The 10 best Super Bowl performances of all time
While a lot of people genuinely get excited about a group of men giving each other concussions and other violent displays of affection, some of us watch the Super Bowl for other reasons: multi-million-dollar commercials, an excuse to eat loaded nachos without feeling guilty, and most importantly, the half time show.
Full of spectacle, big names, and an occasional scandal, we remember what happened during the half time performance long after we forget which teams were even playing that year.
Here are the 10 of the most iconic Super Bowl performances in halftime history.
1. Prince, 2007
Prince holds the distinction of being the first and only artist ever to play the Halftime Show in the rain. And he didn’t give two shits about it. In fact, according to this video, he asked show producers if they could “make it rain harder.” To make things even more iconic, yes, he closed with “Purple Rain.”
2. Elvis Presto, 1989
While you may instinctively think of Elvis impersonators and groan, Elvis Presto was pretty magical. In fact, he was so magical that he didn’t sing a single Elvis song or use his pelvis in any way, he just walked around the stadium performing 3D magic tricks on live TV.
Okay, so technically this is the worst, but don’t you love knowing that we live in a world where some group of executives thought that this was a good idea?
3. Tina Turner, Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, and Toni Braxton, 2000
This was less of a super bowl halftime show as we know it, and more of a Disney extravaganza that just so happened to feature a handful of celebrity talent. Billed as a worldwide tribute to the human spirit, the 2000 performance had a narrator, puppeteers, a full orchestra and an 80-person choir.
Still, it’s fun to be reminded that baby Christina Aguilera existed, and her fashion sense was super questionable.
4. Shania Twain, No Doubt and Sting, 2003
All of these headliners don’t go together, and admittedly the only part of this halftime show that’s worth watching is No Doubt’s performance in the middle.
So fast forward through Shania Twain’s lip synching, and only press play when you’re confident that No Doubt had taken the stage. Then revel in the knowledge that Gwen Stefani is a badass, and spend a quick 15 brainstorming how you can harness her energy to become a better you in 2017.
5. Michael Jackson, 1993
Before Michael Jackson, the Super Bowl halftime was not an event, just a 12 minute block of time for college marching bands and Elvis impersonators to do their thing . Understandably, people lost their minds when Michael popped up onstage, and not just because thanks to the magic of body doubles he’d already made two entrances dancing on top of jumbotrons.
In retrospect, people just weren’t ready for the King of Pop and his whip-precise dance moves to take the stage, but even though the roar of the crowd threatens to overpower MJ’s set for the full 12 minutes, it’s all forgiven because this is 1993, and nobody knew what they were doing yet.
6. Aerosmith, NSync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly, 2001
Beginning with a filmed spot of Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler coaching Aerosmith and N*SYNC on how to get Super Bowl ready/be less scary/get in touch with the streets, this was a weird one.
For most of the performance, Aerosmith and NSYNC trade of numbers, overlapping at the end, which almost succeeds at seeming cohesive, but still just seems awkward.
Still, the performance gives you a chance to marvel at how horrible early 2000s fashion was while watching Justin Timberlake make sparks sprout out of his fingers, because even the Super Bowl knew he was about to go solo.
7. Madonna, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., 2012
Really, what is there not to love about a Super Bowl performance that begins with a bunch of shirtless gladiators pulling a lip-synching Madonna into the stadium on a golden chariot while she does yoga poses in thigh high boots?
However, while Madonna did her best to impress, the real show stopping performance belonged to M.I.A.’s middle finger. What seemed like a badass moment at the time ended up costing MIA millions of dollars, and completely stole all of Madonna’s thunder.
8. Katy Perry, Missy Elliot, Lenny Kravitz, 2015
Making her entrance on a giant, mechanical tiger, Katy Perry’s half time show was fire from start to finish. Between Left Shark, Missy Elliot’s surprise guest appearance, the spectacle of it all, and Katy’s curious hetero take on ‘I Kissed A Girl’, this was the Super Bowl performance that kept on giving.
9. Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Nelly, P. Diddy and Kid Rock, 2004
Things started off super cute as Janet danced around to “It’s All For You,” and stayed that way while a group of cheerleaders took to the stage to chant “Oh, Nelly you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind,” signaling the arrival of the only man who’s ever made wearing a band-aid on your face a viable fashion choice.
All in all, it was a really enjoyable half time show until Justin Timberlake came along to rock Janet’s body and expose her nips to the nation. What started off cute got kind of X rated, and it took the Super Bowl 8 years to let another woman headline the half time show because of it.
10. TIE: Beyonce, 2013 & Beyonce, 2016
One word: flawless.
In 2013 she sang live without missing a note, reunited Destiny’s Child, wore a curious leather ensemble that only she could pull off, and she danced so hard that even the Super Bowl stadium couldn’t take it. Minutes after her set, half the lights in the stadium mysteriously went out, delaying the game which the Baltimore Ravens would ultimately go on to win.
Despite the fact that googling ‘Beyonce ugly face’ gives you a sea of awkward freeze frames from this performance, there’s absolutely nothing to hate on here.
And in 2016 she sang live without missing a note, completely upstaged everybody else she was performing with, made a powerful statement about blackness in America and literally willed herself from falling on live television.
One word: impressive.