In the past week, I've been watching all the Super Bowl (should that be one word?) half time shows since 1990 and thought I would share my ten favorite performances and my ten LEAST favorite. I was going to rank all of them, but honestly that would take way too long, plus I wouldn't know where to place the ones that were in the middle. You can find these on YouTube.
Let's get the bad over with and start with my ten worst/least favorite Super Bowl half time shows from least offensive to downright awful:
10. 1994 - This one had a country theme with Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, and the Judds. This one is fine and everyone sounds good (I love the song Wynona Judd sings), but it's just not my cup of tea. There's a lots of square dancing and yee-hawing going on for my taste. I'm surprised they haven't had another country themed half time show with more modern country artists. (Well, I guess Shania Twain played a couple of her songs in 2003). I could have sworn that Carrie Underwood had performed when she first became big, but I must be thinking of another sporting event. I would love to see Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert headline a Super Bowl half time show and I'm not just saying that because they're my two favorite country artists...actually, that's exactly why I'm saying it! It's interesting to note that this is the first SB half time show (well, since 1990, but possibly ever...who knows) that takes place at night.
9. 2004 - This was the infamous half time show headlined by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake where the "wardrobe malfunction" happened. That's not reason why I put it on my least favorite list. Besides what happened at the end, does anyone remember the actual show? Did you know there were other acts besides those two there? Jessica Simpsons introduces the show (but doesn't even perform, ha!), Janet sings one of her songs, then P. Diddy sings a couple of his songs, then Nelly comes in and sings "Hot In Here", then more P. Diddy, then Kid Rock sings a couple of his songs including "Cowboy", then Janet sings "Rhythm Nation", then we end with Justin singing "Rock Your Body" and we all know how that ended! I had no idea Justin was only there at the very end. This is a very good example of too many cooks in the kitchen. They should have just had Janet headline the show; at the very least drop two or three of the other acts! It was just so chaotic. If the nip slip hadn't happened, nobody would ever remember this show. So after this show, for a long time they only had classic rock "safe" acts like Paul McCartey, Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, etc. They did let Justin come back to headline the show in 2018.
8. 1995 - This one had performances by Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett and also had a skit where Indiana Jones (NOT Harrison Ford so don't get too excited) and Marion Ravenwood are trying to retrieve a trophy from a temple. Disney produced the show and I guess this was supposed to promote a new attraction? Its hilarious because you can tell the actors for Indy and Marion pre-recorded their dialogue earlier and they played it later because you see close ups of the actors and they are not even talking while you hear the characters talking! So hilarious! It's just super weird. Patti LaBelle sounds great; she kills it on "New Attitude". Tony Bennett is a weird choice; he's not exactly the performer you want to see at the Super Bowl. At the end they both sing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from The Lion King. (Remember, this was produced by Disney!) None of this is coherent at all; it's just one big mess.
7. 2011 - This one was headlined by the Black Eyed Peas. I give them an E for Effort, but it just didn't come together well. The sound was terrible for one thing. I love "I Gotta Feeling" but that needs to be LOUD and it was....muted. I think when they were singing "Pump it! Louder!" they were trying to tell the sound guy something! Slash from Guns N Roses make a guest appearance and Fergie sings "Sweet Child of Mine". She sounds super weird and it's obvious she's trying to emulate Axl Rose because she sounded normal when she was singing her own songs. Usher also drops by (literally!) and performs. When they perform "Where is the Love" there's an arial shot of what is supposed to be the word "love" lit up in red lights, only half of the v isn't even lit. Oops. This show, as the kids say, was not lit.
6. 2019 - This one was headlined by Maroon 5. I like some of their songs okay, but I'm not a huge fan or anything. If I never hear "Girls Like You" again for the rest of my life, I would be okay with that, but I guarantee I will hear it at least ten times next week! They don't really have songs that you can jam to. Adam Levine doesn't have the strongest voice and his stage presence isn't the best. Oh, imagine that...he sings that song and he's joined by a choir. Look, I understand why there was a choir when Madonna performed "Like I Prayer" at the Super Bowl in 2012, but for this song? Really? He's joined by Travis Scott who I'm not familiar with. He's a rapper and I had to laugh because he had to be bleeped about four or five times. Big Boi (from Outkast) also joins the stage and he's wearing this huge fur pimp coat and all I can think of is how hot he must be in that thing! This was in Atlanta. I rolled my eyes so much when Adam took off his shirt during "Moves Like Jagger" and was attempting this sexy dance that was just hilarious. I read that the FCC was sent 55 complaints because he was showing his nipples. Obviously these had to be trolls, but I love that 55 people out there took the time to do that. Oh, and all this time I thought he was saying "Shut up" when he was actually saying "Sugar". Ohh...who knew? The audience must have gotten strict instructions not to touch the lead singer of Maroon 5 because there are times when he gets very close to the stage and his adoring fans are waving their hands near him, but they don't touch him. He also doesn't high five or shake hands with people which kind of makes him a douche. Beyonce, Bono, Justin Timberlake, and Chris Martin (and those are the ones I can remember) don't have a problem touching hands or giving high fives with their fans, so what's his problem? Overall, this just felt uninspiring.
