A History and Countdown of the Best Super Bowl Halftime Shows


image: http://content.sportslogos.net/logos/7/593/full/5425__super_bowl-primary-2016.png Today, the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will face off in Super Bowl LI. It will be the most-watched television event of the year, but the Falcons and Patriots won’t be the only ones performing on the biggest stage as Lady Gaga will headline the Super Bowl Halftime show.


The Super Bowl halftime show has evolved into a spectacle of its own over the years. It arose from humble beginnings, when college marching bands headlined the first Super Bowl’s intermission in 1967. For two decades, marching bands filled the space between the action, often performing songs with a common theme, such as “It’s a Small World” and “Tribute to Duke Ellington.”


Halftime styles began to change in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, when stars such as Chubby Checker (1988), New Kids on the Block (1991), and Michael Jackson (1993) appeared on Super Bowl Sunday.


Themed halftime shows still continued into the 1990’s, but big stars such as Diana Ross (1996), James Brown (1997), and Stevie Wonder (1999) began to take the center stage.


Next, the Super Bowl entered a “throwback” era, bringing in famous rock and roll acts from years earlier. A six year stretch of halftime shows headlined Paul McCartney (2005), The Rolling Stones (2006), Prince (2007), Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (2008), Bruce Springsteen (2009), and The Who (2010).


It would have been awesome to see these acts (in addition to 2012 halftime artist Madonna) perform in the prime of their careers, but it was still so satisfying to see them re-enter the limelight on such an immense platform.


Now, the halftime show has entered into a phase of bringing in superstar pop artists for entertainment, featuring acts such as The Black Eyed Peas (2011), Beyoncé (2013), Bruno Mars (2014), Katy Perry (2015), Coldplay (2016), and now Lady Gaga.


Additionally, the halftime show has now evolved into an ensemble performance, as Beyoncé accompanied Coldplay last year, the Red Hot Chili Peppers joined Bruno Mars in 2014, and guitarist Slash took a solo with the Black Eyed Peas in 2011.


The one constant in recent years is that halftime of the Super Bowl is no longer a time to change the channel. It has become the centerpiece of America’s signature sporting event, with millions of people watching around the country and the globe.

That being said, here are my top 5 Super Bowl halftime shows, along with a few honorable mentions.


Disclaimer: these rankings are biased by my own taste in music, feel free to disagree with my choices.


  1. Prince (2007)



The first of four throwback artists in my top 5, Prince fittingly capped off a rainy Miami night with his hit “Purple Rain.”


  1. Bruce Springsteen (2009)



Bruce Springsteen rocked the halftime show, showing that though his “Glory Days” might be behind him, he still had a lot left.


  1. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (2008)



Tom Petty rocked this halftime show, which is sentimental to me because it was the first one I remember watching live. It’s also my favorite memory from this Super Bowl, as the game left me heartbroken when my hometown Patriots were upset by the Giants.


  1. Paul McCartney (2005)



Performing his greatest hits from The Beatles and Wings, McCartney showed that he still could rock the biggest stages. The highlight of this performance is his closing rendition of “Hey Jude,” featuring the audience singing along to the never-ending outro of the song.


Honorable Mention: Beyoncé (2013)


  1. U2 (2002)



This performance tops my list because of its historical significance. This Super Bowl took place just five months after the September 11th terrorist attacks, so as a sign of solidarity a screen projected the names of the thousands of lives lost in the tragedy. With this backdrop, U2 delivered an unforgettable performance (including a touching moment-- at 11:14 of the video-- where Bono displays an American flag design lining the inside of his jacket).