Super Bowl Halftime Shows Ranked: Rob Sheffield's Worst, Best - Rolling Stone
Home Culture Culture Lists

Super Bowl Halftime Shows Ranked: From Worst to Best

Pop spectacles, Janet’s nipple, Springsteen’s marathon, Left Shark and loads of soul revues – we’ve seen ’em all

Chances are it’s the biggest worldwide audience of your life, and getting it right means rising to the hugeness of the moment. Getting it wrong can crush a career. Good luck, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.

And with Super Bowl 53 set for this Sunday, what better time to rank the Big Game’s halftime shows from worst to best. Here’s a subjective, personal, irresponsible and indefensible breakdown of the winners and losers. The Bonos and Beyoncés and Bruces and Britneys. The Janets and Justins. From Prince and Madonna, from Michael to Macca. Plus the year they trapped poor Gloria Estefan in a Minnesota “Winter Magic” pageant with a bunch of figure skaters and inflatable snowmen. Believe it or not, all these Super Bowl halftime shows really happened. Some were transcendent. Some sucked. Pass those bacon fritters and enjoy the show.

The Black Eyed Peas featuring Fergie, left,,, and Taboo, right, and perform during halftime of NFL football Super Bowl XLV, in Arlington, TexasSuper Bowl Football, Arlington, USA

Dave Martin/AP/REX/Shutterstock


The Black Eyed Peas (2011)

The worst. Just the worst. Watching at the time, you instantly knew you were witnessing something magical and special – like seeing a unicorn cough up blood. The Black Eyed Peas had light-up robot suits. Cool! Sorta! They did their version of “I’ve Had the Time of My Life.” Not so cool! Usher looked like he wanted to hide. Then the tragic words: “Ladies and gentlemen . . . the one and only . . . Slash!” Oh Slash, poor Slash – dueting with Fergie to “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” How did this happen? This was the same Super Bowl where Christina Aguilera did her memorable interpretation of the National Anthem, so yeah, music had a rough day. So did Steelers fans.

Robert Riger/Getty Images


Everything From 1967 to 1989

Before the 1990s, the Super Bowl honchos had no idea they could turn the halftime show into part of the event. Until then, it was a bathroom break. So there’s no point making marginal distinctions between the first 24 of them – a low-budget blur of college marching bands, Elvis impersonators, Carol Channing, George Burns, the Rockettes, and year after year, Up With People, who were chipper castrati packed in ice between Super Bowls, then defrosted as an annual reminder to NFL fans that bladders get full and plumbing can help. It’d be silly to judge these by modern-day standards, since none were planned as anything more than cheeseball filler. But at least they weren’t the Black Eyed Peas.

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 27:  New Kids On The Block perform prior to the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on January 27, 1991 in Tampa, Florida. The Giants defeated the Bills 20-19. (Photo by Gin Ellis/Getty Images)

Gin Ellis/Getty Images


New Kids on the Block (1991)

This is where people started learning they could put on an actual show at halftime. But learning slowly. Don’t blame the New Kids, who didn’t get to sing any of their perkier tunes. Instead, they got stuck doing their sappiest hit, “This One’s for the Children,” segueing into a Disney kiddie choir. Except the Gulf War had just started, so “It’s a Small World (After All)” was the last sentiment anyone wanted to hear. Since ABC News did a war report during halftime, this got bumped until after the game, which was probably for the best. The New Kids said their piece a couple weeks later at the American Music Awards, where Donnie Wahlberg performed in a “War Sucks” T-shirt.

ATLANTA, UNITED STATES:  Singers Christina Aguilera (R) and Enrique Iglesias (L) perform during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXIV at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, 30 January, 2000.  (ELECTRONIC IMAGE)  AFP PHOTO/Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

Jeff Haynes AFP/Getty Images


Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton and Tina Turner (2000)

The lineup of talent looks so promising, yet none of the stars did any of their actual hits – everybody who wanted to do some air-drumming to Phil Collins, or some couch-humping to Xtina, got thwarted by goopy ballads nobody knew. Phil did the love theme from Tarzan. Xtina and Enrique rubbed everybody the wrong way with a song called “Celebrate the Future Hand in Hand.” Even “Proud Mary” couldn’t get Tina turning. People, this is the Super Bowl. You gotta make a big impression. You gotta like what you do.

