The 57th Super Bowl has come and gone, and it boasted yet another halftime show that got people talking. I certainly have my opinions on it … so let’s get to ranking them all!
I’m not going to include the early Disney halftime shows (for obvious reasons), and I decided to only look at the shows after 1993 as that was when they put more of an effort into the spectacle.
Before we begin, you can check out some of my related blog posts below:
29 – The Black Eyed Peas (2011)
It’s funny to me how the entire human race seems to agree that The Black Eyed Peas 2011 halftime show is the worst of the bunch.
They were the last musicians on planet earth that should’ve been allowed to play the famous gig, and their set was so soulless and un-energetic. An easy last place.
28 – The Blues Brothers (1997)
I think Super Bowl brought The Blues Brothers in for 1997’s halftime show to promote the upcoming Blues Brothers movie, and it’s unsurprising that they haven’t pulled that kind of stunt again.
This is just completely the wrong kind of energy to bring to the halftime show (not to mention John Belushi wasn’t there …), and even James Brown can’t save it.
27 – Rihanna (2023)
This was the first time I watched a Super Bowl and halftime show live, and I was disappointed by both. I think I can hear an angry mob gathering outside my house …
I don’t mind Rihanna’s discography, and she chose some good songs, but the obvious lip-syncing and boring dance choreography really got on my nerves. Not to mention the fact the set design was really one-note and boring!
Before you write me an angry comment, I do realise that most – if not all – halftime shows use lip-syncing, but Rihanna barely tried to hide it at points.
26 – Maroon 5 (2019)
Like with The Black Eyed Peas, everyone seems to agree that Maroon 5’s 2019 halftime show is one of the worst of the bunch. You won’t see me defending them.
They don’t bring the right vibe to the prestigious gig, and nobody on planet earth was asking to see Adam Levine’s teeny-tiny nips.
25 – Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton and Tina Turner (2000)
You’d expect the Super Bowl to go big for the new millennium, so I’m not sure why they thought Phil Collins and Toni Braxton would be a good idea.
Christina Aguilera and Enrique Iglesias do alright, but the entire show is just sooo boooriing.
24 – Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan (1999)
This was still in the period where Super Bowl hadn’t realised their halftime show potential just yet.
Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan are two decent artists to showcase, but I wanted so much more.
23 – Diana Ross (1996)
Compared to the previous entries, you can’t say that Diana Ross didn’t at least try to put on a spectacle.
I think it veers too much into parody, and the ending where she leaves on a helicopter is completely overkill.
22 – Madonna (2012)
Let’s get this out of the way – I don’t like Madonna. She’s one of my least favourite artists, so this halftime show was already up against it.
She does okay, and the spectacle is good, but I can’t rank it high if I don’t like most of the songs.
21 – Shania Twain, Sting and No Doubt (2003)
The 2000’s especially was when the Super Bowl committed to more energetic shows, so Shania Twain sticks out like a sore thumb.
Her, Sting and No Doubt put on a decent show, but it pales in comparison to others from the era.
20 – Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (2014)
One of the strangest match-ups in Super Bowl halftime show history, and to nobody’s surprise it didn’t really work.
Bruno Mars does a good job, RHCP bring the energy, but they don’t mesh well together.
19 – The Who (2010)
The 2000’s classic rock halftime shows are the ones that generally ranked highest on this list, but The Who were the only band of that calibre not to make the top half.
They brought good songs to the table, but they’re so old and sluggish. Not worth wheeling them out of the retirement home for.
18 – Shakira and Jennifer Lopez (2020)
This will definitely be one of the most subjective takes on this list, as both Shakira and Jennifer Lopez brought their A-game to their halftime show.
It’s full of energy and great choreography, but unfortunately neither of them are artists that particularly engage me.
17 – Justin Timberlake (2018)
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Justin Timberlake is the only artist to perform at three separate halftime shows (two as himself, one with ‘NSync).
Strangely, his final – and his solo showcase – performance is the one I liked least. He’s got a great discography, but there was an adventurousness lacking from his set.
16 – Katy Perry and Missy Elliot (2015)
This “Good” tier is defined by solid sets that proved their point well, but I never get the urge to watch them again.
Left Shark fiasco aside, Katy Perry does a great job of sustaining the energy and powering through the hits.
