Super Bowl halftime shows have had a pretty wide range over the years; starting out with mostly college marching bands and currently sometimes ending up in huge controversy (like the above or M.I.A. last year). For the past twenty years or so, though, the halftime show has settled into two categories for the most part: aging rock star or in-the-moment pop sensations. There just hasn’t been a lot of imagination. I truly believe, and so do Todd and Wes deep down even though they won’t admit it, the combination of Aerosmith, N’Sync, and Nelly was pretty electric, and a legitimate combination of current and aging talents. Alas, they didn’t make the list. Neither did The Who (decrepit), Madonna (mummified), or the Shania Twain, No Doubt, Sting combination (puzzling). In fact, this list is not nearly as strong as we would have expected, so I ripped to some degree on several acts. Enjoy, and as always let us know what you think in the comments.
10. 2006 – The Rolling Stones
After the 2004 Janet Jackson debacle (blessing?), the NFL decided to trot out a lot of very “safe” acts for some time. Hence, a bunch of old bags of bones (stones?) took the stage in 2006 and sounded much smaller than the event demands. As a consolation, the stage is phenomenal, and Keith Richards puppet-master continues to get paid for his superb work.
9. 1996 – Diana Ross
A Diana Ross medley was just what the doctor ordered to get the stink of 1995’s performance (featuring Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood of all people) out of everyone’s head. Ross may seem like a fairly conservative call, but her wealth of hits and stage presence can’t be denied.
8. 1999 – Chaka Khan, Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Savion Glover, Kiss
With a show coined “Soul, Salsa, Swing” I’m not quite sure where Kiss fits in the mix, but 1999 was a fun, weird halftime show. Stevie Wonder still sounded good, Chaka and Gloria brought the energy, and Kiss does what they do. One complaint: I was always more of a Cherry Poppin’ Daddies fan than a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Fan. Now you know who my daddy(s) is.
7. 2002 – U2
In the fight for who can be the douchiest Super Bowl performer to make our list, Bono wins by a wide margin. He effing hates America, yet we sign him up to play our flagship sporting event, where I can only view the above still as mocking yet somehow pandering. I’m confused. All that being said, U2’s sound is tailor made for huge events, and they sounded good.
6. 1998 – Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Temptations, Queen Latifah, Grambling State University Marching Band
For Motown’s 40th Anniversary, the NFL brought out some old classics and some newer faces from their stable of talent. I was ready to make a joke about how I guess all you have to be is black to be considered Motown-influenced in regard to Queen Latifah being included in the show. But, it turns out, the Queen and Boyz II Men were both on Motown’s label for a period of time. All in all, a solid show, with some great American musicians.
5. 2009 – Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
Springsteen chimes in as the second douchiest artist to make this list. I’m not sure that he hasn’t been a caricature of himself since the early eighties, and the Super Bowl was the perfect stage for him to ham it up to extreme heights. But credit where credit is due. Compared to most of the aging artists the NFL has exhumed to put on the big stage, Bruce brought endless energy and sounded great. Added bonus was we got to see Steven Van Zandt on the biggest stage, and he is simply the best.
4. 2004 – Janet Jackson, P.Diddy, Kid Rock, Nelly, & Justin Timberlake
Everyone always talks about the nip slip, but how about St. Louis’ own Nelly bringin’ the heat to the Super Bowl for the second time? Has Kanye pulled that off? Jay-Z? Eminem? Nope, and you know why, because Nelly is the combined reincarnation of Tupac, Biggie, and Eazy-E. Seriously, there’s not a record of Nelly even existing before 1997. Its true because I read it on the internet.
3. 2008 – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Tom Petty wasn’t the sexiest pick to play the Super Bowl in 2008, being one of their post-Janet “safe bets” (and also being a very very ugly man). But, Tom Petty still sounds as good live as the time his voice was first recorded to a vinyl. Add that to the near-perfect four song setlist(I would have replaced “Free Falling” with “Don’t Come Around Here No More”), and we received a memorialized gift of Petty’s continued greatness.
2. 1993 – Michael Jackson
The pose above says it all. Michael Jackson still had the killer instinct, confidence, and ability to be Michael Jackson in 1993. The man built from the age of 4 for the the big stage brought heat with “Billie Jean”, “Black or White”, “Heal the World”, etc. The only legitimate complaint is letting MJ near the children’s choir brought on to help with “We Are the World”, but I suppose there is a low probability of a felony with 100 million people watching live.
1. 2007 – Prince
Challenge me on whether this was the best Super Bowl halftime show of all-time, and you might as well challenge me to a fist fight. Not only did the performance feature the three quintessential Prince classics (“Let’s Go Crazy”, “Baby I’m a Star”, and “Purple Rain”), but he also was not overly self-indulgent and played Queen, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, and….The Foo Fighters (wtf!!!). Finishing off the performance by playing “Purple Rain” in the pouring rain was a special moment in music history.
Todd: 1994 – Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Tanya Tucker, The Judds
Clint Black was Todd’s first concert, and a newsprint photo of Tanya Tucker his first j-off material. So, that’s the story behind this one…
Wes: 1991 – New Kids On The Block
Just from this photo, you can easily tell there was an all-out circus surrounding the NKOTB Super Bowl half-time show. 1991 was the height of their popularity, so why not trot out the young bucks to do a few hits. Our big qualm with the performance, and thus probably why New Kids were left off the list, was their failure to sing “Hangin’ Tough”. Sure it wasn’t their biggest hit, but c’mon, its a football game. “Hangin’ Tough” fits perfectly.
Austin: 1992 – Gloria Estefan with U.S. Olympic figure skaters Brian Boitano & Dorothy Hamill
Gloria Estefan is watching you. Gloria Estefan is f**king watching you.