All eyes are on Super Bowl LIII, which is set to kick-off in Atlanta on Sunday evening between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. There’s a great relationship between the big game and the music industry, thanks to the high-profile acts the halftime show brings in. This year Maroon 5, Travis Scott and the ATL’s own Big Boi (of OutKast) take the stage.
With the game just a couple days away, this got us to thinking: What Super Bowl halftime performances were our favorites of all time? Check out our list below:
10. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2009)
This is one that I can admit I didn’t love at the time as a teenager — remember, the NFL really gravitated toward aging classic rockers over young acts following the Janet Jackson incident (which we will get to shortly) — but when you go back and watch the performance, it is really good. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played the classics like “Born to Run,” “10th Avenue Freeze Out” and “Glory Days.” What made the performance so compelling was that The Boss immediately captured your attention, exclaiming that he wanted America to “put down the guacamole dip” and “turn the TV all the way up.”
9. Diana Ross (1996)
Detroit’s own Motown queen, Diana Ross, made quite an entrance, but it was her exit that had everyone talking. Ross left Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona on a helicopter. We’re not kidding, an actual helicopter landed in the stadium and airlifted her out of there. The performance itself consisted of all the major hits from the Supremes, such as “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Stop In The Name of Love,” “Baby Love” (were noticing a theme with her song titles) and many more. She also covered Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
8. Bruno Mars and Red Hot Chili Peppers (2014)
This was an interesting pairing, but it worked. Bruno Mars gave a masterful performance, starting with a drum solo and then breaking into his hit song “Locked Out of Heaven.” He then sang several other hits and showed off his well-choreographed dance moves. The Chili Peppers of course came out shirtless to the song “Give It Away.” There was criticism that the rock band didn’t really play their instruments, however they could have at least plugged the instruments in to make it look real. Still, Bruno stole the show in what was an otherwise one-sided and boring football game.
7. Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliot (2015)
Katy Perry followed Bruno Mars, and did quite well. This halftime show brought us “Left Shark,” “Right Shark” and a giant animatronic lion that Perry rode in on, fittingly to the song “Roar.” She then sang “Dark Horse” before introducing Lenny Kravitz, who opened with a guitar solo before joining Perry in singing one of her biggest hits, “I Kissed a Girl.” “Teenage Dreams,” “California Girls” and “Firework (which closed the show) also made the set list. Missy Elliot joined in on the fun with her tracks “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It” and “Lose Control.”
6. Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Kid Rock, Jessica Simpson and Nelly (2004)
Well, this one is infamous for being the most scandalous halftime performance ever. The terms “wardrobe malfunction” and “nipplegate” were used to describe this event. But it’s going to be remembered forever. To be honest, it’s doubtful that many people even remember that Nelly, P. Diddy, Kid Rock or Jessica Simpson even performed, and we can’t find video of the full performance. This really tarnished Jackson’s career, while Timberlake continued his upward trajectory. Timberlake went on to perform at halftime in 2018. This also forever changed the way halftime shows were produced.
*Please note the above video clip is unedited. Please watch at your own discretion.
5. Beyonce feat. Destiny’s Child (2013)
This performance was on the heels of Beyonce’s infamous lip synching fiasco of the national anthem at Barack Obama’s second inauguration, and, she more than made up for it. Queen B came out to a voiceover speech from legendary coach Vince Lombardi, then immediately went into singing hits like “Crazy In Love.” From her expertly choreographed dancing, to her energetic songs, it was a critically acclaimed performance. She kicked it old school and brought back her Destiny’s Child bandmates, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. She mixed her solo hits with Destiny Child’s biggest songs, including “Bootylicious” and “Independent Women.”
4. Aerosmith, *NSYNC, Britney Spears Nelly and Mary J. Blige (2001)
This show was introduced by a parody clip featuring comedians Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Adam Sandler for some added fun. The performance itself was quite entertaining. *NSYNC opened the show with smash hit “Bye Bye Bye,” which then transitioned right into Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” then back to the boy band for “It’s Gonna Be Me,” then right back to the rockers for “Jaded.” Things really got crazy — and crowded — on stage after that. Aerosmith sang the popular tune “Walk This Way,” with Britney Spears, Nelly and Mary J. Blige all making appearances. This was Justin Timberlake’s first of three halftime performances.
3. Lady Gaga (2017)
Lady Gaga arguably has the best Super Bowl halftime entrance of all time. She started her performance singing “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land” while standing on top of Houston’s NRG Stadium before “jumping” off of it and being lowered down to the stage in a harness. She then went into singing “Poker Face,” followed by “Born This Way.” She also sang other well-known songs, such as “Just Dance” and “Bad Romance.” What made this show so impressive, besides the entrance, was the fact that she did it alone without any special guests.
2. Michael Jackson (1993)
The King of Pop did not disappoint at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Similar to Lady Gaga, he made a nifty entrance first “appearing” on the video screens and then popping up on top of them (using body doubles), before rising to the stage and standing in silence for a couple of minutes to the loud, cheering crowd. He started off his set with “Jam” before getting into hits like “Billie Jean” and “Black or White.” Of course he showed up the footwork and dance moves all over the stage. He closed the spectacle with “We Are the World” with the help of a children’s choir and “Heal The World” as his final song.
1. Prince (2007)
The artist formerly known as Prince is widely regarded as giving the best halftime performance ever, and we agree. It was down-pouring in Miami, but that didn’t stop Prince at all, and in fact, added to his dramatic performance, especially when he did “Purple Rain” at the end of the set. Prince also sang other hits like “Let’s Go Crazy,” and covered well known songs like “All Along the Watchtower.” Justin Timberlake also honored Prince in the 2018 halftime show by covering his music and using a hologram of the late icon in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
We can’t forget about the Motown spectacle put on in 1998!
*Feature Image Editorial Credit: Anthony Correia / Shutterstock.com