheerleaders midway through the act.
16) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (2008) I wish this one could have been ranked higher, as Tom Petty is an absolute treasure. He performed “American Girl,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin’,” & “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” And they were solid.
But it just didn’t suit the venue – he’s not a glitz and glamour guy, so it just seemed lifeless and adding background dancers would have seemed in-authentic to his vibe.
15) Paul McCartney (2005) I’ll come out with it, McCartney is my least favourite Beatle. Having him stand in the middle of an LED stage, playing by himself just looked really sad, and it was clearly a ‘safe’ alternative to the previous years issue with Janet Jackson’s nipple.
The while show was so PG/Family rated that it bored me to tears.
14) Bruno Mars and Red Hot Chilis Peppers (2014) While I appreciate the way the show started, with the small kids and soldiers dedicating “Just the Way You Are” to their families, it just seemed too sugary and sweet for a football game.
Plus, the previous year Beyonce put on a kickass show, and this year we got Bruno Mars as a headliner, and the Chilli Peppers as the supporting act. Should have been the other way around; the Chilli Peppers rule all.
13) U2 (2002) This one was more of a victim of the times, then the fault of Bono & Co. It’s obvious that the first Superbowl after 9/11 was going to pay tribute to the loss of life, but why not pick an American artist, preferably from NY? Singing a paired down version of “Where the Streets Have No Name” in front of a list of victims just seemed disrespectful, and it’s not how we want to see U2.
Should have just cancelled the show completely.
12) Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2009) The Boss put on a damn good performance and had some fun with his show, but it wasn’t really anything spectacular. You might as well go see him in concert and get more than just 4 songs. But he did play “Born to Run,” which gets my juices going. Wish this one went longer than 12 min.
11) Black Eyed Peas, Usher, and Slash (2011) The best review of this halftime describes the Black Eyed Peas as a band dressed like the cast of Not Tron XXX: A Porn Parody and I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment.
The show itself was pretty spectacular, with the dancers and the costumes, but I was only there to see Slash pop up from under the stage to play “Sweet Child of Mine.” Too bad I had to sit through the BEP catalogue first.
10) Lady Gaga (2017) Her performance had drones, jumping off the roof of the stadium and so much glitz, lights and strange costumes that it felt like a Lady Gaga show, but it wasn’t quite right.
If you’ve been to any of her shows, she doesn’t sing the same song the same way as she does in the recording. She’s an artist; she embellishes, the riffs on her classics – she makes it feel new.
There was not enough ‘outside’ of the box for it to really feel like a Lady Gaga spectacle.
9) Michael Jackson (1993) Just because you were the first, doesn’t make you the best, but Jackson tried. This was the first true Halftime concert, but the crowd was too loud to hear the music and there was a commercial break in the middle of the show, for starters.
Jackson, to his credit, didn’t dive too deep into his catalogue. He did “We Are the World” with a children’s choir, “Heal the World,” and closed with “Billie Jean” and moonwalked across the stage. But he could have been so much more.
8) Coldplay, Beyoncé, and Bruno Mars (2016) I’m still not sure who the headliner was supposed to be, but Beyoncé’s “Formation” stole the show and put the boys to shame.
Also, she dressed up like MJ from 1993. I like that cocky moxie.
7) Janet Jackson, Justin Timeberlake, Jessica Simpson, Kid Rock, Nelly, and P. Diddy (2004) Ok, quick question: who else remembered that there were other artists playing at that infamous Halftime show? I completely forgot.
But… it was a good show, with fantastic performances from all. So we saw Janet’s boob, big deal.
6) Diana Ross (1996) Now this was a wild one. It was supposed to be a tame show with a legendary singer, but instead they got a diva. She descended from the sky on a platform, changed outfits with every song, rose up three stories whilst wearing a cape that was a part of the stage, then finally had a helicopter land in the middle of the field to pick her up and fly her away.
Now that’s a show!
5) Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz, and Miss Elliot (2015) While the left Shark stole the show, there were other sick elements to the show; the gold lion, the firework (which was the “more you know” shooting star logo), and then getting Missy to do 3 of her own songs.
It was just the right amount of fun.
4) Aerosmith, NSYNC, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly (2001) This was the first Halftime show where the fans got to be on the field with the show, and honestly, it revolutionized the whole thing. The interactions between the boy band members, Steven Tyler and the fans, made for a better show.
I’ll admit, I got a little goosebump-y when Britney, Mary and Nelly came out to join everyone in singing “Walk This Way.” It’s a fantastic song.
3) Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child (2013) I’m not a huge Beyoncé fan, but she really nailed it with this performance. It was classy and meme-worthy all at the same time, and the fact that she brought out her two Destiny’s Child bandmates was a classy touch.
For once, the Halftime show wasn’t a sausage fest and it was nice.
2) Madonna, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, Lee Lo Green, and MIA (2012) Madonna really showed everyone how it was done with her extravagant performance and remixes of her classics with the other headliners. I’ll admit, I was a fan of the mashup of “Music” with “Party Rock Anthem.”
Also notable was the bizarre performance put on by MIA, while she flipped the camera the bird. That was almost as big of a deal as the whole JJ nipple issue.
1) Prince (2007) This has got to be the best of the best. He had a stage shaped like his “Artist Formerly Known As Prince” symbol, played some Queen to open his show, then did a musical journey through previous Halftime shows, hit up some “Proud Mary & All Along the Watchtower,” then shredded the guitar solo to “Purple Rain.”
In the fucking rain. Epic.
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