RANKED: Super Bowl Halftime Shows

February 10, 2021

No matter how you feel about The Weeknd, Abel Tesfaye broke many long standing traditions that have existed during Super Bowl Halftime Shows. Last Sunday there were no jaw-dropping surprise guests, no elaborate costume changes, no arial stunts, political statements or headline grabbing antics. To some, this was a mistake, but to others (myself included), it was a statement. The Weeknd performed a thoughtful and stylistic set, a set that for many households served as an introduction of sorts to who The Weeknd is. While The Weeknd still feels like a relatively new pop star. Yet he was able to remind us, in a very short period of time, just how many hits he actually has. He started off his set off with his massive song “Starboy”, then quickly morphed into “The Hills” which descended into the very memorable gold dusted swirls of  “Can’t Feel My Face” which felt like it was performed inside drug fueled fun house. Once he escaped, he slowed it down with his Daft Punk collaboration “I Feel It Coming”, arguably my favorite song from The Weeknd. He quickly subsided to his dark side, a side that most of his long time fans are more familiar with, laying down “Save Your Tears” & “Earned It” from the hit movie Fifty Shades Of Grey.  This is when the show gained its full momentum and The Weeknd seemed to really feel comfortable in, well, his new skin (a theme of the show). The Weeknd began to close his set with where his career began – with “House of Balloons / Glass Table Girl”  from his debut mixtape of the same name. When he released that mixtape (for free) it was nearly impossible to imagine him less than a decade later headlining the biggest stage in the world. So to preface a song from that moment with arguably one of the biggest pop hits of all time “Blinding Lights”, his closing song, showed a ton of bravado. It was brave declaration many other pop stars would be too scared to take on. I applaud him for it!

While we enjoyed The Weeknd’s performance, it’s hard for it to stand up next to so many other amazing Halftime Shows. We’ve seen performances from Madonna, Janet, Rolling Stones & Bruno Mars… literally some of the most beloved pop stars of all time. So while we’re here, let’s take a quick moment and look back at our favorite 10 Super Bowl Halftime Shows.

Be sure to comment & let us know what you think!

What are your favorite Halftime Show?

(Honorable Mention)
The Weeknd (2021)  || Tampa Bay, FL || Super Bowl LV

What more to say? The Weeknd brought it! He gave audiences something completely eccentric and served up a fresh brand of pop music to the world. I mean really…think how far we’ve come. It wasn’t long ago the Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera & Toni Braxton participated in the cringe worthy “Disney Millennium Performance” at the Super Bowl…and today we have an illusive orator of R&B singing songs about late night powder rooms & seductive relationships. Yes please. 

10. Diana Ross (1996) || Tempe, AZ || Super Bowl XXX

Before there was Beyoncé, there was Miss Ross and it was this performance that helped set the tone for future diva Halftime shows. It was ripe with costume changes, pyrotechnics, and a massive melody of hits. Ross blasted through 10 songs, ranging all the way from her disco solo career all the way back to her classic soul hits with The Supremes. As Ross wrapped up her massive set with “Take Me Higher”, Ross proclaimed “that her ride had arrived” and a helicopter descended onto the 50 yard line…and in pure diva fashion, Ross made one of the most epic exits in concert history. 

9. Lady Gaga (2007) || Houston, TX || Super Bowl LI

Gaga’s sci-fi fueled Halftime show was one for the books. Not only did her show get nominated for 6 Emmy awards, but she enlisted Versace to design all the wardrobes and famed lighting director Rob Barnhart to handle production. This futuristic performance tapped into her inner Ziggy Stardust spirit, while letting the world know that she’s not only one of the most inventive pop stars, but she’s completely unparalleled. Gaga truly is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. 

8. Paul McCartney (2005) || Jacksonville, FL || Super Bowl XXXIX

You knew when Sir Paul got the nod to head the Halftime Show that he wouldn’t disappoint. The singer very cooly went through 4 of his iconic songs – “Drive My Car”, “Get Back”, “Live & Let Die” and the rounding out with the epic “Hey Jude”. While the performance was relatively safe (maybe a conscious choice following the previous years slip up with Janet & JT), it was still Paul McCartney sharing with the world some of the most beloved songs. He handled the responsibility with the utmost professionalism & poise. Oh yeah, and did we mention “Hey Jude”…worth the price of admission alone. 

