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October 13, 2015

The Best and Worst of Super Bowl Halftime Shows

by Nick Zaino, posted Feb 5th 2011 11:00AM
The WhoAlready sick of hearing The Black Eyed Peas' 'I've Got A Feeling?' You're going to hear it a lot more over the next few days, at least until the band has finished their halftime show at this year's Super Bowl.

But if you have Peas fatigue already, count yourself lucky. Up With People used to be a regular halftime feature.

The halftime show used to be the domain of marching bands, with the occasional celebrity guest appearance and, yes, for a while, the saccharine UWP singers. It turned into a bit of a floor show in the '80s and '90s, with salutes to Hollywood and New Orleans and multiple pop bands. The format changed in 2002, with U2 and their tribute to 9/11 victims. Since then, there has been just one act playing music at halftime.

Here are some of the best and worst Super Bowl halftime performances, mostly from the more recent format.


1. Prince
Super Bowl 41 | Feb.4, 2007 | Chicago Bears 17, Indianapolis Colts 29

First, it was Prince. All right, some of you who bought the 15 albums Prince released exclusively to Target are skeptical. But this is Prince live, kicking ass, and he wasn't even feeling well. He opened with 'Let's Go Crazy,' performed his own songs and played Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan and Foo Fighters. A marching band has never been so cool. He also got away with a, shall we say, suggestive silhouette for the guitar solo on 'Purple Rain.' He proved there is no venue too big for Prince. (Note: The video we found is "mirrored," so don't get disoriented. It was the best available).

2. U2
Super Bowl 36 | Feb. 3, 2002 | New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17

After the tackiness of the previous year's halftime show (see below) and the events of 9/11, there was some discussion of what would be an appropriate halftime show. That, in retrospect, seems ridiculous. This was, after all, just a halftime show -- a tiny happening in context of the magnitude of current events. But U2 delivered a bracing performance, with the names of 9/11 victims scrolling on a backdrop behind them as they played 'Where the Street Have No Name.' The band played it straight, other than the American flag inside Bono's leather jacket. Would have been even better without the E Trade logo on the screen.

3. Michael Jackson
Super Bowl 27 | January 31, 1993 | Buffalo Bills 17, Dallas Cowboys 52

Jackson helped establish the halftime show as its own event -- ratings were higher for his performance than for the game. You can see that Jackson-mania was at its height here, as Jackson stands unmoving for about two minutes, drinking in the applause and cheers from the crowd before launching into a dancing jam and then 'Billie Jean.' Despite the flashy opening, the main attraction was Jackson, his band and the dancers.


Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood, Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass, Tony Bennett, Arturo Sandoval and Miami Sound Machine
Super Bowl 29 | January 29, 1995 | San Diego Chargers 26, San Francisco 49ers 49

It's hard to find video evidence of this one (this clip isn't complete), but it's not hard to understand why. The "theme" for this halftime show was essentially a commercial for a new Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland and featured actors playing Jones and his companion, Marion Ravenwood. Apparently, Indy had to save the Lombardi Trophy from ... whoever ... by the time the music finished. Then it ends with 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' from 'The Lion King,' just to drive home the fact that Disney was responsible for this mess. Absolutely stultifying.

2. NSYNC, Aerosmith, Mary J. Blige, Nelly and Britney Spears
Super Bowl 35 | January 28, 2001 | Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7

Aerosmith and Run DMC? Classic. Aerosmith and NSYNC? Truly awful. Anyone else see any irony in those two acts coming together to sing a song called 'Jaded?' Becoming jaded is the only appropriate reaction to this performance. This was, if you remember, the performance that helped Spears launch the short-lived trend of wearing gym socks on your forearms. Mary J. Blige arrives too late to save this one.

3. New Kids on the Block, actual kids, Disney characters
Super Bowl 25 | January 17, 1991 | Buffalo Bills 19, New York Giants 20

This was an enormously exciting game, which came down to Bills kicker Scott Norwood's infamous missed kick in the final seconds. Good thing, because it probably distracted most people from a dreadful canned halftime show with the New Kids On the Block (before they insisted on being called NKOTB). An elaborate set with a castle, hundreds of kids in costume mouthing 'It's A Small World,' and then the New Kids mouthing 'Step By Step.' We couldn't embed the full performance, but you can see it here if the fragment below isn't enough punishment for you.

What are your picks for best and worst Super Bowl halftime shows?

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Andrew Adams

no mention of janet jacksons tit floppin around? whats wrong with you people?

September 11 2011 at 9:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andrew Adams

no mention of janet jackson titty floppin around? whats wrong with you people?

September 11 2011 at 9:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Superb Songs.com


March 04 2011 at 6:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Last night was the worst halftime show in the history of the Super Bowl. The Black Eye Peas were just abomindable and atrocious. One person in the bar about summed it up when he yelled "I've heard that song 500 million f***ing times!" and another person yelled "shut that bitch up, turn the channel!" As for the Black Eye Peas wardrobe, it looked as if they had gotten them from Captain Eo (Michael Jackson's character at Disney World). And on the national anthem, Christine Aguillera showed up but we heard a voice that sounded like Lindsay Lohan stumbling out of the Viper Room at her worst ("where's my key, where's my car, where's the line, what are the lyrics, what the hell is a lyric?").

February 07 2011 at 10:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This halftime show blew so hard, i would rather eat 5 day old guacamole left out in the sun and listen to Roseanne Barr
scream the national anthem while licking the jam off her feet.

February 07 2011 at 2:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
McCullar Michael


February 06 2011 at 8:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael Heumann

All super bowl halftime shows are horrible, no matter how good (or bad) the artist.

February 05 2011 at 11:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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