Today is Super Bowl LVII between the American Football Conference champions the Kansas City Chiefs and the National Football Conference champions the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s one of the biggest days in the American sporting calendar, with millions of people tuning in around the world. Even if you aren’t a football fan, it’s hard not to get caught up in the whirlwind that is the Super Bowl.
It’s a great excuse to throw a Super Bowl party or head to your local bar and watch the game with a bunch of strangers. And if the game doesn’t tickle your fancy then you have the star-studded Super Bowl commercials as well as the halftime entertainment. This year’s halftime show is headlined by Rihanna, making her first live appearance since 2016.
It’s sure to be a memorable show, with the rumor mill going into overdrive with artists who might be joining Rihanna on stage. A$AP Rocky, Jay-Z, Britney Spears, and Eminem are all names that have been thrown around. Rihanna’s sure-to-be-fire performance got us thinking about the best Super Bowl halftime shows over the years.
Some of the biggest artists in music history have graced the halftime stage, with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Gloria Estefan, Paul McCartney, Jennifer Lopez, Prince, Shania Twain, and Beyonce all impressing. In honor of Super Bowl LVII and Rihanna, here are our picks for the best Super Bowl halftime shows in no particular order.
12 Best Super Bowl Halftime Shows
1. Prince (Super Bowl, LXI, 2007)
Backed by a brass marching band and wielding his famous purple symbol-shaped guitar, Prince had everyone memorized by his halftime performance in 2007. Playing nothing but hits, including his own solo material (“Let’s Go Crazy,” “1999”) and a bunch of covers (Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” and Foo Fighters “Best of You”), it was the final song that really brought the house down.
As the rain began to fall, Prince launched into a fist-pumping rendition of “Purple Rain,” rocking out like only The Artist (Formerly Known as Prince) could. It remains one of the greatest Super Bowl halftime performances of all time.
2. Dr. Dre (Super Bowl LVI, 2022)
Held at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, it was only right that the halftime entertainment was performed by a local Los Angeles legend. That honor fell to rapper and producer Dr. Dre, arguably the most influential West Coast artist in the rap game. But it wasn’t just Dre, with the hitmaker accompanied by Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, Eminem, and Anderson .Paak on the drums.
This halftime show had it all, from Dre and Snoop performing “The Next Episode” and “Still D.R.E.,” 50 Cent hanging upside rapping “In Da Club,” Mary J Blige getting fans shaking their booties with “Family Affair,” Kendrick sending the crowd crazy with “Alright,” and Dre’s protege, Eminem, bringing the fire with “Lose Yourself.”
The performance was so legendary that it even won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety Special (Live), the first time the Super Bowl has ever received such an accolade.
3. Beyonce (Super Bowl XLVII, 2013)
Having ascended to the top of the charts and solidified herself as one of the great solo artists, Beyonce got the chance to perform in front of millions when she provided the entertainment at Super Bowl XLVII. Kicking things off with “Run the World (Girls)” while highlighted by a giant spotlight, Beyonce performed “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy” before turning many fan’s dreams into reality when she brought out Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, reforming Destiny’s Child for one night.
The three powered through “Bootylicious,” “Independent Woman, Pt. 1,” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” before Beyonce once again took center stage, ending with a dynamic version of “Halo.”
Beyonce would go on to headline the Super Bowl again in 2016 alongside Coldplay and Bruno Mars, but it’s hard to beat the reformation of Destiny’s Child when it comes to choosing her most enjoyable showing.
4. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (Super Bowl, LXIII, 2009)
It’s surprising it took The Boss so long to be asked to perform at the Super Bowl. One of America’s great singer-songwriters, Bruce Springsteen has been ever present in the rock scene since the 60s. So when he finally got the gig in 2009, everybody was curious to see what he would come up with. Thankfully, Springsteen didn’t let the fans down.
Joined by his loyal E-Street band, Springsteen was in fine form, telling viewers; “I want you to step back from the guacamole dip. I want you to put the chicken fingers down. And turn your television all the way up,” as he and his band ripped into “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.”
With just 12 minutes allotted to his set, Springsteen didn’t have a lot of time, but made the most of it, getting punters on their feet with a rocking version of “Born to Run,” taking things down a notch with the choir-assisted “Working on a Dream,” before working the crowd into a frenzy with set closer “Gloria.” The performance even featured a knee slide, showing you’re never too old to rock out.
5. Michael Jackson (Super Bowl XXVII, 1993)
Proving why he was the King of Pop, Michael Jackson appeared on top of the big screen before magically popping up in the center of the Rose Bowl in military-themed attire and wowed audiences with “Jam.” A quick costume change and he was moonwalking across the stage performing “Billie Jean.”
Michael Jackson went big with plenty of smoke, fireworks, and placards held by the audience. He might not have sung as many old hits as diehards wanted, but Jacko’s final two songs, “We Are the World” with a children’s choir and “Heal the World,” had everyone on their feet as fireworks lit up the sky.
