“Halftime Show History: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”

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Sydney Rodriguez, Staff Writer, Vice President

This past Sunday we celebrated America’s favorite unofficial holiday, also known as Super Bowl Sunday. It is during this time where Americans are known for eating a ton of nachos, irresponsibly betting their rent money on who’s going to win, and hating on Tom Brady for literally just being Tom Brady. But what I wanted to focus on today is the Super Bowl’s annual halftime show. There’s no doubt that the Super Bowl’s halftime show is just as much of an attraction than the actual game itself. Met with much scrutiny and judgement, I think it’s safe to say that halftime is one of the most watched and anticipated performances across the country. With just fifteen minutes to justify your true talent, this performance certainly is a massive risk as it could either launch you to the top of the music industry or do the complete opposite and nearly destroy your career. I mean, the eyes of over 100 million judgmental Americans are expecting nothing less than the best, and as a performer it is imperative that you fulfill their expectations. Well, unless you want to get roasted on Twitter. But I don’t think anyone really wants that. Seriously, when I say they’re brutal, they’re BRUTAL. 

On that note, here are some of the most iconic halftime performances in Super Bowl history, and some that definitely have been victims of Twitter’s bullies. 

Top 5 Super Bowl Halftime Shows

5.)  Katy Perry, 2015.

With that giant tiger puppet, who wasn’t entertained?. It definitely wasn’t what we were expecting, but it definitely isn’t something that we are complaining about either! This wild performance even featured Missy Elliot and Lenny Kravitz, whose appearances also impressed the crowd. Overall, Katy Perry literally gave us a rock concert, award show-level visuals, a meme, and a firework show all within 13 minutes. I don’t know about you, but I will forever applaud her for that. 

4.) Prince, 2007.

Of course Prince had to be at the top of my list. This performance took place under Florida’s relentless downpour, but it could not have happened at a better time. It happened during his performance of “Purple Rain”, where coincidentally, the raindrops were able to appear purple by the purple stage lights. Along with this stunning performance, his guitar skills were seriously impressive, earning him the title of being the greatest guitarist of all time to many.

3) Beyoncé, 2013.

Are we surprised? Beyoncé’s performance was none other than extravagant, and I think that the aesthetically pleasing all-black costumes is enough to serve as an accurate justification of that. From “Crazy in Love” to “Baby Boy” and all the way to “Halo” as a grand finale, I think many will agree with me when I say that her performance was both sophisticated and jaw-dropping. Her performance featured her former Destiny’s Child bandmates, who joined her in her iconic song, “Single Ladies”. With only women in her performance, she was able to both make history and deliver a powerful message.

2.) U2, 2002.

Earning the second spot on my list is none other than U2. It definitely was a close one between them and the first place performer because this show was truly an astounding one. Being the first performance just four months after the 9/11 attacks, U2’s show was simultaneously able to deliver remembrance and musicianship. When the names of the 9/11 victims began scrolling on a huge tapestry hung from the Superdome ceiling, it definitely touched the hearts of everyone across the nation. They sang “Where the Streets Have No Name” in front of this tapestry, producing a breathtaking performance that still moves people to this day.

1.)  Michael Jackson, 1993.

You guessed it, the King of Pop himself is definitely number one in my books. I mean come on, he literally changed the game of halftime shows with his insane performance in 1993.  From that long stare to his famous moonwalk, you must admit that this performance was definitely an iconic one. In terms of the music, the children’s choir performance of “We Are the World,” followed by Jackson’s dramatic finale performance of “Heal the World,” became an unforgettable and defining moment of his career. If only I was alive to be able to witness this staggering and unmatched performance!

Worst 5 Super Bowl Halftime Shows 

5.) The Blues Brothers, 1997.

The Blues Brothers take the 5th spot on my worst halftime show list. It honestly just did not catch my attention and was not special at all. Considering the game was in New Orleans, the NFL seriously should’ve booked actual soul legends from the city.

4.) New Kids On the Block, 1991.

This performance is known as one of the most forgotten. As this was the same year that Whitney Houston sang  “The Star Spangled Banner”, which became a huge hit, the New Kids definitely was overshadowed that night. Disney was also the sponsor of this show, thinking that throwing a bunch of Disney characters into the show would make it appealing to the average football fan. As much as I love Disney, it definitely does not mix well with football. 

3.) “A Tapestry of Nations” featuring Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias and Toni Braxton, 2000.

Placing third is another Disney production failure. This is just another example of when the Super Bowl got their halftime shows all wrong. While this was intended to be a thrilling showcase of global unity, many believed that the dancers were dressed in vaguely ethnic garments that did not accurately represent and portray it.  Aguilera and Collins were also singing original songs that were written for the show, so there was no sing-along power to the show. Talk about being boring!

2.) The Black Eyed Peas, 2011.

 Honestly, in this performance, The Black Eyed Peas proved themselves to be an inadequate live act for such a hyped up show that halftime is. It was just so flavorless and it was not entertaining in the slightest. Fergie, Usher, Slash and Will.i.am were special guests of the performance, but their voices were not in sync at all. Rather than singing together and blending their voices, it sounded like they were just singing at the same time. 

1.) Maroon 5, 2019.

Coming in 1st place is Maroon 5. It was honestly just boring to watch, and if I’m being completely honest, it was as if Adam Levine was literally afraid to move around the stage for the first couple of songs. He definitely should have taken notes on better performers like Michael Jackson. On top of this, there was much controversy with this band performing at this show. The creator of Spongebob Squarepants, Stephen Hillenbug, had just died which saddened the hearts of many Americans. Recognized as a man who entertained children across America his entire life, the people wanted to honor him. Because of this, there was a petition to play “Sweet Victory”, an iconic song from the show, in tribute to him. The petition ultimately gathered 1,235,785 supports. However, while Maroon 5 did include “Sweet Victory” in their set, it only lasted about 15 seconds until it transitioned into Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode.” This action was labeled as both tone-deaf and ignorant, upsetting Americans across the nation. Also, following the controversies of NFL teams unwilling to sign Colin Kaepernick based on his choice to protest social injustice and racial inequality by taking a knee during the National Anthem, several musical artists declined to perform at the halftime show in 2019. However, Maroon 5 stepped up to the plate and were criticized for doing so as many believed that all artists should’ve boycotted the show to support Kaepernick. Overall, the performance was both very boring and problematic, earning the spot as the worst halftime show in my opinion. 

Though he did not earn a spot on either list, I would still like to give recognition to this year’s Super Bowl halftime show featuring The Weeknd. Since there weren’t many people in the audience due to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Weeknd was able to use the Raymond James Stadium to his advantage. The performance started out with him in a convertible, and behind him were city lights, Pepsi logos, lights, fog, and fireworks, all of which were able to amplify his performance. We can thank The Weeknd for the cool visuals, who spent millions of his own money to impress the audience as well as ensure the vision he wanted. The lasting image was a close-up camera view of him recording himself, which was something we have never seen before. Overall, this 14 minute performance included many songs including his Grammy award-winning hits like “Call Out My Name” and “Starboy,” which many people are familiar with, fan or not.

While he sparked a lot of memes and is currently the laughing stock of Twitter, his streams also increased to 41% after this show. The peoples’ opinion on whether or not they enjoyed his show has been pretty much split in the middle too. For this reason, it is pretty hard to dictate whether or not it was a success or fail, but I guess it ultimately just depends on who you ask. However, I know that while it won’t be recognized as one of the best performances of all time in my books, it definitely does not deserve the worst either. 

What do you think about The Weeknd’s performance? Who do you want to see in the Super Bowl next?