Last night’s Super Bowl was outstanding! The game was one for the ages, matching the Giants’ big upset victory over a then-undefeated Patriots. Or the Super Bowl that ended with the Patriots intercepting a near touchdown pass that would have given the Seahawks their second consecutive Super Bowl victory.
And the Halftime show, performed by Justin Timberlake was fun to watch, but after 52 Super Bowls, where did Timberlake’s halftime show rank within historical context? Well, we will attempt to figure this out. But, first, let’s remember that from the very first Super Bowl through 1992, the Super Bowl halftime shows were very lame. Either a local university band who perform, some old Broadway performer would sing (anyone remember Carol Channing) or several performance by that lame group of fake-positive attitude youths called Up with People.
But, in 1993, everything changed when the Super Bowl got the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, was tapped to perform. Unfortunately, the producers of the Super Bowl did not know what they were doing at the time, and actually had a commercial break in the middle of performance. Additionally, Michael decided to make a new song of his the centerpiece of his set that he left all of us wanting some of the hits. Eventually, he did end his set by playing one song from his legendary past, “Billie Jean.” Unfortunately, Michael could have furthered his grip on the world. Instead, the weirdo allegations and claims of sexual abuse with little boys came out in the aftermath. But, the Super Bowl halftime was changed forever.
So, what follows, is my rankings of all the Super Bowl halftime shows since 1993, when Michael Jackson unwittingly changed everything forever. The halftime show has become a spectacle unto itself, going through its own evolution from a oldies variety show to a MTV-driven youth movement to a classic rock revival to its current pop-driven show with the hopes of boosting the ratings by appealing to the emerging youth demographics.
So, let’s start the countdown of 26 halftime shows.
26. Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias and Toni Braxton (2000). Sure, the line up seems great, but Disney was in charged so it forced these artists to see Disney music. It was lame and left the world clamoring for anything by Collins, even “Sussidio,” instead of this crap.
25. Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt & the Judds (1994). So, how did the Super Bowl follow-up their successful Michael Jackson halftime extravaganza? They staged a country music hoedown that appealed to such a small section of the viewing audience that there was a huge clicking off of the Super Bowl at the time that the numbers Nielsen ratings reflected this in a measurable way. Have you noticed any country artists ever being invited back? Nope.
24. Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, James Belushi, ZZ Top and James Brown (1997). Was anyone really clamoring for a Blues Brothers revival, especially since the death of John Belushi. Uh, no! Things were so bad that neither ZZ Top nor James Brown could save the night with their single songs each.
23. Shania Twain, No Doubt and Sting (2003). What?!?!? This was quite a random line-up. It seems like the producers just grabbed names out of a hat in an attempt to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. The outcome? Confusion. And, left wanting more of No Doubt or Sting, and less Shania.
22. Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (1999). Yes, you read that correctly! Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, that middling swing revival band played a Super Bowl halftime show. The bad part was that we were not given enough of Stevie Wonder, let alone Gloria Estefan.
21. Patti LaBelle, Tony Bennett, Arturo Sandoval, Teddy Pendergrass and Miami Sound Machine (1995). Once again, the people at the Super Bowl tried a hodge-podge of artists in an attempt to appeal the widest audience as possible. Except, few were left impressed with too many cooks in the kitchen.
20. Paul McCartney (2005). In the aftermath of Janet Jackson’s Nipplegate from the year before, the halftime show became a classic rock show for a brief period. No one questioned the selection of one of history’s greatest singer/songwriters and former Beatle. We just questioned why he did an acoustic set during a Super Bowl halftime show, except the television channel did NOT want another nipple being shown on TV for fear of the corruption of our precious youth. Lame.
19. Bruno Mars and Red Hot Chili Peppers (2014). If only the roles had be changed. Instead, we got hits from Mars’ TWO albums at the time. It’s not Mars’ fault. He was not ready to be the Super Bowl Halftime Show headliner. But, the Chili Peppers were…
18. Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott (2015). I’m sorry Katy Perry fans, but I’m not. And even Kravitz and Elliott’s fantastic appearances could not make me forget those stupid dancing sharks and Perry’s lame songs from her terrible third album.
17. Black Eyed Peas, Usher and Slash (2011). I don’t get it. Are the Black Eyed Peas really that important to the millennials? I think they are weak in their studio releases, but absolutely horrible during their live performances, whether on the Grammys, Saturday Night Live or this night during the Halftime Show. And, Usher and Slash could not save it, though I still haven’t figured out why Slash did the show.
16. The Who (2010). Let’s face it. Now that The Who’s rhythm section is dead, the band is truly a shell of what it once was, even though the musicians replacing the originals are nearly as talented as the men they replaced. But, this performance was flat and seemed like a CSI TV show theme song medley performed to lasers.
15. Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars (2016). Coldplay is boring, but they were smart when they turned things over to Queen Bey and Mars, who saved the day.
14. Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Temptations and Queen Latifah (1998). I LOVE Motown! Even Boyz II Men’s update version of that sound. This was a great way to show how the past and the present fit together. Even Queen Latifah was terrific that night.
13. Diana Ross (1996). The original diva was still up to setting the standard in the mid-Nineties, and she nailed it. This was the first transcendent halftime show. The thing I remember the most is that Miss Ross walked out onto the football field, got into a helicopter and continued to finish her song as the helicopter took off. Now, that’s a Super Bowl Halftime Show Spectacle worthy of the name.
12. The Rolling Stones (2006). The Stones had released an album around the time of this performance that had the critics giddy with excitement. I found that giddiness a little premature, but at least the hype got the Stones the Halftime Show. Unfortunately, it just proved the band was a bunch of old guys.
11. Justin Timberlake (2018). JT was good last night, but I was a little bored until he did the little pandering bit to pay homage to the hometown’s (Minneapolis) musical hero Prince. Then, the spectacle happened outside, when Minneapolis was lit up with the Prince “Love Symbol”. That was cool, as was Timberlake going into the crowd to do selfies with that kid. Was that a Make-A-Wish Foundation-thing?
10. Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Simpson, Kid Rock, Nelly and P. Diddy (2004). If we all could forget the whole Nipplegate-thing, this was a crazy collection of characters who absolutely killed it. That is, until Timberlake exposed Janet’s nipple. What if it had been Jessica Simpson’s? Would the outcry been as great? Who knows? Who cares?
9. Aerosmith, NSYNC, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly (2001). Another strange collection of artists that put on a great performance, as they all worked together to pull off “Walk This Way” without Run-DMC there.
8. Michael Jackson (1993). Yes, this did NOT have the same impact as his moonwalking performance did on the Motown 25 TV Special a decade earlier. But, it was still the King of Pop doing what he does best: performing. I just wish he had played his hits.
7. Madonna, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, Cee Lo Green and M.I.A. (2012). Okay, who’s idea was it to have LMFAO perform? That would have been like inviting Rockwell to perform back in 1984. Anyway, Madonna put on a spectacle worthy of a Super Bowl Halftime Show, that was only tainted a bit by M.I.A.’s decision to flip the bird at the Indianapolis crowd. And, Madonna came away from the performance on the Injury List as she pulled a “hammy” during the show.
6. U2 (2002). For the first Super Bowl since the 9/11 tragedy, the producers turned to the biggest rock band in the world at the time, U2. And, they came in and set the right mood with “The Streets Have No Name.” Sure, Springsteen might have been a better fit, but these Irishmen love the IDEA of America so much that they were perfect for that night.
5. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (2009). Few artists are made for the moment like The Boss and his band of East Coast cosmic visionaries. And, even though they are made for those two-and-a-half to four hour marathon concerts, they sure know how to knock these things out of the park. And, this just adds to his legend.
4. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (2008). Heartbreaker lead guitarist Mike Campbell has described the Heartbreaker sound as “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus”. And, that’s exactly what the band did that night. And, of course, they stuck to what they did best and that was play the hell out of the great timeless songs Petty had written for them. If you were looking for a show of guests, that’s night Petty’s thing. But, if you were looking for a transcendent Heartbreaker performance, you were not disappointed.
3. Lady Gaga (2017). This little stick of dynamite is one of my favorite performers to have come out of the new millennium. I love how she innately understands what it takes to write great music AND how to be a visual performer, a la David Bowie or Freddie Mercury or Elton John. Wait a second, did those guys somehow give birth to her? Regardless, Miss Gaga gave the audience a spectacular worthy of a Super Bowl Halftime Show. I cannot how many risks she is willing to take. Thank you Lady Gaga, for making me believe in music again!
2. Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child (2013). I am not really a fan of Beyoncé, but I give credit when credit is due. And, Queen Bey is a great performer. She nailed everything that night, including the brief Destiny’s Child reunion. As far as that stupid Illuminati controversy crap, I say that Jay-Z, her husband, co-opted that hand symbol for his and her empire, not some stupid make believe group of rich people running the world. That’s known as the Koch Brothers and FOX News and the Russians. How else do you explain Trump?
1. Prince (2007). This is NOT because my beloved Colts won the championship that night or that Prince performed in the rain. No! It was because Prince proved he was the Greatest Artist of All-Time that night. He was funky, inventive, innovative, rocking and transcendent. In other words, he summed up his career in one moving performance back in 2007. This is the standard against all other Super Bowl Halftime Shows are measured.
The Super Bowl Halftime Show has come a long way since the days of a university marching band performing. Now, we all look for those special performances given to us by the biggest artists of that era. I cannot wait to see how future artists respond, and when will we finally give a rap artist the headlining position. I am waiting for that to happen. It’s a shame Freddie Mercury died before this era, because Queen was made to headline the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Am I not right?