9 Classic Super Bowl Halftime Performances
Feb 15, 2020
Believe it or not, the Super Bowl Halftime Show wasn’t always a spectacle on par with a lavishly produced mini concert. But starting in the early ’90s, the music performance that takes place between the second and third quarters has become just as huge — and just as talked-about — as the big game itself, with every superstar hitting the stage appearing to be on a mission to outdo the last. These nine iconic Super Bowl Halftime Shows are the ones that had us stepping back from the guacamole to sing and dance with as much wild abandon as our favorite scene-stealer: Left Shark.
Super Bowl XXXV (Ravens vs. Giants, 34-7) brought one of the more surprising combinations of halftime performers to Tampa, Florida, starting with “AeroSYNC,” which had pop princes *NSYNC and rock icons Aerosmith joining forces for a sort of battle-of-the-bands-like exchange. But the finale performance of “Walk This Way” is what we all remember, especially when Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly came bursting in to join the fun.
Madonna rolled into Indianapolis, Indiana’s Lucas Oil Stadium for Super Bowl XLVI (Giants vs. Patriots, 21-17) escorted by a brigade of gladiators before kicking off with “Vogue” and then jumping onto the shoulders of LMFAO’s Redfoo for a little party rockin’. She then brought on Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. for a brief cameo, and invited a marching band, a gospel choir and Cee Lo Green to the party for a rapturous version of “Like a Prayer.” But the real showstopper was that breakdancing tightrope walker who snuck in during “Music” to give Madge a run for her money.
Katy Perry came roaring into Super Bowl XLIX (Patriots vs. Seahawks, 28-24) on a 16-foot, 1,600-pound robotic tiger and only raised the stakes from there, cranking out her biggest hits with a touch of her signature silliness (remember the freestyling moves of Left Shark?!). She brought out Lenny Kravitz to help her inject “I Kissed a Girl” with some blistering rock guitar, then invited Missy Elliott onto the stage for a bumping futuristic party, before strapping herself onto a “firework” to literally shoot across the sky.
To help celebrate the event’s 30th anniversary, Diana Ross brought plenty of sass and class to Tempe, Arizona’s Sun Devil Stadium for Super Bowl XXX (Cowboys vs. Steelers, 27-17). The Motown marvel flew through a slew of her biggest songs as both a Supreme and solo star, including “Baby Love,” “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” She then assured fans that she “will survive,” belting out Gloria Gaynor’s disco classic before kicking into “Take Me Higher” and solidifying her divadom with an unforgettable exit — via helicopter.
Sporting a sparkling Versace jumpsuit dripping in Swarovski crystals, Lady Gaga kicked into “God Bless America” and “This Land Is Your Land” from the roof of Houston’s NRG Stadium, surrounded by 300 drones creating an image of the American flag for Super Bowl LI (Patriots vs. Falcons, 34-28). The superstar then played superhero, flying down onto the stage to bust out some of her greatest hits. In typical Gaga fashion, she effortlessly jumped from anthem to anthem, stomping through “Telephone,” grabbing a keytar on “Just Dance,” sitting down at the piano for “Million Reasons” and finding a quick second to say “hi” to her mom and dad before dropping the mic, catching a football and doing a cannonball off the stage.
Bruce Springsteen gave Tampa, Florida’s Raymond James Stadium a triumphant, good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll show with help from the E Street Band, The Miami Horns and a full gospel choir during Super Bowl XLIII (Steelers vs. Cardinals, 27-23). The Boss had us putting our chicken fingers down — per his request at the top of the show — especially when he took a legendary knee-slide right into the camera and rocked through classics like “Born to Run” and “Glory Days.” He wrapped it all up with the perfect closing line: “I’m going to Disneyland!”
Beyoncé sauntered into New Orleans’ Superdome for Super Bowl XLVII (Ravens vs. 49ers, 34-31) with at least as much ferocity as any athlete in that stadium. She powered through a dynamic set of her own hits, flanked by her fierce backup dancers and elevated by some trippy visuals that appeared to multiply the Queen herself. Later, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams popped in for a Destiny’s Child reunion, then Beyoncé took control of the whole stage herself, dropping to her knees for a transcendent performance of “Halo.” She would later dominate another Super Bowl Halftime Show when she got in “Formation” with Coldplay and Bruno Mars in 2016.
Prince was the King of Miami when he brought the house down, or rather the rain, during Super Bowl XLI (Colts vs. Bears, 29-17), sporting a bright blue suit and armed with his customized purple Axe Heaven PR-285 guitar. He proved not only his guitar-god greatness — soaring through an array of covers including Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and Foo Fighters’ “The Best of You” — but also that he was a mystical being, performing in the middle of a torrential downpour and turning his performance of “Purple Rain” into a near-religious experience.
Everyone knew Jennifer Lopez and Shakira would turn up the heat when the pair of pop divas took to the stage at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium for Super Bowl LIV (Chiefs vs. 49ers, 31-20). Still, no one was prepared for how hot it would get with all the hip-swirling, booty-shaking, foot-stomping and pole-balancing athletics that would ensue. Shakira kicked it all off, slaying a crystal-encrusted Gibson guitar, charming us with a dizzying belly dance and teaching us the hypnotic pleasures of champeta and mapale folk dancing. J.Lo then took the reins, working her Hustlers moves, showing off her Puerto Rican pride and sharing the spotlight with her daughter, Emme Maribel Muñiz. Bad Bunny and J Balvin may have made brief appearances, but this performance proved the power of the female — and the joy of multiculturalism.
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