April 24, 2024

The Best Super Bowl Halftime Shows


The Super Bowl Halftime Show is sometimes called “the world’s biggest stage” This is because millions of people watch the Super Bowl every year. These include people watching for the game itself, the commercials or just the halftime show. In the past, the Super Bowl Halftime Show was not always a Billboard charting artist. In fact, it may not have even been a traditional musical artist at all. Oftentimes, a matching band would be the frontrunner or the only performer. This changed in the 1990s. Since then, the Halftime Show performances have become bigger and bigger with multiple artists performing in the 12 (or so) minute time limit. We’ve gathered a list of ten performances that we think truly took advantage of being on “the world’s biggest stage”.

#10 Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar feat. Anderson Paak. and 50 Cent – Super Bowl 56, 2022

When these artists were announced as performers, it was a very popular topic on social media. With each of them having a multitude of hits in their discography, people wondered how the time limit would be utilized. Once the night of the performance arrived, people saw if their predictions paid off. The stage was a replica of a house and the artists performed on top of, inside and in front of it. Kendrick and his backup dancers had exceptional choreography and Mary J Blige’s vocals and dancing were excellent. Dre and Snoop showed their age a little but still looked to be having a ton of fun. For many viewers, this was an excellent group to showcase several eras of hip-hop/rap and blend old and new school.

#9 Justin Timberlake feat. The Tennessee Kids and the University of Minnesota Marching Band – Super Bowl 52, 2018

Justin Timberlake has been performing for years and has proven he’s very good at it. His performance took full advantage of the space he was in as he moved from area to area throughout the stadium. Before he even made his way to the main stage, he was in what looked like a small performance venue. Making his way through the crowd and up the stairs, he was singing and dancing the entire time. He then moved to a runway-like stage and then a mini stage before heading to the main large stage. This gave his performance a sense of creative immersion with his movement. Throughout all this movement, Justin let some of the backing track do the work as he ad-libbed and talked to the crowd. This performance was a redemption of sorts for the infamous 2004 situation.

#8 Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Temptations and Queen Latifah feat. Grambling State University Marching Band – Super Bowl 32, 1998

This one was special because it celebrated 40 years of Motown. Each act performed one of their hits on the label and Queen Latifah put a modern spin on a classic. During the performance, there were giant sheets that looked like records that rotated on the field. This imagery was creative and captured the theme of the tribute well.  There was even an intro with various celebrities from the year singing “The Way You Do the Things You Do” by The Temptations. This part is nostalgic for those who remember seeing those people everywhere. Even though some acts were a little older, their vocals still sounded just as good as they did in the past. Seeing their coordinated outfits and choreography was a joy to those who remembered them from the past. It also helped showcase history to the younger viewers and maybe even got them interested in learning more about Motown.

#7 Bruno Mars feat. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Super Bowl 48, 2014

Bruno Mars is prioritizing his duo with Anderson .Paak titled Silk Sonic these days. However, many know he had an excellent solo career before this. The throwback sound and imagery was still present years ago. Bruno’s hair, dancing and outfits for himself and his bandmates all line up with the music he’s performing. Surprisingly, he actually began his performance with a drum solo that built on “Locked Out Of Heaven”.  After starting off with this much high energy, it was only right he kept it going. It continued when Red Hot Chili Peppers came out and they brought even more energy as Bruno sang along with their frontman Anthony Kiedis. In an effort to perhaps cool everyone – including himself – down, Bruno ended his performance with “Just The Way You Are” one of his most intimate songs. This showed the range of talent he had as a performer well. 

#6 Lady Gaga – Super Bowl 51, 2017

Lady Gaga is someone that can put on a spectacle. From her outfits for award shows to her performances, she was known for being eye-catching. Her Super Bowl performance showcased these aspects and took advantage of the setting without a doubt. Her performance began with her at the literal top of the stadium. Red, white and blue drones floated in the sky behind her forming an American flag as she sang “God Bless America” and “This Land Is Your Land” Following this, she jumped from the platform and floated through the air on wires and even did some flips/rotations. After this solo display, she joined costumed dancers for choreography that she did right along with them. She even found time to do an outfit change amongst everything happening. The fact she never truly lost her breath and still sounded excellent live is a testament to her commitment to putting on a show.