5. 1990 - I guess this was okay for its time, but it was a bit boring. Sine this was 1990, it was before they booked really big acts. This one commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Peanuts comic strip so there are people dressed up as Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, etc and marching in a parade. There's also a nod to New Orleans with a huge riverboat float since it took place in New Orleans. There's one cute moment where an animated Woodstock is flying in front of a tuba and gets blown off the screen when the tube player plays a long note. It was fine, but we've certainly come a long ways!
4. 1997 - This one was called Blues Brothers Bash and had actors from the movies performing - Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, and Jim Belushi. I don't think Jim Belushi was in either movie, but his brother was in the first one so I guess that's why he got an invite? Blues Brothers 2000 came out in 1998 so I guess they were promoting the movie? I've never seen either movie and so I really don't care and this performance bored me. I'm sure my dad loved it because he likes the first movie at least. I did know a few of the songs. There are also performances by James Brown and ZZ Top. While looking into this particular halftime show, I found out that a stuntwoman had died during a rehearsal while bungee jumping. Obviously, they took away the bungee jumping portion of the show. Can you imagine if that had happened during the live show? I don't know about you, but I'd much rather see a women's nipple than someone die on live TV!
So the remaining three are just pure crap.
3. 1991 - This one had an all kids theme which means performing kids, singing kids, dancing kids. :::Groans:::: I'm sure the adults in the audience loved this. There was a nice sentiment behind it as it was dedicated to the men and women serving in the Persian Gulf. Ironically, kids probably didn't even get to see the show as a special report on the Gulf War was shown instead and the show was later aired after the game so by that time kids are in bed! This was produced by Disney (the Disney produced half time shows are the worst) so there were appearances by Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Chip 'n Dale. There's a solo by a blond boy with a bowl haircut singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" and he must have been the son or relative of one of the producers because he is terrible. What? They couldn't find a kid who could actually SING? Somewhere he is now in his late 30s/early 40s (guessing) and he probably cursed the day YouTube was invented because now everybody can see this. But damn, then they have kids representing all 50 states and all have parents serving in the Gulf War and that was a nice moment. A video message from George and Barbara is played about the brave men and women in the Persian Gulf. So amongst all the cheesiness, there were some nice moments. To conclude the show, New Kids on the Block (oh, goody) come out and perform "Step by Step." It is hilarious watching all the kids go crazy. They also sing a song called "This One's For the Children" which I'm not familiar with and it's as sappy as you would think it is. They are all sitting on steps and are holding a small child (like four or five years old). It is so weird.
2. 2000 - Once again we have a terrible Disney produced halftime show. This time the theme was Millennial Celebration. Even though this is better produced than the 1991 show and even though it has more star power with Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Phil Collins, and Toni Braxton, I ranked this lower than the one because at least in 1991 they didn't know yet. This is 2000. They should know by now what makes a great show and this isn't it. First of all, you have Christina and Enrique singing some sappy song about "celebrating the future hand in hand" that was obviously written just for this moment. GAG. If I were there, I would want to sing along with their songs that I know! Give me some "Genie in a Bottle" or "Come on Over" or "What a Girl Wants" or whatever hit songs Enrique had at that time. This played more like something you would see at the Opening Ceremony at the Olympics. Phil Collins sings one of his songs from Tarzan because, you know, Disney. Then Toni Braxton sings a sappy song that was written for the show and is later joined by the others. I think this was the last half time show Disney produced and thank God for that.
