The Super Bowl halftime Show is as highly anticipated as the annual NFL league championship game itself. It’s become a cultural phenomenon that has unified sports, music, and entertainment. Production of the halftime show has come a long way since the first edition in 1967. Earlier shows featured rather forgettable marching band performances and theatrics from Peanuts or Disney characters. Through the decades we have seen the biggest names in music headline, in an extravaganza of greatest hits, unexpected duets, fireworks, and pyrotechnics. Put simply, it’s American entertainment doing what it does best! Here are eight of the best halftime shows.
Michael Jackson (Super Bowl XXVII, 1993)
1993 was the year that changed the format of the halftime show into the spectacle that we know it as today.
Michael Jackson was the first pop superstar to headline the show, and his performance saw TV ratings increase for the first time in Super Bowl history.
The intro is certainly the most memorable. Like magic, MJ jumps out from under the stage to stand still (for about 90 seconds) in that iconic statuesque pose to thousands of screaming fans.
Shakira & Jennifer Lopez (Super Bowl LIV, 2020)
Shakira and J.Lo’s halftime show was a delightful celebration of Latin pop music culture. A medley of hits were performed in Spanish as well as English, with a little help from reggaeton superstars Bad Bunny and J Balvin.
The Kings of Rock and Pop (Super Bowl XXXV, 2001)
In 2001 for one night only, the super group we never asked for and never knew we needed was formed.
“The Kings of Rock and Pop” – Aerosmith, NSYNC, Britney Spears, Mary J Blige, and Nelly. This was peak Y2K pop culture, with beautifully chaotic moments such as Justin Timberlake and Steven Tyler trading off dance moves and Nelly’s cameo rap for the “Walk This Way” finale.
Rihanna (Super Bowl LVII, 2023)
After such a long hiatus (it was her first live performance in five years), there was so much hype building up to Rihanna’s return to the centre stage at Super Bowl LVII. The shock surprise of the night was the reveal of her second pregnancy as she arrived on a floating platform wearing a custom red Loewe jumpsuit designed by JW Anderson. There were no famous guest appearances – Rihanna simply owned the stage with hits like “Umbrella” and “Diamonds”. ASL interpreter Justina Miles went viral with her highly energetic and sassy sign translations of the Barbadian singer’s hits – she was the Super Bowl’s first deaf female performer.
Madonna (Super Bowl XLVI, 2012)
We had Michael Jackson in 1993 and Prince in 2007, so Madonna’s 2012 halftime show booking felt long overdue for such pop royalty. It was certainly worth the wait, with Madonna’s stunning set design, choreography, and outfit switch-ups – plus a moment of pure gospel joy as she was joined by CeeLo Green for a closing performance of “Like a Prayer”.
Beyoncé (Super Bowl XLVII, 2013)
Beyoncé was literally running the world at this point. In 2011 she became the first solo female artist in 20 years to headline Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage, and just a month before Super Bowl XLVII she performed the American national anthem at the second inauguration of President Obama.
Oozing with confidence, Beyoncé opened with an a cappella rendition of “Love On Top”, and later stunned the audience with the arrival of Kelly and Michelle for a Destiny’s Child reunion.
Dr Dre (Super Bowl LVI, 2022)
It took this long for a hip hop act to finally headline the Super Bowl and it was Dr. Dre, one of the key architects of the genre, who was to deliver such a highly anticipated show.
Inglewood, California was brought to the world stage with a set designed by Es Devlin. So much was packed into these thirteen minutes, with appearances from long-time collaborators Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and Mary J Blige. Politically coded moments – such as Eminem kneeling in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick – became highly topical given the NFL’s history with race relations. Compton’s finest Kendrick Lamar gave a powerful performance of “Alright”, wearing a custom Louis Vuitton suit designed by Virgil Abloh.
Prince (Super Bowl XLI, 2007)
Super Bowl XLI at times felt a little bit like the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears had arrived to play in-between a Prince concert. He stole the show with a masterclass in live rock and roll showmanship: stage presence, crowd interaction, guitar solos, and much, much more. The weather lent itself well to a rather poetic ending as Prince closed the show singing Purple Rain as the heaven’s opened.