Singer Gloria Estefan from the popular music group "Miami Sound Machine" entertains the crowd during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXVI in MinneapolisSuper Bowl XXVI, Minneapolis, USA

Bill Sikes/AP/REX/Shutterstock


Gloria Estefan and Olympic Figure Skaters (1992)

A “Winter Magic” pageant, because the game was in Minnesota. Giant snowmen. Figure skaters Dorothy Hammill and Brian Boitano. Hideous dancing imps waving hockey sticks to Queen‘s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” And Gloria Estefan, because when you think of the Great White North, you naturally think of Gloria and her Minneapolis Sound Machine. But everyone clicked away to watch In Living Color‘s live comedy special – one of those genius ideas that changed the world. (In Living Color had a lot of those.) Nobody had ever challenged the Super Bowl halftime before, and it worked, because even cheap Dick Butkus jokes were more fun than hearing “Winter Wonderland” in January. This was the big turning point, as the In Living Color stunt finally jolted the Super Bowl into getting serious about halftime. The next year they brought in Michael Jackson. What would Brian Boitano do?

Bennett LaBelle Benedetto Singers Tony Bennett and Patti LaBelle entertain the crowd during halftime at Super Bowl XXIX, at Miami's Joe Robbie StadiumSuper Bowl XXIX Half Time Show 1995, Miami, USA

Bennett LaBelle Benedetto Singers Tony Bennett and Patti LaBelle entertain the crowd during halftime at Super Bowl XXIX, at Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium Super Bowl XXIX Half Time Show 1995, Miami, USA

Hans Deryk/AP/REX/Shutterstock


Patti LaBelle, Tony Bennett, Teddy Pendergrass and Miami Sound Machine (1995)

Damn, 1995 was a year of high-profile disasters: Waterworld, Hurricane Peter McNeely, the fateful day Bill Clinton’s secretary announced, “Sir, the girl’s here with the pizza.” And then there was this one. Disney staged a live-action Indiana Jones caper on the field, except Harrison Ford wisely stayed away. Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett weren’t so lucky. By the finale of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?,” viewers all over America were gaping in horror – it was like watching the Nazi soldiers open the Lost Ark.

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 28: Mardi Gras style floats with women waving roll by during the pregame show before the San Francisco 49ers take on the Denver Broncos prior to Super Bowl XXIV at Louisiana Superdome on January 28, 1990 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The 49ers won 55-10. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

George Rose/Getty Images


Pete Fountain, Irma Thomas, Doug Kershaw and Snoopy (1990)

A tribute to New Orleans, also to the 40th anniversary of the comic strip “Peanuts,” and maybe also to drugs. Because Charlie Brown has what exactly the hell to do with jambalaya and Mardi Gras again? But because New Orleans is New Orleans, the music was still kinda catchy at its corniest. It all ended with Snoopy dancing on a Mississippi River steamboat to “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which segued into “Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown.” Meanwhile, a TV audience of traumatized Broncos fans vowed never to get high before halftime again.

John Goodman, Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi of The Blues Brothers (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc


The Blues Brothers (1997)

John Belushi was dead, by the way. But the Super Bowl brought back the Blues Brothers, perhaps because they couldn’t get the 1985 Chicago Bears to reprise “Super Bowl Shuffle.” Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman and Jim Belushi immodestly attempted soul classics by Solomon Burke and James Brown. The Godfather of Soul himself appeared, yet maybe deserved a little more airtime than Jim Belushi, don’t you think? By the time ZZ Top came to the rescue for some “Tush,” it was too little too late.

Adam Levine of Maroon 5, left, and Travis Scott perform during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots, in AtlantaPatriots Rams Super Bowl Football, Atlanta, USA - 03 Feb 2019

Jeff Roberson/AP/Shutterstock


Maroon 5 (2019)

Nobody wanted to go near the Super Bowl in 2019, amid all the outrage over the NFL’s blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick. Cardi B and Rihanna turned it down flat. The best the NFL could dredge up was Adam Levine, who’s never looked less like a rock star than when he yelled, “Can I play some guitar for you right now?” It was godawful, despite cameos from Travis Scott, Big Boi and Spongebob Squarepants. When Levine whipped off his tank top to flash his nipples (twice as many as Janet Jackson showed) for “Moves Like Jagger,” it turned into one sad bachelorette party. Note: Rumours that there are other people besides Levine in Maroon 5 could not be confirmed at press time.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07:  (L-R) Musicians Roger Daltrey, Zak Starkey and Pete Townshend of The Who perform onstage during the Super Bowl XLIV Halftime Show at the Sun Life Stadium on February 7, 2010 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Kevin Mazur/WireImage