#5 Coldplay feat. Beyonce and Bruno Mars – Super Bowl 50, 2016

For many viewers Beyonce and Bruno Mars stole the show this year. And “stole” was a good or bad thing depending on who you ask. This one was unique because it had a “battle” between Beyonce and Bruno Mars. Bruno’s “Uptown Funk” led into Beyonce’s “Formation” and the two came face-to-face at the end of her song. Each artist’s backup dancers went up against each other before joining together for a reprise of “Uptown Funk” that included Coldplay’s frontman Chris Martin. After this the trio transitioned into Coldplay’s “Up&Up” and everyone’s background dancers joined together on stage. Fans in the stadium had boards they held up that when combined formed a rainbow of colors that also read “Believe In Love” For many viewers, this was an excellent example of different artists coming together to create something that was truly a performance.

#4 Beyonce feat. Destiny’s Child – Super Bowl 47, 2013

Beyonce is someone whose performance skills are well documented. Something that stuck out immensely during her performance were the visuals. The stage had multiple digital effects that enhanced her performance and utilized different camera angles to display it in the best way. Some portions had an overhead camera angle as kaleidoscope-esque images of Beyonce dancing roasted around the stage. At other moments, a traditional horizontal view was used as a rectangular screen had replicas of Beyonce performing choreography while she performed it live. However, the biggest surprise of the night was the reunion of Beyonce’s former group, Destiny’s Child. Members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams literally burst through the stage to the shock of everyone. They joined Beyonce for their group hits “Bootylicious“ and “Independent Women, Pt. 1”. They also gave her backup vocal support on one of her solo anthems “Single Ladies” After lots of choreography, Beyonce concluded her set with “Halo” a song that puts her vocals on full display. 

#3 Michael Jackson – Super Bowl 27,1993

Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl entrance is the most iconic one of all time. He started “inside” one of the jumbotrons, “flew” out of it, and “teleported” to another one and flew out of it too. Then, he burst through the center stage and posed while the crowd cheered merely because of his presence for two minutes.This was also a performance where the audience’s participation was essential to the show. There were people with boards on the field of the stadium that had choreographed movements as Michael performed. However, when he performed “Heal The World” it was the audience’s turn. They held up boards that formed a huge picture of children of different colors holding hands. A children’s choir performed “We Are The World” before this. Michael used these songs because he wanted the world to hear his message of love, peace and unity.

#2 The Weeknd – Super Bowl 55, 2021

The Weeknd began his performance on top of a city skyline. Once he descended there was a smaller multi-tier skyline stage with people who danced while he sang. Once he left this area, he went into a room with lights and mirrors and held the camera himself as he sang into it. To leave this area, he navigated through a crowd of body doubles dressed like the injured version of his red blazer character. He returned to the multi-tier skyline stage and violinists joined him to perform a powerful version of “Earned It”. The visual display reached a new level when the body doubles lined the entire field. As The Weeknd performed amongst them, they turned on lights they had on their hands while he sang “Blinding Lights” Fireworks concluded his performance but they had also been used throughout the entirety of it.

#1 Prince feat. Florida A&M University Marching 100 Band – Super Bowl 43, 2007

Some moments are genuinely historic and iconic. Prince’s Super Bowl performance is one of those moments. The first thing that validates this is the fact the stage itself was Prince’s symbol. It changed colors as he performed. Then, there’s the fact he used three different guitars for his performances and each one sounded excellent. The last one he used was purple and also in the shape of his symbol. This was his guitar of choice for his mega hit “Purple Rain” As he played that one, a huge white sheet appeared and Prince’s silhouette was the only thing visible. During this guitar solo, the shape of the guitar stood out even more as he played to the cheering fans. As the camera lens showed, it had actually been raining his entire performance. However, the purple lighting combined with it as he played the song was truly an exceptional moment. 

Did you see these memorable performances when they happened? Do you think a different one should be in our list? Let us know in the comments section below.


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