6. Katy Perry (Super Bowl, XLIX, 2015)
Entering the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, riding a giant gold lion, Katy Perry left nobody in doubt that she was trying her best to take the crown of best Super Bowl halftime performer. Opening with “Roar,” Perry played all the hits, including “I Kissed a Girl” with Lenny Kravitz on guitar, “Teenage Dreams,” and “California Girls.” Missy Elliott even got a moment when she and Perry teamed up on a medley of “Get Ur Freak On”/”Work It.”
Perry’s performance was also notable for the two costumed sharks that danced with her, especially Left Shark. Played by Katy Perry’s longtime dancers Scott Myrick (Right Shark) and Bryan Gaw (Left Shark), Left Shark’s out-of-synch dance moves made him a social media star.
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7. U2 (Super Bowl, XXXVI, 2002)
Remember U2? The Irish rockers fronted by sunglass-wearing frontman Bono were at one stage the biggest rock band in the world. This status meant they were a great candidate to perform at the Super Bowl, something they did in 2002.
Performing just five months after September 11, U2 delivered an emotional show that left not a dry eye in the stadium. While they only had enough time for three songs, it was a heartfelt set anchored by second song “MLK.”
The band paid tribute to those who died in the September 11 attacks during this performance, with a large screen behind them scrolling through the names of all those who died during the attacks. They ended with “Where the Streets Have No Name,” with Bono showing his solidarity by revealing an American flag stitched into the lining of his jacket at the end of the show.
8. Janet Jackson (Super Bowl XXXIVVV, 2004)
Although the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show featured a slew of artists, including P. Diddy rapping “Bad Boy for Life,” Nelly rocking up in a red car to perform “Hot in Herre,” and Kid Rock being kid Rock, it was Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body” duet that left fans speechless.
Having already performed several of her own songs, Jackson was joined on stage by Justin Timberlake, at that time riding high with the success of his debut album. Performing the single “Rock Your Body,” Timberlake “accidentally” exposed Jackson’s nipple while ripping off part of her costume.
The incident sent social media into meltdown and resulted in heavy fines and the creation of the word “wardrobe malfunction.” It’s still regarded as one of the most controversial moments in Super Bowl history, with many people still unsure why all the blame was leveled at Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake got away Scot-free.
9. Lady Gaga (Super Bowl LI, 2017)
Lady Gaga got all patriotic with her Super Bowl LI Halftime Show, getting things underway with a medley of “God Bless America”/”This Land Is Your Land” before uttering the ending of the Pledge of Allegiance: “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” That’s when things really kicked off as Gaga, the first entertainer to perform solo with no special guests since 2009, played all the hits for the adoring crowd.
“Poker Face,” “Bad Romance,” and “Just Dance” all made the setlist, with the biggest surprise being Gaga playing a straight bat and not creating any controversy with her show, something many were expecting. Although she did slip in the LGBTQ-positive anthem “Born This Way,” which pleased many.
10. Madonna (Super Bowl XLVI, 2012)
The first female solo artist to headline the Super Bowl halftime show since Diana Ross in 1996, Madonna went all out with her visual extravaganza. Carried on stage like a Roman goddess, Madonna performed “Vogue” as the stadium was lit up with animated covers of her Vogue magazine shoots.
The rest of her set included collaborations with Cirque du Soleil, LMAFO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., CeeLo Green, and several different choirs as she ticked off hits “Music,” “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” “Open Your Heart,” “Express Yourself,” and “Like a Prayer.”
11. Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Super Bowl XLVIII, 2014)
When Bruno Mars was announced as the main attraction at Super Bowl XLVIII, many questioned whether he would have enough hits to fill his allotted time. Turns out Mars has hits for days, with the pint-sized singer putting on an incredible show that also included the Red Hot Chili Peppers popping up and smashing out “Give It Away.”
Dressing like an old school crooner, Mars brought R&B vibes to MetLife Stadium, getting the audience on their feet with a frenzied drum solo and his biggest hits, including “Locked Out of Heaven,” “Treasure,” and “Runaway Baby.” Beginning with small children holding hands in front of American flags and ending with a tribute to the troops in the form of “Just the Way You Are,” Bruno Mars proved the doubters wrong. So much so that he teamed with Beyonce and Coldplay two years later for Super Bowl 50.
12. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Super Bowl LXII, 2008)
Following Prince’s dynamic 2007 performance was no easy task, but Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers delivered a polished Super Bowl halftime rock show in 2008. As you would expect from a band that had been in the music business for over three decades by that point, their live performance was tight and professional. Avoiding the bells and whistles of many other headliners, Petty treated his time on stage as a mini-greatest hit set, giving the audience everything they wanted.
Petty and the Heartbreaks performed “American Girl,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin’,” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream” to an enthusiastic crowd who appreciated a bit of classic rock. It’s just unfortunate the live show is often overlooked due to the incredible game that unfolded, with the Giants defeating the Patriots 17-14 in one of the biggest upsets in NFL history.
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