Super Bowl 50 is just around the corner- an event NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has called “an important game for us as a league.” He has vowed to make Super Bowl 50 “spectacular,” which may be a tad difficult to live up to, given the excitement of last years Super Bowl, the caliber of the two teams in this year’s game (with one seemingly poised to blow out the other), and the caliber of the last three halftime shows, which featured extraordinary performances from Beyonce, Bruno Mars, and Katy Perry, respectively. This year’s show is certainly shaping up to be something interesting, however, as Coldplay, the show's headliner, will be accompanied by Beyonce and Mars, who are both performing in their second halftime shows in the last 4 years. It’s really anybody’s guess how this halftime show will shape up. How will it compare with the last 49 halftime shows, though? Today we take a look at the top 10 halftime shows to ever grace the 50 yard line at the NFL's biggest game of the year.
Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz, & Missy Elliot- Super Bowl XLIX (2015)
Setlist: "Roar," "Dark Horse," "I Kissed a Girl," "Teenage Dream," "California Gurls," "Get Ur Freak On"/"Work It," "Lose Control," "Firework."
The most recent halftime show performance, Katy Perry had a lot to live up to: Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. However, the pop diva came to play, entering on a GIANT FREAKING LION PUPPET to her powerful single "Roar." Her unexpected duet with Lenny Kravitz on "I Kissed a Girl" worked to perfection, as that may have been the most underrated song in the set. And then there was Missy Elliot. If you're wondering where she's been all this time, we've found her. But for all that, for all the pageantry and dancing and puppets, what is this halftime show remembered for? Left Shark.
Shania Twain, No Doubt, & Sting- Super Bowl XXXVII (2003)
Setlist: "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!," "Up!" "Just a Girl," "Message in a Bottle."
I really, really wanted the Oakland Raiders to win this game. So I was crushed when the score ended up being a 48-21 beating at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The halftime show wasn't half bad, though. When Shania began her lip-synced set with "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" I was sure we were in for a snooze-fest. I was almost asleep when she decided to sing "Up!" However, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt brought the crowd in San Diego to its feet, and Sting followed up with one of my personal favorites, "Message in a Bottle," which he and Stefani sang together to close the set. Pretty solid show, no?
Diana Ross- Super Bowl XXX (1996)
Setlist: "Stop In The Name of Love," "You Keep Me Hangin' On," "Baby Love," "You Can't Hurry Love," "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" "Chain Reaction," "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "I Will Survive," "Take Me Higher."
The queen from the Supremes at the Super Bowl gave rousing live renditions of some of her greatest hits out in Arizona in 1996. The most important thing about this halftime show, however, is how Ms. Ross left in a helicopter. Like, a helicopter flew into Sun Devil Stadium, landed, Diana got in it and it flew away. HOMEGIRL LEFT IN A FREAKIN' HELICOPTER.
The Rolling Stones- Super Bowl XL (2006)
Setlist: "Start Me Up," "Rough Justice," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."
Give Mick Jagger credit- the 60-plus-year-old (at the time) can still rock like it's 1965. On a massive tongue-shaped set, the Jagger and the Stones powered their way into Detroit's Ford Field, and gave strut-worthy renditions of three of their best. Given, this was only two-years removed from "Nipple-Gate" (which I will get to shortly), so ABC had to air this one on a five-second tape delay, and removed a part of "Start Me Up," that may or may not have been deemed too "controversial for national television."
The Top 10:
10. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band- Super Bowl XLIII (2009)
Setlist: "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," "Born To Run," "Working on a Dream," "Glory Days."
So, full disclosure- I've never been the biggest fan of The Boss. I always feel like his songs sound the same, and I'm not a fan of his voice. But there's no denying he's been a relevant music figure for the last 40 years, still producing new work, even today. In this Super Bowl halftime show, Springsteen manages to effectively combine both the classics and newer songs into one kickass set. With his concerts typically running at lengths of sometimes up to three hours, the effect is still there even after only two and a half minutes of "Working on a Dream." No doubt a great performer with a legendary career, with a halftime show to match.
