Top-20 Best Super Bowl Halftime Shows Of All-Time

Jennifer Lopez – Super Bowl halftime show 2020
Jennifer Lopez performing at the Super Bowl LIV. (Image credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

In January 2020, pop diva Jennifer Lopez with Latino music sensation, Shakira, thrilled American football fans with an exceptionally radiating performance. This brought to the fore the powerful effect which fusing the unifying bond of music with that of sport brings to the centre stage of world affairs. That performance of the two music icons is just one of several performances of top music stars in the Super Bowl. This has inspired our edition of the best Super Bowl halftime shows of all-time.

The Super Bowl, the final of the prestigious National Football League (NFL) tournament holds annually, with fans coming out in their numbers to see the best in the league tussle for the ultimate title of being the undisputed champion in the NFL. The Super Bowl offers the soothing and comfort of music which no doubt aid fans in savouring the exhilarating feeling of enjoying a toughly contested football game. While several big names who have dominated world music have been privileged to grace the Super Bowl stage, few have done it on an incredible and exceptional way, that long after the performance, fans still recall with ease, the incredibility and splendidness of these electric performances. In this article, we delve deep through the 54 NFL Super Bowl performances so far to present to you, the top-20 best Super Bowl halftime shows since Super Bowl I.

Here Are The Best Super Bowl Halftime Shows Of All-Time

20. Shania Twain, Sting and No Doubt – 2003

During the half time of the 2003 Super Bowl which saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers triumph over the Oakland Raiders, country music superstar, Shania Twain, thrilled fans with her “I’m just a girl” and “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.” anthems which celebrated womanhood. To drive home the message of the female power, pop icon Gwen Stefani rocked the stage in the most dazzling manner. Though the performance was energetic, the lack of costume change, and the absence of the inspiring moves of backup dancers precisely during the performance of  “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.” limited the inspiring effect of the performance.

19. New Kids on the Block – 1991

The Super Bowl XXV was lit up by the colourful performance of American boy band, New Kid on the Block, who were at the top of the America music scene. NKOTB went along with a Disney themed performance which featured several Disney characters which American audience widely embraced. Looking back at the performance, their performance of “It’s a Small World”, though old fashioned, is amazingly attractive. 

18. The Who – 2011

Thanks to NFL management, teens in the 21st century were given a sneak peek into what sort of music ruled the world in the late 20th century. English Rock band, The Who, sent old conservative parents back to the time when they were filled with dreams and young with their amazing rendition of their 1971 hit “Baba O’Reilly”, which we may never see the legendary band perform. Altogether, the performance featured the right direction of action and drama.

17. Paul McCartney – 2005

Watch Paul McCartney’s performance on YouTube

The only thing Paul McCartney’s Super Bowl XXXIX performance lacked was the fact that he featured no extra touch of excitement that could send tongues wagging in the most controversial manner. The English star who is widely known for his association with the legendary band, The Beatles, played it safe, by singing in his ever sonorous vocals in an LED stage, all alone. The star had no touch of feminine backup but chose to do it all alone with his drum set and perfectly pitched voice. Though he put up a performance worthy of praise,  the embellished performance fans desired was a no show.

16. Up with People – 1992

The Super Bowl XVI which featured top American male band, Up with People was another Super Bowl performance which hit on the right spot. The performance came at a time where American was deeply engrained with the subject of equality of rights, and with the epic performance of Up with People which featured large dance number, the message of equity was clearly sent.

15. Tom Petty – 2008

Late Music legend, Tom Petty stole the 2008 Super Bowl XLII with his incredible performance of his hit songs. Singing the top number 1 song from four successful albums he did with his band, Petty hit the notes in perfect timing and manner in the 12 minutes he entertained fans with his classic hits. His performance no doubt was exceptional but lack of action to make his show more lively, primarily not featuring dancers was a no show.

14. Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, Queen Latifah and The Temptations – 1998

Without Queen Latifah and Boyz II Men, this probably will have been a mundane performance with hits from the ’90s, but Queen Latifah’s cover of the “Heard It Through the Grapevine” song which is popularly known as “Paper”, sent many fans reminiscing on the hits of the ’90s. Boyz II Men’s performance of “A Song for Mama,” did not bring the actions fans needed, the song was relatively new and did not move fans as such, but Martha Reeves’ performance of “Heat Wave,” set the stage on fire.

13. Black Eyed Peas, Slash and Usher – 2011

We could say, the performance of Black Eyed Peas at the Super Bowl XLV set the standard for the adrenaline pumped performance of Madonna and Beyonce. Landing from the sky, the four singers gave an exceptional rendition of their hits such as “Sweet Child of Mine” assisted by the comforting voice of Usher and Slash. The costume glowed radiantly while the dancers moved effortlessly. Though it was a good show of creativity, there were some disappointments. The stage which was supposed to read “LOVE” when viewed from the sky, had no light in one of the prongs of the V. Aside that, the sound was miserable.

12. Shakira and Jennifer Lopez – 2020

The 2020 Super Bowl halftime show showcased the influence, beauty and creativity of Latino music. Two Latino superstars, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez both thrilled fans with their unique performances. Bad Bunny and J Balvin also made the show, not just a splendid performance but also a mind-blowing theatrical spectacle. Shakira’s Zaghrouta left fans bewildered and Jennifer Lopez pole dancing sent tongue wagging about the show not being a strip club, but in all, Jennifer Lopez’s 11 years old daughter, Emme, singing  “Let’s Get Loud” amazingly was really brilliant. The performance was not without political statements as J Lo spotted a feather cape with half American and Puerto Rican flags on each side. The performance highlighted the struggle of immigrants with young Emme, singing “Born in the USA”.

