Super Bowl Halftime Shows: The Good, the Bad, and the Horribly Possible

Super Bowl halftime

This year’s Super Bowl halftime show saw Katy Perry ride a Transformer to the stage, dance in a Yo Gabba Gabba episode and circle the stadium riding NBC’s “The More You Know” star. Throw in the costume designer from Hunger Games and a lady who made wearing a trash bag cool and you have an interesting spectacle.

Halftime, along with the commercials, has become almost as big as the game itself. There have been some great performances, terrible misses and one unforgettable wardrobe malfunction.

Here are the five greatest Super Bowl halftime performances, the five worst, and five horrific possibilities that just might happen one day.

5 Greatest Super Bowl Halftimes

For me, the halftime should feature an act with hit songs relevant to the year they perform. Several acts (particularly in the post wardrobe malfunction era) were extremely talented musicians, but whose last hit was two decades earlier.

It should be equal parts concert and spectacle. For this show, it has to be more than just a great singer with good music. There has to be a show.

Honorable Mention: Katy Perry (Olympic ceremony level of spectacle), Bruno Mars (fantastic mix of music and show)

5. Aerosmith, *Nsync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly, 2001: Nothing could have topped this collection of artists at the turn of the century. Of note, Justin Timberlake’s first appearance before the infamous Janet Jackson performance.

4. Prince, 2007: It was an amazing concert that could have easily been higher, but it missed a truly big moment or surprise guest.

3. Beyonce, 2013: An innovative show featuring a Destiny’s Child reunion, along with Beyonce’s solo hits. The only negative was not having Jay-Z there.

2. Michael Jackson, 1993: What most consider to be the first gigantic halftime show, the King of Pop put on a show that rivals those 20 years later.

1. U2, 2002: Yes, much of this is tied up in the cultural moment of a post-9/11 U.S., but that cuts both ways. It definitely added huge significance to the moment, but another band could have mishandled it. Bono and the boys played it perfectly.

 5 Worst Super Bowl Halftimes

I’m ignoring the early Super Bowls, before it became the must-see TV moment of the year and before they realized all they could do with it.

Dishonorable Mention: New Kids on the Block, 1991 (Disney-produced show clashed with a country at war), Phil Collins, 2000 (All the artists decided to play songs no one knew)

5. The Who, 2010: The classic rock band had no idea what the Super Bowl was, but CBS knew The Who because they happen to play all of the theme songs of their crime dramas.

4. Gloria Estefan, 1992: Everyone knew the “tribute to the Winter Olympics” was going to be bad, so Fox counter-programmed with a live In Living Color episode that drew millions away from the Super Bowl.

3. Indiana Jones, 1995: If Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was an overproduced musical without Harrison Ford, it would be this show featuring Patti Labelle and Tony Bennett.

2. Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, Justin Timberlake, 2004: Nope, no link for the wardrobe malfunction. It single-handedly ruined halftime shows for almost a decade.

1. Black Eyed Peas, 2011: This is what happens when you concentrate solely on the show and not at all on the music. Black Eyed Peas are a heavily produced group. Putting them live in a stadium not set up for them ended … poorly.

5 Horribly Possible Future Super Bowl Halftime Shows

What makes these potential shows all the more horrifying is that you can hear some network executive pitch this idea for an upcoming game.

5. Ringo: “The other Beatle” would be tremendous letdown, but it may happen if another wardrobe incident scares networks into safe (read “old”) acts.

4. Rebecca Black, Megan Trainor, Carly Rae Jepsen : All the female one-hit wonders on one stage. To make matters worse, Rebecca Black would demand the game be moved to Friday to accommodate her most famous song.

3. Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga: What would happen if strange met odd, if little monsters twerked, if a poker face came in like a wrecking ball, and if you were born this way to party in the U.S.A.? I would change the channel, that’s what.

2. Hologram Michael Jackson, Biggie, and Tupac: Tired of all the complaints, someone is going to suggest doing an all hologram halftime show full of dead musicians. Sure, the music would be better, but … how creepy would that be?

Creepy enough that Nationwide would sponsor the show with a hologram of the dead kid.

1. Florida Georgia Line, Nickelback: Speaking of creepy … you and I both know this halftime show could very well happen in the near future. Is there a stadium that could contain the lyrical masterpiece this halftime show would deliver? Is there a stadium that could contain all the bro-ness that would ooze from this performance?

I shudder to think. But I feel like Pepsi may pass on this one and let another beverage be the lead sponsor.


What is your favorite Super Bowl halftime, least favorite, and worst nightmare potential?

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.