Super Halftimes

Super Bowl halftime shows have come a long way in 43 years. Here’s our list of Top Ten performances.
1. Michael Jackson
Super Bowl XXVII – Rose Bowl, Pasadena
Dallas 52, Buffalo 17

The halftime show was redefined by the King of Pop after years of shows with marching bands (7 of the first 8 Super Bowls) and acts like Up With People. This show opened with doubles of Jackson standing atop each corner of the stadium, continued with Jackson singing a medley of his hits, an audience card stunt that revealed Peanuts-like drawings of children holding hands and a finale with a choir of 3,500 children from Los Angeles singing “Heal The World” with Jackson as a gigantic globe inflates behind them. The bar for future halftimes had been set. The previous two years halftime ratings had sagged – Fox aired a live episode of In Living Color in 1992 and in 1991 the halftime show was taped and news from the first Iraq war was aired instead.

2. U2
Super Bowl XXXVI – Superdome, New Orleans
New England 20, St. Louis 17

Just months after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, U2 paid tribute, singing on a heart shaped stage with a giant banner behind them upon which the names of the nearly 3,000 victims scrolled skyward. After singing Beautiful Day, Pride (In the name of love) and Where the Streets Have No Name, lead singer Bono opened his jacket to reveal a stars-and-strpes lining and the crowd erupted.

3. Prince
Super Bowl XLI – Dolphin Stadium, Miami
Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17

Despite a downpour, Prince, along with the Florida A&M marching band, sang his hits and covered Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower and the Foo Fighters Best of You. But the ultimate moment came when the entire stadium was awash in the color purple, in a steady, light rain, and Prince sang his mega-hit Purple Rain. 

4. Rolling Stones
Super Bowl XL – Ford Field, Detroit
Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10

Playing on the largest stage ever assembled for a halftime show (28 pieces, 600 crew members, assembled in 5 minutes), the Stones performance of Start Me Up, Rough Justice and Satisfaction was viewed by 89.9 million. ABC and the NFL also introduced the five-second delay and used it twice to censor lyrics deemed too sexually explicit.

5. Aerosmith, ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Nelly.
Super Bowl XXXV – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
Baltimore 34, New York Giants 7

MTV’s first foray into halftime shows brought together a melting pot of music power from pop to rock to soul and hip-hop. Who can forget Nelly’s jersey that was half Ravens and half Giants? ‘N Sync running across the field with cheering fans chasing them? And Britney Spears silver pants and slashed-up Aerosmith t-shirt? The show concluded with a group sing-along of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way.

6. Jessica Simpson, Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Nelly, Diddy, Kid Rock
Super Bowl XXXVIII – Reliant Stadium, Houston
New England 32, Carolina 29

All of the star power of this halftime show is overshadowed for it’s one moment labeled “Wardrobe Malfunction”. As a dramatic end to their duet of “Rock Your Body”, Timberlake ripped away part of Jackson bustier, exposing her right breast that was adorned by a star-shaped nipple shield. Ultimately MTV was banned from future halftime shows and CBS was fined $550,000.

7. Boys II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Temptations, Queen Latifah
Super Bowl XXXII – Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Denver 31, Green Bay 24

The NFL’s tribute to Motown’s 40th anniversary kicked off with The Temptations followed by a medley by Robinson. Latifah sang “Heard it Through the Grapevine”, Boys II Men appeared from under the stage and sang “Motown Philly” and everyone joined together for the closing song, “Dancing In The Streets”.

8. Diana Ross
Super Bowl XXX – Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe
Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 17

Four costume changes. Twelve songs. And an exit into the sunset aboard a helicopter, swinging her legs out the side and singing “Take Me Higher” and “I Will Survive”. Now that’s a performance.

9. Chubby Checker and The Rockettes
Super Bowl XXII – Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego
Washington 42, Denver 10

Checker had the right idea for a haltime show – make it a bit of a spectacle with dancers (The Rockettes) and props (88 grand pianos). It’s just that “The Twist” wasn’t really the hot song in 1988. Ratings for the next four halftime shows would sink until Michael Jackson’s performance.

10. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Super Bowl XLIII – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23

The Boss took the stage and belted out shorter versions of his hits “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”, “Born to Run”, “Working on a Dream” and “Glory Days.” Complete with a Springsteen on-stage knee-slide, this was a stadium rock show at its best.


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