9. Janet Jackson, P Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock & Justin Timberlake- Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004)
Setlist: "All For You," Diddy," "Hot in Herre," "Mo Money Mo Problems," "Bawitdaba," "Cowboy," "Rhythm Nation," "Rock Your Body."
Who knew that Nelly, P Diddy, and Kid Rock performed in this halftime show too? Say what you want about this halftime show and its controversies. People will be talking about the phrase "wardrobe malfunction" until the end of time. But, MTV did a really great job putting together this halftime show. The hits just kept on coming, one after the other, from Janet's "All For You," to Nelly's "Hot in Herre," to Diddy's "Mo Money Mo Problems," even to JT's "Rock Your Body." It's a really solid halftime show (not to mention an amazing game surrounding it), in hindsight. It's just really a shame that people only remember the last two seconds.
8. The Who- Super Bowl XLIV (2010)
Setlist: "Pinball Wizard," "Baba O'Riley," "See Me, Feel Me," "Won't Get Fooled Again."
There is nothing better than seeing rockers who still got it rock an arena full of football fans. The Who is no exception, as they performed during halftime of Super Bowl XLIV between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey performed a stunning- both audibly and visually- medley of the band's best songs, including "Pinball Wizard," "Baba O'Riley," and "Won't Get Fooled Again." Also, for the first time since Super Bowl XXXIV (whose halftime show is terrible...), there were no paid-to-cheer-and-dance-with-their-hands-in-the-air fans surrounding the stage. I think it would have taken away from the glorious spectacle that was the concert. And that stage though....
7. Michael Jackson- Super Bowl XXVII (1993)
Setlist: "Jam," "Billie Jean," "Black or White," "We Are the World," "Heal the World."
Gone were the days of the marching bands. Gone were the days of Motown cover groups. Gone were the days of showtunes during football games. Gone were the Elvis impersonators doing card tricks (I'm not kidding. Super Bowl XXIII. Elvis Presto. Look it up.). This was the Super Bowl. This was Michael Jackson- the king of pop. MJ (the first to be solely featured in the halftime show) pops up out of the stage, and just stands there in one of his "Dangerous" poses while the fans at the Rose Bowl applauded for over two minutes. He flips his hair. Another thirty seconds of applause. Then came the show itself, which was pure spectacle. This halftime show was, to that point, the most watched in history, and the first where the Super Bowl viewership figures actually increased during halftime. It was Super Bowl XXVII's halftime show that the NFL made a deliberate effort to sign the top tier talents of the day- which gives us a lot of the Super Bowl halftime shows we see today.
6. Prince- Super Bowl XLI (2007)
Setlist: "We Will Rock You," "Let's Go Crazy," "Baby, I'm a Star," "Proud Mary," "All Along the Watchtower," "Best of You," "Purple Rain."
Again, not the biggest fan of Prince either. I don't really... get him, I suppose. However, this show was killer. In the rain down in Miami, Prince put on a show to remember. I think it may very well be the only halftime show that features a singer-guitarist who can actually shred on it. The Artist Formerly Known As started out with the hits, then broke out into an array of fantastic covers, which included the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the Foo Fighters. Keep in mind, this was still only three years removed from "Nipplegate," so it was an odd choice for the NFL to go with Prince here, given the sexual nature of many of his performances. Do we care, really? Not at all. This show was bomb.
5. Aerosmith, Nsync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, & Nelly- Super Bowl XXXV (2001)
Setlist: "Bye Bye Bye," "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing," "It's Gonna Be Me," "Jaded," "Walk This Way."
Once again, another solid outing by MTV productions, who put this show together, complete with a pre-recorded skit from Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, and Chris Rock. This halftime show came when bubblegum pop was at its peak, hence the appearances of Nsync and Britney. However, the inclusion of Aerosmith, Nelly, and Mary J. Blige tied the show together, in a true collaboration of rock and pop. Nsync began the show with the iconic "Bye Bye Bye," with Steven Tyler following up with a stirring "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing." Nsync countered with "It's Gonna Be Me," to which Aerosmith responded with their new single, "Jaded." To finish, all of the acts got together to perform a star-studded version of "Walk This Way." This one had just about everything you could want in a multi-star show. Well played, MTV. Well played.