The Who (2010)

Neither Pete Townshend nor Roger Daltrey had ever watched an American football game. (Or the halftime-show DVDs the NFL sent them for reference.) Maybe that explains why the Who didn’t understand the high-visibility, high-stakes nature of this gig. Alas, they showed up even more shoddily prepared than the Colts, fumbling a medley of classics — sad to think of all the kids out there first hearing “Won’t Get Fooled Again” or “Baba O’Riley” in this sorry condition. Daltrey sounded like he really did just wake up in a SoHo doorway, killing “Who Are You” dead one hoo-hoo at a time. Those suspicious “crowd sing-along” audio cues sounded about as believable as a Seinfeld laugh track. Sad but true: There’s no easy way to be free.

ATLANTA, GA - 1994: Country singer Clint Black performs during the half-time show at the 1994 Atlanta, Georgia, Superbowl XXVII football game at the Georgia Dome. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

George Rose/Getty Images


Tanya Tucker, Clint Black, Travis Tritt and The Judds (1994)

What did you expect – Nirvana reprising their Unplugged set? This was wholesome all-American country entertainment, and it got the job done with some of the brightest Nashville stars of the day, all of them pretty near their peak, except the Judds, who were in the sixth or seventh year of their farewell tour. (Poor Wynonna was doing fine solo until her mama crashed the show.) No thrills, but in a gig like this, playing it safe can be a smart move.

HOUSTON, UNITED STATES:  Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake perform at half-time at Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium, 01 February 2004 in Houston, TX.  AFP PHOTO Jeff HAYNES  (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images)


Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy, Kid Rock, Jessica Simpson and Nelly (2004)

We’ve seen the nipple and the damage done. Without question the most famous halftime show ever, the one that forced a generation of Americans to hear their moms utter the word “aureole.” It killed off Janet Jackson‘s previously unstoppable career – almost 20 years of hitmaking, zapped in one breast-bounce. It damn near killed Justin’s too, as his clumsy (and none too gallant) handling of the controversy ended his post-N’Sync honeymoon with the public. (It took two years and Timbaland for JT to get his sexy back.)

The music was mostly great, but the fallout was poisonous. The Bush administration (especially Colin Powell’s son at the FCC) led a hysterical crusade to demonize MTV and Miss Jackson. You could pinpoint this as the moment MTV decided to bail out of the music business entirely. All around, a disastrous moment for America. Also, Jessica Simpson sang.

25 Jan 1998: A view of the Half Time Show taken during the Super Bowl XXXII between the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Broncos defeated the Packers 31-24.

Getty Images


Boyz II Men (1998)

When it came to halftime shows, the motto for the late Nineties was “more Sixties R&B oldies, please.” Boyz II Men, still one of the world’s biggest and best pop groups at that time, led this tribute to Motown, bringing out Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, the Four Tops and Martha Reeves. And what do you know – no Jim Belushi.

Justin Timberlake performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, in MinneapolisEagles Patriots Super Bowl Football, Minneapolis, USA - 04 Feb 2018

Mark Humphrey/AP/REX/Shutterstock


Justin Timberlake (2018)

JT returns to the scene of the crime, reprising “Rock Your Body” atthe Super Bowl 14 years after it capsized Janet Jackson’s career. He kept it basic — no NSync reunion (he didn’t even give them a Destiny’s Child-style wham-bam quickie), no Janet rematch, no Britney twirl during “Cry Me A River,” not even Timbaland for “Sexy Back.” Justin was promoting a new album (Man of the Woods, it was called — seriously) and aiming to please in the blandest way possible. The highlight was a brief video duet with Prince on “I Would Die 4 U.” But by the time heended with “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” not even Prince could have made a case for not stopping the feeling.

N 345779 001 01/31/99 Miami Super Bowl Xxxiii In Miami. Gloria Estefan And Stevie Wonder Perform At Half-Time.  (Photo By Joe Traver/Getty Images)

Joe Traver/Getty Images


Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan (1999)

Stevie rolled out a few tried-and-true classics in Miami, graciously giving local goddess Gloria Estefan a long-deserved do-over shot at Super Bowl redemption. “Sir Duke” was his hundredth-birthday salute to Duke Ellington; for the finale, he donned a jacket with “AFRICAN” down one sleeve and “AMERICAN” down the other. Gloria turned the beat around, giving her Miami peeps salsa percussion. And the cameo from then-hot swing revivalists Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will help remind future historians that the Nineties were weird.