1. 1992 - Dear God, what the eff was this? This was just awful. The theme was "Winter Magic" and it's just an absolute mess. The entire field is full of dancers and singers and musicians and where would you even know where to look if you were in the stadium? After singing a dorky song about "winter magic", they start singing CHRISTMAS songs and there's a "dance" number to The Nutcracker. In January. What. The. Actual. F---? Kids do a terrible rap about Frosty the Snowman. It's way worse than anything the kids do from the 1991 show. There are some famous people as they have Brian Boitano (what WOULD Brian Boitano do, indeed) and Dorothy Hamill ice skating to "One Moment in Time" (NOT sung by Whitney Houston so don't get too excited) on tiny circles of ice. The song is sung by a man and woman, but they never show them so you have no idea who is singing or where it's coming from. The rinks are so small they really can't do more than twirl around. There's also a terrible (and hilarious) rendition of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now". Gloria Estefan shows up and sings a couple of her hits. She sounds fine, but the theme is "Winter Magic" and Minneapolis is the setting. Cuz when I think of WINTER and MINNESOTA, I think of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. Yeah....God, what a TERRIBLE show. How PISSED do you think the audience was here (and during the '91 and '90 half time show) when they found out Michael Jackson would be performing at the '93 halftime show? Hahahaha...
Okay, now it's time for my ten best/favorite half time shows.
10. 2007 - So I couldn't find an entire video of when Prince performed, but his performance of "Purple Rain" while it was raining is pretty epic. However this gets last place out of my best list because I wasn't able to watch his performances of the other songs (thought I saw some snippets of "Let's Get Crazy" and that was good, too) and I noticed "When Doves Cry" wasn't on his playlist and the is the best Prince song ever. Well, at least it's my favorite!
9. 2017 - This one was headlined by Lady Gaga. She sings a lot of her big hits after she propels down from the stadium roof. Don't get me wrong, she was great, but I kind of expected more from her show, you know? It's Lady Gaga for crying out loud. It would have been awesome if Beyonce showed up while she was singing "Telephone" (that doesn't happen...but I guess Beyonce had just performed the year before). My favorite moment was when she performed "Million Reasons" at the piano. I love the part when she says hi to her parents. That was cute. She ends the show with "Bad Romance" which is a song I don't really care for. I wish she had ended with "Edge of Glory" (she gives us a little teaser of it at the beginning) because that's my favorite Gaga song.
8. 2014 - This one was headlined by Bruno Mars singing all his hits, then he was later joined by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and performed "Give It Away" with them. It was a fun, energetic performance. He ends the show by singing his most famous song (yes?), "Just the Way You Are" and a crapton of fireworks go off as he sings the last note.
7. 2001- This one was headlined by Aerosmith! And N'Sync! And Britney Spears! And Mary J. Blige! And Nelly! The whole thing is so perfectly 2001. So this particular show has nostalgia elements for me because it's the first Super Bowl half time show that I remember. It's possible that I watched ones prior to this, but I don't remember any of them if I did. You have N'sync performing "Bye Bye Bye"! Then Aerosmith performs "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing"! Then N'sync performs "It's Gonna Be Me"! (And 20 year old Justin Timberlake shoots fireworks out of his gloves - heh, he had Power Gloves). Then Aerosmith performs "Jaded!" Then they perform "Walk this Way" with N'Sync and that's when Britney and Mary J. Blige come out and they start singing. Then Nelly comes out and starts rapping. There were so many damn people singing at once the camera had no idea where to go. Let's get a shot of Britney and Justin! Let's get a shot of Mary J. Blige singing next to Steven Tyler! Let's get a shot of Nelly! Let's get a shot of one of the N'Sync guys who isn't Justin! Wait go back to Britney! So I read that this was the first half time show where they allowed people to come up near the stage, but it looks like there were people surrounding Michael Jackson' stage when he performed in '93, so maybe this was the year when they started doing it regularly?
6. 1993 - So after terrible halftime shows from 1992, 1991, 1990, and let's face it, probably since the beginning of the Super Bowl's history, this has to be the first truly great half time show. They got one of the biggest pop stars, Michael Jackson, to headline the show. Like I mentioned before, you know the people who attended the '90, '91, and '92 Super Bowls were pissed! He pops out of the stage and literally just stands there for 90 seconds and the crowd is going insane. The first part is great cuz he sings bangers like "Billie Jean" and "Black and White." During the latter, people in the field are holding large squares that are white on one side, and black on the other and they flip them around. Oh, 1993, you are so adorable. The second part becomes a little schmaltzy when a children's choir sings "We Are the World" while cards in the stadium are turned over to reveal crude drawings of children. He ends by singing "Heal the World" which is a nice song, but c'mon, I want to hear something with a little more oomph like "Man in the Mirror" or "Beat It" or "Bad" or "Smooth Criminal" or "The Way You Make Me Feel". Still, pretty good show. I had to laugh that they shot off fireworks as this took place during the day.