4. Paul McCartney- Super Bowl XXXIX (2005)
Setlist: "Drive My Car," "Get Back," "Live and Let Die," "Hey Jude."
This was the year the NFL was nervous. We are one year removed from Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, and MTV has been permanently axed after producing that show. The NFL went with Sir Paul McCartney for this halftime show down in Jacksonville, and the former Beatles bassist did not disappoint. Delivering standards of the Beatles and his own, McCartney brought a needed easiness and a break from controversy to the Super Bowl. His last number, "Hey Jude," featured a massive audience card stunt, in which 78,000 people were on their feet dancing and singing along to the iconic chorus. A pretty cool sight to say the least.
3. Bruno Mars & Red Hot Chili Peppers- Super Bowl XLVIII (2014)
Setlist: "Locked Out Of Heaven," "Treasure," "Runaway Baby," "Give It Away," "Just the Way You Are."
It's February in New Jersey. The Seahawks are holding a 22-0 lead over the Broncos at halftime. It is understandable if many Denver Broncos fans headed for the exits and missed this one, although they missed one hell of a show. Bruno Mars, fresh of a new album, followed up Beyoncé's legendary show with one of his own, bringing a halftime show filled with fun and excitement to the cold New Jersey night. What began with a sizzling drum solo by Mars' twin brother (yes, he's got a twin brother) turned into a concert that was part James Brown, part Elvis, and part Michael Jackson, with some Four Seasons thrown in for good measure. Mars' dance moves, vocals, and energy were infectious, and bringing out the Red Hot Chili Peppers only upped the excitement. Finally, the show ended with an emotional "Just the Way You Are," which featured pre-recorded messages to home from various U.S. Military personnel. A show filled with so many emotions, I think Bruno Mars followed up his predecessor just fine.
2. Beyoncé- Super Bowl XLVII (2013)
Setlist: "Countdown"/"Run The World (Girls)"/"Love On Top," "Crazy in Love," "End of Time," "Baby Boy," "Bootylicious," "Independent Women Part 1," "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," "Halo,"
THIS was a halftime show. The stage was in the shape of Beyoncé's face. There was a silhouette of her that was on fire. Destiny's Child was there. This halftime show had it all. In an adrenaline-packed, emotionally charged performance, Beyoncé took everyone in the Louisiana Superdome and punched them in the face. With a performance of "Crazy in Love," whose energy has never been matched, Queen Bey tore the roof off the place. And that was just the first number. After Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams from Destiny's Child joined the Queen onstage, the three got back to business where they had left off in the early 2000s, performing "Bootylicious," "Independent Women Part 1," and "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)." To top it off, Beyoncé finished with an emotional, deeply personal rendition of "Halo." Need I remind you that this halftime show was so spectacular, the power at the Superdome went out for 34 minutes during the game. The Beyoncé halftime show is the one of the most tweeted-about event of all time, and for good reason. Did I mention she's playing at the Super Bowl again this year? God save the Queen.
1. U2- Super Bowl XXXVI (2002)
Setlist: "Beautiful Day," "MLK," "Where The Streets Have No Name."
In the first Super Bowl after the September 11th attacks, U2 came into the Louisiana Superdome and performed one of the most moving tributes to America and the victims of 9/11 ever. The Irish rockers, fresh off a new album and subsequent world tour, opened with their brand new single "Beautiful Day," with Bono entering through the crowd. The band followed up with the poingant lullaby "MLK." As the second number began, the names of the victims of the 9/11 attacks scrolled upward on a massive black curtain. Finally, the band concluded with "Where The Streets Have No Name," where Bono altered a few of the lyrics to evoke hopefullness and peace, throwing in a few allusions to the city of New Orleans itself (not to mention softly uttering the words to Psalm 51 during the intro of the song). A truly wonderful moment for a nation still in immense pain. The ending of the show is the absolute best- Bono opening up his jacket to reveal a stars-and-stripes inner lining. Chills and tears. The best halftime show in the last 49 years of the Super Bowl.
What Super Bowl halftime shows were your favorite? Leave a comment down below.
I enjoy making lists, countdowns, and making sense of the world that I see around me.