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 26:  Singer Shania Twain (C) performs during halftime of Super Bowl XXXVII between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders on January 26, 2003 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Al Bello/Getty Images


Shania Twain, Sting and No Doubt (2003)

Hey, let’s just forget Shania showed up for this one, OK? Her performance was a career-freezing sadgasm – you know the star is bombing when the camera goes for close-ups of the keytar dude. But Sting and Gwen came along to rescue the show. They made an insanely cute couple with their tantric harmonizing to “Message in a Bottle.” Gwen was such a natural for this role, boosting the hometown SoCal crowd with her all-American enthusiasm – busting out push-ups for the feminist “Just a Girl,” no less – it’s strange they never begged her to come back and do it again. Bonus points for Chris Berman adding the punch line: “The Sting has been on the Raiders offense!”

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 02: Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers performB during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Elsa/Getty Images


Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (2014)

Bruno Mars was a bold choice – people questioned whether he even had enough catalog to fill the time slot. But he proved he belonged right off the bat with that drum solo. He evoked the Motown-revue halftime shows of the Nineties with his old-school R&B moves, rocking a Jackie Wilson quiff, a James Brown suit and reviving the Isley Brothers’ “Shout.” Then he gave it away to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who made the bold choice to surprise literally nobody by jumping around shirtless to one of their biggest hits.

28 Jan 1996:  Diana Ross performs at the halftime show during Super Bowl XXX between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.  The Cowboys won the game 27 - 17. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello  /Allsport

Al Bello/Allsport


Diana Ross (1996)

The diva-est halftime ever. “Come on, world!” Miss Ross yelled, while getting lowered to the stage on a crane made of sparklers. “We’re gonna take you higher! At the Super, Super, Super Bowl!” The staging was alarmingly klutzy – during her Supremes medley, it was hard not to worry she’d get trampled by her army of red-vested dancers. But what an ending: Diana announced “Oh my – here comes my ride!” as her helicopter landed and her flight crew led her away for a true diva exit in the Ross-Chopper. The Super Bowl folks clearly loved it, since they went on a tear of Sixties soul revues for the rest of the decade.

Super Bowl Halftime Shows Ranked: From Worst to Best

Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars (2016)

Give Coldplay credit – most bands, faced with the task of opening for Beyoncé, would have come down with a convenient case of the flu. (And a case of the flu would have been more fun than Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" interlude.) Chris Martin and company made the most of "Viva La Vida," but there's no denying the main attraction was Beyonce's world-slaying premiere of "Formation," with her dancers dressed as Black Panthers. It was just a two-minute taste of "Formation," but it was enough to blow the rest of the show away.

Ron Blair; Tom Petty Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, including bass player Ron Blair, left, and Tom Petty, center, perform during halftime of the Super Bowl XLII football game between the New England Patriots and New York Giants, in Glendale, ArizSuper Bowl Football, Glendale, USA

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona.

Matt Slocum/AP/REX/Shutterstock


Tom Petty (2008)

Tom Brady and the Heartbreakers – arrrgggh, I mean Tom Petty. Well, as Petty would say, even the losers get lucky sometimes, hence the Giants winning this Super Bowl on a helmet catch. Petty did an excellent set – he was the kind of star who clearly understood the occasion, and knew what his job was. “American Girl” was 100 percent the right opening song. So there’s no problem with his halftime performance at all. But it’s still docked a notch or two for coming in the middle of the most soul-crushing Super Bowl ever. Yeah, I’m from New England. Sorry. It’s not Petty’s fault, but as all Pats fans learned that day, life is cruel. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go slam my head against the wall, 18 times on one side and then 1 on the other.