5. 2013 - Twenty years after Michael Jackson headlined the show, Beyonce headlined it. And boy did she deliver. She performed all her hits starting with "Crazy in Love" while strutting down the stage. Of course the best part was when Kelly Roland and Michelle Williams popped out of the stage ala Michael Jackson and performed "Bootylicious", "Independent Women" (loved the Charlie's Angels pose they did at the end) and "Single Ladies" with their former Destiny's Child member. Beyonce ends the show with "Halo". I laughed when she's kneeling down very close to the audience and someone just reaches out and touches her leg. I'm sure whoever that person is they still haven't washed their hand since that day! Love you, Bey!
4. 2020 - This is the most recent halftime show headlined by Shakira and J. Lo, but you probably already knew that. To me, this one was come for Shakira, stay for J. Lo's daughter. Look, J. Lo was fine. She did great. She looked amazing, of course. She has some catchy songs (I hadn't heard "Waiting For Tonight" in forever so when she started singing the beginning of it, I was like, "This sounds familiar...oh, THAT song!"), but I just don't think she's the strongest singer. Of course her voice isn't the reason why people are watching her if you know what I mean! Shakira has the more impressive dance moves and she has some bangers like "She Wolf", "Whenever, Wherever", and "Hips Don't Lie." I read that after this performance there were 4,000 downloads of "Whenever, Wherever" in the next 24 hours. That's awesome...but these people didn't already have that song? What the hell? I've had the album it was on since 2001 or 2002 when it came out! I thought J. Lo's daughter was super cute and sounded great. Very entertaining, energetic show.
3. 2016 - This one was headlined by Coldplay with special guests Bruno Mars and Beyonce who have already gotten mentions on this list. This one is particularly notable because it's one of the more recent shows to take place during the day. Since they really couldn't use lights or laser, they use a lot of color with people marching out with large paper flowers. The show begins with Chris Martin crouched in the field singing "Viva La Vida" while the crowd runs out towards the stage. I'm sure they told the crowd not to trample the lead singer of Coldplay. They also utilize kids playing violins during that song. You can tell Chris Martin has no rhythm because he just sort of hops back and forth and jumps up and down, but that's what makes him so endearing. And no hate here because I'm exactly the same way. (I'm not saying I'm endearing; I'm saying I have no rhythm, just to be clear!) After singing a couple more of their songs (including "Para! Para! Para! Paradise! Whoooo-oooooooo-ah!"), Bruno Mars sings "Uptown Funk" (the best song of the last decade, yes it's true) and Beyonce sings "Formation". There's kind of a friendly showdown between the two of them, then Chris Martin joins them and they sing "Uptown Funk" again. The show ends on a sentimental note as Coldplay performs "Fix You" while moments of past half time shows are shown on a screen. This was the 50th Super Bowl so that's what they were celebrating. I noticed they didn't include any images from the infamous 2004 half time show!
2. 2002 - This one was headlined by U2. Obviously it was the first Super Bowl after 9/11 and they were lucky they got a band like U2 to perform because the previous year's line up probably wouldn't work. The show opens with Bono walking through a crowd to get to the stage while singing "Beautiful Day" (or should I say, "beautiful daaaaaaayyyyyy!"). I guess the crowd wasn't told not to touch the lead singer of U2 because everyone is putting their hands on his jacket as he walks through. When they perform "Where the Streets Have No Name", a projector of all the names of people who died on 9/11 is shown. At the end, Bono opens his jacket to reveal the lining is an American flag and the crowd goes INSANE. I remember this time after 9/11 and it was just the performance America needed; you can see why people loved it.
1. 2015 - My favorite Super Bowl half time performance was the one headlined by Katy Perry. Girlfriend knows how to put on a spectacular show! She enters on a huge mechanical (?) lion float opening with "Roar", then follows it with "Dark Horse" on some weird chess board floor. Probably her most well known set is when she sings "Teenage Dream" and "California Girls" with a beach background of people dancing in palm tree, shark, surfboard, and beach ball costumes. It is absolutely adorable, plus everyone was a buzz about "left shark" who couldn't keep up with the choreography. It was hilarious, but it wasn't like it made the show awful or anything. If anything it added a charming element. Honestly, my favorite part were the palm trees singing. Also, I loved when everyone in the audience sang one of the opening lines to "California Girls". Lenny Kravitz shows up to sing "I Kissed a Girl" with Katy (which does't really make sense for a straight dude to sing that song, but whatever) and Missy Elliot sings a couple of her hits. Sometimes the featured acts don't work well with the headliner, but those two meshed well together. Katy ends with singing "Firework" while a million fireworks are going off (because the song is literally called "Firework", it really couldn't be more perfect) and she's riding on some shooting star pedestal over the audience. Like this song was made for this moment. It's definitely the best closer to any half time show. Plus during the entire 13 minute act, Katy changed her outfit at least four times.