7. Katy Perry (2015) || Phoenix, AZ || Super Bowl XLIX

Katy Perry’s blockbuster Halftime Show only gets better with age. Not only have her ear-worm pop songs aged incredibly well (“Teenage Dream”, “Roar”, “California Gurls” & “Firework”) but the way in which she stylized the show was accessible while also trend setting. This is perhaps the first time an artist consciously created a set piece with the intention is would become “meme-able” (you know the moment) – and it’s that exact ability to wink and almost satirize pop culture that sets Katy apart. Oh, and did we mention Missy Elliott!  

6. Michael Jackson (1993) || Pasadena, CA || Super Bowl XXVII

When MJ performed the Halftime Show in 1993 no one of his magnitude had graced the stage quite yet. He was really the first “super star” to perform at Half Time. Remember, it was just 4 years prior that an Elvis impersonator entertained an entire stadium of rabid football fans. And while MJ laid the groundwork for what we have now come to expect in a Halftime show, it’s clear that the producers weren’t quite ready for the King of Pop…they hadn’t quite nailed down the sound, there was a commercial break in the middle of it, and the show was in broad day light. None the less, MJ moonwalks to “Beat It” and that’s enough for us.  

5. J.Lo / Shakira (2020) || Miami, FL || Super Bowl LIV

Shakira & J.Lo performing together at a Super Bowl in Miami?! This is one of those moments when the moons align too perfectly. Super Bowl LIV was a true celebration of Latin culture, and a moment the NFL (for once) got completely right. Latin music has been big in the Untied States for a while, but 2020 was a year when the music climbed the Billboard charts and entered our homes in a whole new way…and Shakira and J.Lo were there to liaison the moment.

4. U2 (2002) || New Orleans, LA || Super Bowl XXXVI

When U2 performed in 2002 we were just months past the horrific events that surrounded 9/11. Bono, The Edge and the rest of U2 knew they had a moment to capture. They has some deep spiritual wounds to heal. If anyone was going to take this responsibility seriously, it’s U2. I remember watching this performance when I was younger…you could hear a pin drop in the room. It was almost as if you felt the entire world watching was holding their breath with me. The deeply emotional ending to the performance was a funeral of sorts. Almost like a turning point; a moment where people collectively knew they were ok to feel alive again. 

3. Bruce Springsteen (2009) || Tampa, FL || Super Bowl XLIII

I can’t think of a more iconic American group than Bruce Springsteen & The E. Street Band, and who better to rock a football halftime show than The Boss? No tricks here. No surprises. Just straightforward rock-n-roll from the best in the biz. 45 seconds into this show Bruce has every signal person, from that stadium to the couch, in the palm of his hand. Honestly…if Bruce & Co. were to headline the Super Bowl every year, I don’t think I’d complain. 

2. Beyonce & Destiny’s Child (2013) || New Orleans, LA || Super Bowl XLVII

While in no way was this a Beyoncé coming out party, but it was a show that truly solidified her as Queen Bey. A title that she’s held since this iconic performance. Not only was her performance jaw dropping, her production design top notch and her aesthetic incredibly sophisticated, but the music choices were spot on. Bey has too many hits to fit into one halftime show, but her choices of “Crazy in Love”, “Baby Boy” & “Halo” fit perfectly. And when she brought out Destiny’s Child, everyone fully expected to hear “Say My Name” or “Survivor”, but instead they sang Beyoncé’s biggest hit “Single Ladies”. If that’s not a power move, I don’t know what is. #BeyForever

1. Prince (2007) || Miami, FL || Super Bowl XLI

“Purple Rain” in the pouring rain. What more do you want? 

This is not just the best Halftime performance of all time, but Prince live at Super Bowl XLI is one of the best live musical performances ever captured. Period. 

Published by Casey Smith

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