The Super Bowl is here again, and bets are being placed on whether the Bruno Mars/Red Hot Chilli Peppers halftime show can deliver. Indeed, Bruno’s job is almost as tough as Peyton Manning’s; it might just take falling on a grenade to achieve the levels of artistry, performance and spectacle of some of the past Super Bowl halftime shows. Here’s my list of top 13 best and worst:
1. Prince – Super Bowl XLI, 2007
This one wasn’t a half time show as much as it was a religious experience. Prince didn’t seem to give a shit that a Super Bowl was going on and I’m sure the Colts, Bears and their respective fans forgot they were even at one. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Peyton was still wiping away tears and singing Purple Rain in the first huddle of the second half… “c’mon guys, let’s do it for PRINCE!! OMAHA!!”
2. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Super Bowl XLII, 2008
Second best performance after Prince’s, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers delivered among the most unpretentious, genuine, humble, and humbling rock shows in Super Bowl halftime show history. And the Patriots lost to boot.
3. Beyonce – Super Bowl XLVII, 2013
Beyonce and the reunion of Destiny’s Child was simply Bootylicious. They were hot, they had ass kicking outfits, mirrors, and guitar pyrotechnics that even Gene Simmons and Kiss were probably like “holy shit that was awesome!”.
Beyonce’s timing, muscles, and sheer athleticism topped all previous SB halftime show artists combined. In fact, I’m sure Beyonce and crew would have actually beat the Ravens had they played them.
4. Bruce Springsteen – Super Bowl XLIII, 2009
The Boss’s crowd work was righteous – “Step away from the Guacamole! I want you to put the chicken fingers down! Turn your televisions up!!” And you have to give him points for trying his hand at theatrics – like trying to jump on top of a piano; we all wondered whether he’d make it…it was as nail biting as the last 5 minutes of the game. And then he kicked into the music and it was pure gold from there.
5. Michael Jackson – Super Bowl XXVII, 1993
Michael wins the award for stunning theatrics and melodrama. He had stunt doubles shoot out of the giant jumbotrons and dance on top of them. There was a stadium card trick involving all the fans. There was a giant blow up globe, there were 1000s of children. The most suspenseful moment was him just standing there for what seemed like 5 minutes. It was a hopeful, “heal the world” theme that made everyone want to reach out and help the less fortunate, like the Buffalo Bills, who lost 52 to 17 to the Cowboys.
6. Janet Jackson – Super Bowl XXXVIII, 2004
I debated whether to put this in the “Worst” section. We all remember it vividly – Justin Timberlake revealed to the world Janet’s nippleshield-adorned right boob, and the quick renaming of Justin’s precision move to “wardrobe malfunction”, when the FCC decided to fine MTV productions over half a million dollars. However, this set the stage for the McCartney, Stones,Tom Petty, the Who and of course, Prince, to get invited to perform in the following years. So, really, we should feel grateful to Janet’s right boob.
I’m Sure It was Stunning But I Can’t Find a Video
7. Ella Fitgerald – Super Bowl VI, 1972
8. The Who – Super Bowl XLIV – 2010
Cause I’m a fan of the Who. And they killed it. And they kept everyone in suspense, since you just weren’t sure if one of them might pass away in mid guitar riff. I also like the fact that the drummer looked like Nigel Tufnel from Spinal Tap.
Comically Over-the-Top Theatrics
9. Madonna – Super Bowl XLVI, 2012
Madonna wins for a stage show that brought together the worst of both Rome and Bloomingdales. The one bright point – it was probably the most number of gay men brought together inside a football stadium, ever.
The cast was mind blowing – Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, Cee Lo Green, Nicki Minaj, LMFAO, MIA, Cirque du Soleil, and a tight rope walker/acrobat who looked just like Richard Simmons. The only thing more distracting was watching Madonna awkwardly attempt dance moves her aged body could clearly no longer handle.
Most Bizarre Combo of Artists
10. Shania Twain, No Doubt And Sting – Super Bowl XXXVII, 2003
The only thing worse than listening to Shania Twain songs is watching her lip synch to them. Entertainment pundits are still trying to understand the logic behind putting her, No Doubt and Sting on the same bill. I don’t think even Sting or Gwen knew either, especially during their pained Message in a Bottle duet. The world sent out an SOS that night to be rescued from this odd trio.
Kitschiest Halftime Shows
11. Elvis Presto – Super Bowl XXIII, 1989
This one occurred during a more venerable time in SB halftime show history when the show attempted to be safe and entertaining for children, grandparents and anyone dropping acid.
Produced by Minnesota-based MagicCom entertainment, it involved a gigantic, televised interactive magic trick executed by a magician named Elvis Presto. There was also a 3D Diet Coke commercial.
The lesson here is that it’s probably not a good idea to have a SB halftime show that might be described as “a spectacular” or produced in Minnesota.
12. ‘Winter Magic’ – Super Bowl XXVI, 1992
Of course, lessons aren’t learned that easily. The “Winter Magic” spectacular of Super Bowl XXVI, also produced in Minnesota, brought together the worst of musicals and ice skating. Hosted by Dorothy Hamill and Brian Boitano, it included dancers dressed up as snowflakes and a wholesome, funk version of Frostie the Snowman.
I think it also traumatized the Buffalo Bills, leading to their consecutive Super Bowl losses.
…and finally (drum roll…)
Worst Super Bowl Halftime Show Ever
13. Reigning Champions: 2011 Black Eyed Peas – Super Bowl XLV, 2011
“Tonight’s going to be a good night!”, croaked the Black Eyed Peas.
It was a good night for the Packers. But it was a horrible night for anyone who watched the Black Eyed Peas’ half time show. The “Tron Legacy” themed show looked like it was choreographed and produced by Data from Star Trek. The singing was so terrible it couldn’t even be auto-tuned.
Slash emerged from the stage, legs cemented in place, while Fergie sang Sweet Child of Mine, her voice channeling a drunk chick at a karaoke bar. Even Usher couldn’t dig this show out it’s hole.
Let’s hope Bruno and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers will do better.