15 – Boyz II Men (1998)
The Super Bowl halftime shows were still in its awkward phase in the 90’s, but I really like what Boyz II Men brought to the table.
14 – Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy, Kid Rock, Jessica Simpson and Nelly (2004)
After nipple-gate, it’s not surprising that no one remembers the actual set of the 2004 halftime show. That’s a real shame, as Janet Jackson and the crew do a very good job.
Some of the guest features are questionable at best, but the Janet Jackson / Justin Timberlake combo works really well. I suppose if anything should be taken from this performance, it’s that Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction led to the creation of YouTube … what a strange world we live in.
13 – Tom Petty (2008)
Tom Petty is one of those American musicians that never really took off in my native UK, but even still I can appreciate his talent.
It’s quite a soft showing on the whole, but it pays every now and again to take your foot off the gas and bring a feelgood rocker to the halftime show.
12 – Aerosmith, Britney Spears, ‘NSync, Nelly and Mary J. Blige (2001)
The most early 2000’s thing I think I’ve ever seen.
It’s a smorgasbord of artists and musical styles that shouldn’t work at all … but it kinda does?!? This is definitely the underdog of halftime shows.
11 – Lady Gaga (2017)
I was sceptical when Lady Gaga was announced as 2017’s halftime show, but she absolutely killed it.
She brings all of the flair and melodrama that you’d expect, with a flamboyant and intricate set design to boot.
10 – The Weeknd (2021)
The Weeknd was on top of the world back in 2021, so it made sense to bring him in for one of the biggest gigs a musician can do.
He and his production team did surprisingly well for a pandemic-limited show, and his songs and choreography were top notch.
9 – Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars (2016)
Super Bowl went big for the 50th anniversary. That being said, I think they could have gone bigger.
Bruno Mars and Beyoncé were great choices, but Coldplay stick out like sore thumbs. I do love them as a band, but why bring in an English group for your big American anniversary?
8 – The Rolling Stones (2006)
There’s an argument to be made that The Rolling Stones were way past their prime during their 2006 show, a bit like The Who in 2010. But c’mon, it’s the Rolling Stones!
Mick Jagger has an uncompromising energy, one befitting of the stadium gig, and they played all the hits to bring the house down.
7 – Beyoncé (2013)
She reminded everyone in 2016 that she’s a contender for greatest living performer, but it was Beyoncé’s original 2013 halftime show that remains her best showing.
She commands the stage, and powers through hit after hit and expertly choreographed dances. And she brought back the Destiny’s Child gals too!
6 – Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar (2022)
One of the most unique halftime shows, the rap showcase during 2022’s performance was one for the ages.
Dr. Dre and the gang didn’t hold anything back, and I’m glad the setlist and production design gave everyone involved a chance to shine.
5 – Michael Jackson (1993)
There’s a reason I’ve only looked at halftime shows since 1993 – as far as most people are concerned, this was when the halftime show format really took off.
Michael Jackson is electric as always, and he lays the template for all future sets. If he’d just started singing earlier instead of standing there for like ten minutes, this could have been top three.
4 – Paul McCartney (2005)
After the Janet Jackson controversy of the previous year, the Super Bowl organisers decided to play it safe for 2005’s halftime show. And who’s more universally loved than Paul McCartney?
He rifles through some Wings and Beatles classics, providing a feelgood set that people of all ages could get behind.
3 – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2009)
The Boss was tasked with pumping up the crowds during 2009’s halftime, and he absolutely smashed it out of the park.
Springsteen’s energy is unparalleled, with a setlist that must have made Americans all over the country pass out from overwhelming patriotism. In my opinion, this was the last truly outstanding halftime show.
2 – U2 (2002)
2002 was a year of mourning for Americans, and it must have been hard at the time to imagine what the halftime show had in store.
Luckily, U2 understood the assignment, playing the hits and paying tribute to those who fell during the 9/11 tragedy. Their performance of “Where The Streets Have No Name”, with the list of victims and Bono’s American flag jacket, is an all-time great Super Bowl moment.
1 – Prince (2007)
If we’re talking about the sets that are strongest from start to finish, the halftime shows that grab your attention and never let go, there really couldn’t be another pick for top spot.
Prince perfected the halftime show format, with a stunning selection of songs and a phenomenal visual style and set design. He even performed Purple Rain in the rain! Of course it was going to be epic!
Aaand that’s my list! You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:
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