11. Diana Ross – 1996

The 30th edition of the Super Bowl, Super Bowl XXX, featured Diana Ross thrilling fans with lots of extravagant tunes and performance. From her entrance to the costume and backup singers, the performance was superb. Ross came down from a pedestal while she set up to sing “I Will Survive,” in a colourful jumpsuit. The gospel choir, as well as the children with angelic faces, gave the performance a positive review. The highlight of Ross’ epic performance was when a chopper landed on the pitch and Ross went in and hanged on the side as it flew, this surely stuck on the minds of fans.

10. Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy, Jessica Simpson, Nelly and Kid Rock – 2004

Young rising music sensation, Justin Timberlake joined forces with established Janet Jackson to perform at the 2004 Super Bowl. But what would have been a very eventful and wonderful performance ended on a disappointing note — thanks to a wardrobe malfunction. Deep into the performance, both artistes leaned close to each other and Timberlake unwittingly tore Janet’s dress revealing her nipple on national TV. This Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime performance was one of the most controversial in the history of Super Bowl performances.

9. Madonna feat. Niki Minaj, M.I.A., CeeLo Green and LMFAO – 2012

Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl performance was indeed incredible. Clad in Golden medieval spartan outfits, the medieval theme performance saw Madonna enter the stage with her spartan warriors. The show was colourful as the dancers adorned the Golden coloured spartan outfit. The performance amazingly featured other music sensations such as LMFAO, Niki Minaj, CeeLo Green and M.I.A.

8. Katy Perry feat. Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliot – 2015

Watch Katy Perry’s full performance on YouTube

Katty Perry kicked off the yearly Super Bowl halftime performance with ‘Roar’, as she emerged on the stage on a big lion puppet. Missy Elliot took fans back to the ’60s with her fine pop songs, singing three of her biggest hits, as well as the adept antics of Left Shark. The performance closed with Perry rising above the stadium on a shooting star platform. Other amazing performances included Missy Elliot’s feature of her three hit songs. The Super Bowl XLIX halftime performance was so right, so satisfying and unforgettable.

7. Coldplay feat. Beyonce and Bruno Mars – 2016

Watch the full performance on YouTube

The Super Bowl 50 halftime show got fans starstruck by the performances of Beyonce and Bruno Mars that it may be difficult to recall that Coldplay was the headliner. The halftime show featured Bruno Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk’ which fans vibed to. The pop icon, Beyonce thrilled fans with “Formation”, with the events finally closing with “Believe in Love”, this indeed was a great performance that will be remembered for years to come – thanks to the Ingenuity of Coldplay.

6. Bruno Mars feat. Red Hot Chili Peppers – 2014

With moves that bear resemblance to those of Micheal Jackson, Bruno Mars lit up the MetLife stadium. Powerful and inspirational, the performance was really fascinating, especially because it was a live performance. Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ pre-recorded performance though disappointed fans but was also amazing. 

5. Aerosmith, NSYNC, Britney Spears, Nelly and Mary J. Blige – 2001

With metallic outfits, Aerosmith made fans go nuts as they sang “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. The NSYNC were also incredibly, particularly Justin Timberlake and Lance Bass, as they sang “Bye Bye”. Surprise performances from Mary J Blige, Britney Spears and Nelly, brought more life to “Walk This Way,”. The fact that fans were allowed to surround the stage for the very first time took the event to the next level for the first time.

4. Lady Gaga – 2017

Thanks to technology, this performance was a hit. Lady Gaga began her wonderful performance by singing from the roof. She then jumped and caught football mid-air which surely added excitement to the performance. The use of drones which looked like a constellation of stars made it even more interesting and the dancers in glowing costume throwing spears which glowed added a Startrek theme to the performance which revolved around technology. Lady Gaga thrilled fans with “Bad Romance”, “Born this way” and several other tunes. 

3. Prince – 2007

Watch Prince’s performance on YouTube

Magical Prince made the impossible happen in the Super Bowl. For the first time in 40 years, Prince summoned the rain, as he performed “Purple Rain”. He also paid homage to previous Super Bowl halftime performance when he sang “Baby I’m a Star”, as the marching band of Florida A&M University added to the thrill of the incredible performance.

2. U2 – 2002

Watch U2’s performance on YouTube

Following the 9/11 attack, Americans were in dire need of comfort and they looked for it everywhere, even in the Super Bowl halftime show. U2 comforted Americans with an epic performance which saw the name of every individual who lost their lives in the unfortunate attack written on the stage. “Where the Streets Have No Names” was a fitting song for that period as U2 helped comfort Americans in an entertaining but emotional way. U2’s performance in 2002 remains one of the very best Super Bowl halftime shows of all-time.

1. Michael Jackson – 1993

The first man to perform in a Super Bowl halftime show, Michael Jackson proved he is the best in the game. So far, no one has unseated him in what was the most epic performance. Critics may argue that the performance was held in California when the sun was still out, and there was a commercial break during the performance, but this ranking focuses on the quality of the performance and Jackson did a good job on that. His “We Are the World” hit which he performed with a children choir shows inclusiveness as well as his “Heal the World” jam, where a big inflated globe drove home the message of world unity. Jackson also thrilled fans with his moonwalking moves which probably is the most important highlight of the performance.

There you have it—Our top-20 best Super Bowl halftime shows of all time. What are your thoughts? Please share with us in the comment section below.

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