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 31:  Michael Jackson performs at the Super Bowl XXVII Halftime show at the Rose Bowl on January 31, 1993 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Steve Granitz/WireImage


Michael Jackson (1993)

MJ had a streak of great TV performances through his career: “I Want You Back” on Soul Train, “Billie Jean” on Motown 25, “Man in the Mirror” at the 1988 Grammys. This was the last one of his lifetime. He was in a late-game resurgence with his Oprah interview, his Dangerous album and his sweet snuggle with Janet at the 1993 Grammys. (“Me and Janet really are two different people!”) He began by standing stone still for 90 seconds of silence, then glided through two of his best hits (“Billie Jean” and “Black and White”) before one of his dodgiest (“Heal the World”). Footnote: This was the Super Bowl where the coin-toss honors went to some guy named O.J. Simpson.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - FEBRUARY 06:  Singer Paul McCartney performs during the Super Bowl XXXIX halftime show at Alltel Stadium on February 6, 2005 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Jeff Gross/Getty Images


Paul McCartney (2005)

Good news – he didn’t do “Freedom.” And he didn’t sing “A Hard Day’s Night” as a duet with Terry Bradshaw, like he famously did at the 2001 Super Bowl. Instead, Macca did what he’s done live for the past decade – blaze the hell out of a few classics with no glitz, no fuss, just his own crowd-slaying confidence. Who would have guessed he’d open with “Drive My Car,” kicking off the festivities in beep-beep style? He turned “Live and Let Die” into a rousing stadium-shaker. Hell of a game, too.

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Katy Perry and Missy Elliott performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


Katy Perry and Missy Elliott (2015)

Never say Katy isn’t brilliant – the girl went all out to deliver a beyond-ridiculous Vegas show, complete with druggy dancing palm trees and (of course) Left Shark. But the big surprise came when a mysterious silhouette appeared in the shadows, as a teaser snippet of “Get Ur Freak On” played. No. It couldn’t be. It was. Missy Freaking Elliott, shocking the world with her first high-profile appearance in years, the comeback we’d all been praying for. Talk about knowing how to choose your moment. Give Katy credit – only a true star would be confident enough to share a spotlight with Missy

DETROIT - FEBRUARY 05:  Musician Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones perform during the "Sprint Super Bowl XL Halftime Show" at Super Bowl XL between the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Ford Field on February 5, 2006 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)

Michael Zagaris/Getty Images


The Rolling Stones (2006)

Mick and the lads came to kick ass. They got down to business with just three songs: “Start Me Up,” “Rough Justice” and the inevitable “Satisfaction.” Bonus points for not playing “You Got Me Rockin’,” which they inexplicably did as half their set at the 12/12/12 benefit concert. As Mick joked before “Satisfaction,” “This one we could have done for Super Bowl I.” Even so, the man was in better shape than most of the NFL players – wiggling all over the stage, shaking mad hips, Mick had his backfield in motion. The network censored the line “You made a dead man come,” understandably.

Lady Gaga performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, in HoustonPatriots Falcons Super Bowl Football, Houston, USA - 5 Feb 2017

Lady Gaga performs at Super Bowl LI in Houston.



Lady Gaga (2017)

Everybody was wondering what kind of mischief Gaga would wreak at the Super Bowl: How crazy would she get? How political? How Gaga? Then she aimed straight down the middle with an uncontroversially crowd-pleasing hits medley, even beginning with the Pledge of Allegiance: “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all!” But she made “for all” sound radical with her queer-positive anthem “Born This Way,” probably the first time “transgender” has been uttered at the Super Bowl. No shock tactics, no surprise guests — just Gaga getting so aggressively normal it was freaky. And “Telephone” is still a jam, with or without Beyoncé.

Singer Madonna (top) performs with Redfoo and Sky Blu (L) of LMFAO during the NFL Super Bowl XLVI game halftime show on February 5, 2012 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.    AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)



Madonna (2012)

Madonna has scored so many historic TV touchdowns over the years, it’s weird to remember what a visceral thrill it was to see her rise to the Super Bowl occasion. Maybe we were all a little worried she’d get this moment wrong. (She does that sometimes.) But then she vogued on out there with all those ancient-Roman gladiator studs, and suddenly it was just the Queen of Queens doing a glam barrage of the greatest pop songs ever, i.e. hers. Like anything Madonna does, it was a total mess. Those Cee-Lo harmonies on “Like a Prayer.” That Nicki Minaj pom-pom sex-bomb cameo. Awesome. Oh, also: World Peace!

Bruce Springsteen Bruce Springsteen, left, and Steven Van Zandt, of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, perform at halftime at the NFL Super Bowl XLIII football game between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers, in Tampa, FlaSuper Bowl XLIII Football, Tampa, USA

Bruce Springsteen, left, and Steven Van Zandt, of the E Street Band, perform at Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.

