Top 10 Super Bowl Halftime Moments

Warning: this post has nothing to do with albums at all. After watching  Super Bowl XLIX (49)'s halftime performance, I was inspired to re-watche every halftime show I could find online since 1991.  In case you didn't know, 1991 is the year that the biggest American sports event of the year seemed to realize the intermission was actually an opportunity for marketing and expanding their audience.  Previously, this gig was reserved for marching bands and Disney characters.  Surprisingly, it was NKOTB that launched us into this new tradition, but it wasn't until two years later that halftime became the pop-star driven spectacle it is now.

Anyway, I am a sucker for a top 10 list.  So here are some moments that make this a performance I don't want to miss each year.


10.  The Rolling Stones, 2006

I found it pretty strange that in the post-Janet era, between 2005 and 2010, half of the halftime acts for this uber-American event were Brits.  All were men.  Overall, I think the Rolling Stones approached this gig strangely, playing only 3 songs including the lame and forgettable "Rough Justice".  However, Jagger had the energy of a young colt, as usual, and danced around a stage shaped as The Stones' trademark lips.  That was cool.


9.  Madonna, 2012

Three moments cross my mind for this one.  When she arrives for vogue in this chariot pulled by all the warriors/dancers who are dressed as a sort of Egyptian/Roman hybrid.  Epic is an understatement for this moment.  Also when CeeLo Green joins her on stage in front of a massive gospel choir to sing "Like a Prayer", and when the Cirque du Soliel guy bounces on the wire.  Plus that brief moment when the special guest, M.I.A. gave her middle finger to live, national television.  These things mostly made up for the fact that she premiered that unfortunate LUV Madonna song.

8.  Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, 2009

Even though I'm personally not the biggest Springsteen fan, I feel like he's maybe the best choice for the Super Bowl gig.  There were two great moments in this performance (aside from the fact that these guys were born to play live).  The first was his weird, excitable intro where he told viewers to "back up from the guacamole" and "put down the chicken wings!"  The second was as he slid on his knees, crotch first into the camera man.

7.  Katy Perry, 2015

Actually, it has nothing to do with Katy Perry and everything to do with that time Missy Elliott made a comeback, and rap was given the Super Bowl halftime stage more than one verse.  Also, when the shark on the left was so drunk.  This link is for the whole performance, but the shark moment is around 5:40, and Missy shows up at 7:14.



6.  Janet Jackson, 2004

NO.  I'm not talking about the nip-slip that made the halftime producers afraid to put women on the stage again for 6 whole years, and that nearly ruined a legend's career, but as usual, left the man involved (Justin Timberlake) even more popular.  Though memorable, it may have been the worst in my books.  What I AM talking about is when Janet Jackson performs Rhythm Nation 15 years after she released it, and it didn't feel like a throwback.  Still doesn't.


 5.  Prince, 2007

One of my favourite halftime performances of all time.  Prince just performs like the legendary musician he is.  But the two moments that make this list are when he covers the Foo Fighters' "Best of You" because it was just so unexpected and classy, and when he closes his 12 minutes with Purple Rain.  In the rain.  With an incredible solo on his symbol-shaped guitar.  Everything about that was cool.



4.  Diana Ross, 1996

"Here comes my ride!" she says, as a helicopter lands.  On the stage (which has transformed into a helipad).  Then the diva herself gets strapped in and waves goodbye.  This is by 100% the best finale to a halftime performance ever.  And I assume this is now 100% illegal.


3.  U2, 2002

After September 11th, most performers would not touch this gig with a 10-foot pole.  This Irish band performs a humble and touching set of just three songs: "Beautiful Day," "MLK," and "Where the Streets Have No Name".  The moment, of course, is the entire last song when Bono sings in front of a tall fabric-screen, where a projection of all the names of 9/11 victims are scrolling.  The whole thing feels like a gift from a small nation that knows a little something about terrorism, violence, and grief.


2.  Beyoncé, 2013

When Beyoncé brings back Destiny's Child, and Kelly and Michelle launch out of the stage from below to sing "Bootylicious", "Independent Women Part 1", and part of "Single Ladies".  The other moment is every time Beyoncé does anything.  For example, when she makes her eyes big.  Or smiles.  Never mind when she sings or dances.  Seriously, this performance is flawless in every possible criterion.

1.  Michael Jackson, 1993

This is really the performance that started it all.  The show starts with two fake MJ's, jumping on top of the large replay screens.  Finally, the real Michael launches up center-stage, and just stands there without moving for 90. whole. seconds.  As much as I wish he used that time to add another song to the set, he just proved that he can do that.  Also, he has his boss guitarist, Jennifer Batten with him, so that's a win.  Some would call the end of his set cheesy, as he's surrounded by some 300 children singing "Heal the World".  The thing is, there is something seriously hopeful about this whole moment.  Like, people still believed the world could be healed.  Or maybe that was just Michael.


So there you go.  Some close calls were Sting's duet with Gwen Stefani in 2003, Stevie Wonder tap dancing in 1999, and in 1998 when basically every surviving artist of Motown got on the same stage (and began to redeem the year before when white guys did a soul throwback).

Did you have some favourite moments from Super Bowl performances?  What did I miss?  Are you mad I left off Britney Spears or Brian Boitano?

Note, Added February, 2016: Only one year after this post and I already feel the need to update it.

In 2016 Beyoncé tied herself at number 2 when she interrupted Superbowl50 dressed as Michael Jackson to perform a brand new song (released the day before with the most political video of her career). With her dancers - all women - clad in black berets, they celebrated a black history moment 50 years ago, when The Black Panthers began to organize to protect themselves from police brutality only about 45 miles away from the Santa Clara football stadium. How's that for layers?

The performance was sick too.