The Best Super Bowl Halftime Shows

On February 11, Las Vegas will host the highly anticipated Super Bowl Halftime Show during the NFL Finale 2024. Iconic artist Usher is set to entertain the audience with his magnetic performance.

Usher, known for his popular hits such as “Yeah!” and “My Way,” hasn’t released an album since 2016. Fans can likely expect him to perform a medley of his classic songs at the Super Bowl. This milestone event provides an opportunity to reflect on past halftime shows that captured audiences’ attention and sparked international conversations.

1993: Michael Jackson – Perhaps the Greatest Super Bowl Halftime Show

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Super Bowl Halftime Shows are primarily known for the star performances that grace the stage. When an icon of an entire generation takes the stage, expectations soar even higher. In 1993, Michael Jackson exceeded these expectations without a hitch.

During Super Bowl XXVII, Jackson set foot on the stage at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, captivating the attention of around 133.4 million viewers, making it one of the most-watched events in US television history.

To attract more viewers and interest, the NFL had recently decided to hire top-tier acts for their halftime shows. Michael Jackson was the first artist to grace the stage in this ongoing tradition of superstar performances.

Musically, Jackson performed his greatest hits. After a two-minute pause, during which he stood still and soaked up the applause, he sang “Jam,” “Billie Jean,” “Black or White,” “We Are the World,” and “Heal the World.”

Jackson only agreed to perform at the Super Bowl after the NFL made a generous donation to his foundation that supported youth in Los Angeles and provided him with ample advertising time for the foundation.

In the game itself, the Buffalo Bills were no match for the Dallas Cowboys. However, the true highlight was the NFL halftime show, which saw a surge in viewership compared to the game’s kickoff.

2004: Nipplegate – The Most Memorable Super Bowl Halftime Show Scandal

In 2004, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake took the stage at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, ultimately leaving a lasting impact on future performances. However, this impact wasn’t due to their musical prowess, but rather the infamous Nipplegate scandal, which became one of the biggest Super Bowl controversies in history.

During the final song of the show, “Rock Your Body,” Jackson and Timberlake danced together. Unexpectedly, Timberlake tore a part of Jackson’s costume, revealing her breast adorned with nipple jewelry. Although CBS quickly cut to an aerial shot, the outrage in conservative America was unstoppable.

Image: Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake created the biggest scandal in Super Bowl Halftime Show history.

Following Nipplegate, MTV was no longer allowed to produce Super Bowl Halftime Shows, and the broadcast now includes a five-second delay. This change provides a longer reaction time for directors to respond to any unforeseen incidents during live performances.

Amidst the controversy, football continued. The New England Patriots narrowly defeated the Carolina Panthers, securing the second of Tom Brady’s ten Super Bowl titles.

The Nipplegate scandal remains a significant moment in Super Bowl history, serving as an example of how a brief incident can leave a lasting impact on major events and their production.

2009: Bruce Springsteen Rocks the Super Bowl Halftime Show

When did the Super Bowl Halftime Show start?

In the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, only the greatest of the great are recognized. In the 2009 Super Bowl Halftime Show, two of these legends were seen performing live on stage. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band presented one of the last major rock performances at the NFL final before the league shifted its focus more towards pop music.

Springsteen opened his show with a passionate request: “I want you to put down the guacamole dip and the chicken fingers.”

Those who complied with this demand were treated to 12 minutes of pure rock perfection. The Boss heightened the excitement of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” with “Born to Run,” “Working on a Dream,” and “Glory Days.”

This Super Bowl Halftime Show took place at Raymond James Stadium. However, unlike the Bucs’ victory in 2021, there was no home win in 2009. Instead, the Pittsburgh Steelers narrowly defeated the Arizona Cardinals in the final match.

The first-ever halftime show was held in 1967, quickly showcasing why the United States mastered the art of entertainment. Many other sports followed the example set by the NFL, the most powerful American football league.

The inauguration of this tradition at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was, of course, not as elaborate as today’s highly-produced shows.

On stage at that original Super Bowl were the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band, Grambling State University Marching Band, Al Hirt, as well as the Anaheim High School Ana-Hi-Steppers Drill Team and Flag Girls.

Over time, the event evolved into its own major highlight. Even entertainment-related bets can now be placed, such as on the first song or special guest appearances.

2007: Prince in the Pouring Rain

In 2007, the Super Bowl XLI took place at the Dolphins Stadium in Miami, where the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears competed. Although the game was thrilling, it was the halftime show that truly stood out.

That year, Prince was in charge of the iconic performance. As heavy rain poured around the stadium, the producers were concerned and contacted Prince. His reply was simply, “Can you make it rain harder?”

At that moment, everyone knew an unforgettable show was about to unfold. One of the highlights included a fantastic live rendition of “Purple Rain.”

Additionally, the audience was captivated by captivating cover versions of “We Will Rock You” by Queen and “Best of You” by Foo Fighters during this legendary Super Bowl halftime show.

Looking back, this show has rightfully earned its place in the pantheon of unforgettable Super Bowl performances.

2015: Katy Perry and Two Dancing Sharks

In 2015, Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime show brought an unexpected guest appearance that no one saw coming. While the show had anticipated feature performances by Missy Elliott and Lenny Kravitz, it was the left shark that ultimately stole the spotlight.

During Katy Perry’s medley of “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls,” two shark dancers appeared on stage—one on the left and the other on the right. However, the left shark’s dance moves were so out of sync that it immediately became an internet sensation and remained a topic of discussion for months to come.

It was later revealed that the “Left Shark” and “Right Shark” were actually longtime backup dancers for Perry. The seemingly impromptu performance was intentionally spontaneous, just as it appeared.

Among the memorable moments of Super Bowl XLIX was Malcolm Butler’s interception at the 1-yard line against Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. In the end, it seemed that the Left Shark brought good fortune to the New England Patriots and Tom Brady.

Super Bowl Halftime Show Performers Since 2015

Additional NFL Related Articles:

Year Performer
2023 Rihanna
2022 Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige
2021 The Weeknd
2020 Jennifer Lopez & Shakira
2019 Maroon 5
2018 Justin Timberlake
2017 Lady Gaga
2016 Coldplay
2015 Katy Perry

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Frequently Asked Questions

What was the best Super Bowl halftime show performance of all time?

Although it is difficult to pick just one performance, many people consider Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl halftime show as one of the greatest in history.

Which five halftime shows had the highest viewership?

Here are the top five Super Bowl halftime shows based on viewership:

  1. Katy Perry (2015)
  2. Bruno Mars (2014)
  3. Madonna (2012)
  4. Lady Gaga (2017)
  5. Coldplay (2016)

Who are some artists that gave memorable Super Bowl halftime performances?

Some of the most memorable performances come from artists such as Michael Jackson, U2, Beyoncé, and The Rolling Stones, among others.

Were there any controversial moments during halftime performances?

Yes, there have been controversial moments, most notably the 2004 performance featuring Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, which led to the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” incident.

What makes a halftime show be considered among the worst?

Factors that contribute to a halftime show being considered one of the worst may include lackluster performances, technical issues, poor song choices, or negative audience reactions.

Which artist holds the record for most appearances in Super Bowl halftime shows?

Grammy-winning singer Gladys Knight holds the record for the most appearances in Super Bowl halftime shows, having performed three times (1972, 1987, 1991).