Winslow Townson/AP/REX/Shutterstock


Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (2009)

“I want you to step back from the guacamole dip! I want you to put those chicken fingers down! And turn your television all the way up!” His Bossness did a 14-minute end-zone power drive that crammed in all the fervor of a four-hour concert marathon: “Tenth Avenue Freezeout,” “Born to Run,” “Glory Days” with new gridiron lyrics. (That “speedball” line never really did make sense anyway, right?) Nice camera-crashing crotch slide, too. All over this nation, from the coastline to the city, the chicken fingers got cold. R.I.P., Big Man.

N SYNC SPEARS TYLER Singer Britney Spears, flanked by Steven Tyler of Aerosmtih, second from left, and hip-hop star Nelly, second from right, join 'N Sync members Justin Timberlake, far left, and Lance Bass, far right on stage for the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXV, in Tampa, FlaSUPER BOWL, TAMPA, USA

Britney Spears, flanked by Steven Tyler of Aerosmtih, second from left, and Nelly, second from right, joining 'NSync members Justin Timberlake and Lance Bass onstage at Super Bowl XXXV, in Tampa.

Amy E Conn/AP/REX/Shutterstock


Aerosmith, Britney Spears, ‘NSync, Nelly & Mary J. Blige (2001)

People still love to argue over this one: Brilliant or insane? Personally, I’m a both man. In fact, I’m getting the “Walk This Way” jam tattooed on my face, as soon as they invent GIF tattoos. It was a scandal at the time – a couple months later, in the middle of inducting Aerosmith into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Kid Rock paused to ask, “What were you guys thinking?” But “Walk This Way” has to be one of the most demented three-minute spectacles ever aired on TV. Britney, in silver football pants, starring as the Missy Who Was Ready to Play. Mary J. Blige wailing along. Nelly rapping over Joe Perry’s guitar solo. Really, the whole gloriously sleazy history of American pop music is here in this performance.

Beyonce Beyonce performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, in New OrleansSuper Bowl Football, New Orleans, USA

Mark Humphrey/AP/REX/Shutterstock


Beyoncé (2013)

Beyoncé’s Super Bowl triumph looks even more astounding in retrospect, now that we know how she was secretly spending her spare time. (Like, she probably went straight from the SuperDome to the studio and wrote “Partition” in the limo.) Bey ran the world with superhuman renditions of “Crazy in Love,” “Baby Boy” and “Independent Women.” For the Destiny’s Child reunion, she had Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams magically launched up to the stage. But Bey blew out the lights with her whisper-to-a-scream “Halo.” (“Everybody put your hands towards me – I want to feel your energy!”) What a trip to share the planet with this woman.

Prince Prince performs during the halftime show at the Super Bowl XLI football game at Dolphin Stadium in Miami. Heritage Auctions is selling one of the late artist's "yellow cloud" electric guitars beginning June 24 with an opening bid of $30,000. The guitar was one of several custom guitars Prince used in the 1980s and 1990sPrince-Autopsy-Q&A, Miami, USA

Prince performs during the halftime show at Super Bowl XLI, at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.

Chris O'Meara/AP/REX/Shutterstock


Prince (2007)

Everybody knew Prince would make this a freakfest for the ages. But he exceeded all expectations, in the middle of a Miami thunderstorm. A Foo Fighters cover? “We Will Rock You” into “Let’s Go Crazy”? “All Along the Watchtower”? An epic guitar-hero jam on “Purple Rain”? There was a feeling that nobody knew what surprise this sexy MF would bust out next – at a high-profile event like the Super Bowl, it was a historic blast of rock & roll arrogance. Total mastery. Total cool.

U2 performs during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVI in the Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, February 3, 2002. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)

Theo Wargo/WireImage


U2 (2002)

U2 created one of the truly great live-TV rock & roll moments of all time, up there with “Bad” at Live Aid. Just a few months after 9/11, U2 made this a tribute to the victims. After kicking off with “Beautiful Day,” they played the elegiac “MLK” while scrolling the names of the dead on a giant screen, an unforgettable sight, building up to “Where the Streets Have No Name.” At the end, Bono ripped open his jacket to reveal the American flag sewn inside. It was a pained tribute to America that still felt profoundly anti-war and anti-violence, quite a feat at the time. Only U2 could have made this so grandiose, yet so emotionally direct. Grown men wept buckets. Every daft ambition U2 ever had, every lofty claim they ever made, they earned tonight.

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.