Super Bowl XLVI: Power Ranking the 10 Best Halftime Performances in History

Gordon BlockContributor IIIJanuary 31, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI: Power Ranking the 10 Best Halftime Performances in History

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    Halftime at the Super Bowl is one of the biggest spectacles in America today. Progressing from marching bands to no-name musical troupes to the biggest acts in music, the show has become the ultimate combination of sports and entertainment.

    With 45 potential years of halftime shows to go through, now is the time to whittle down the top 10 ever. These performances are a combination of both quality music and showmanship, and the most appropriate use of the giant stage that is given to perform.

    Here are the 10 best Super Bowl halftime shows ever.

10) Motown Tribute, 1998

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    Some of the biggest names in R&B shared the stage at Super Bowl XXXII for a 40th anniversary tribute to Motown.

    Leading with The Temptations, other acts to join them would include Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, The Four Tops and Queen Latifah.

    The result was one of the smoothest shows possible.

    (I also love this performance due to Boyz II Men playing "Motownphilly," which is a great song from a very solid album and one of the first songs I remember listening to as a kid.)

9) Diana Ross, 1996

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    Diana Ross' halftime performance at Super Bowl XXX, entitled "Take Me Higher: A Celebration of 30 years of the Super Bowl," took the performer exit to new heights.

    Ending on her own song, "Take Me Higher," she left the stadium by helicopter...while she was still singing.

8) Aerosmith, 'N Sync, Britney Spears, Nelly and Mary J. Blige, 2001

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    It may not have been the best performance musically, but the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXV, which featured Aerosmith, 'N Sync, Britney Spears, Nelly and Mary J. Blige, was an honest attempt at blending the biggest artists from all genres into one melting pot of pop music.

    While their collaborative performance of "Walk This Way" may have had some faults (Nelly rapping a few bars of his hit "E.I." seemed slightly out of place, given the much better raps Run-DMC had put on a version of this song), their performance was something to remember.

7) Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 2009

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    Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band rocked in a major way when they took the stage for Super Bowl XLIII. Instructing audiences to put down their chicken fingers and guacamole dip, the band ran through their hits "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," "Born to Run," "Working on a Dream" and "Glory Days."

    My favorite part of the show came when Bruce, getting a full head of steam, slid on the stage into a camera.

    After the show, he wrote in an online journal of the performance that he had "Too much adrenalin, a late drop, too much speed, here I come Mike...BOOM! And I’m onto his camera...."

    Either way, it made for great viewing.

6) Prince, 2007

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    Prince, the artist who was formerly known as "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince," put on a tremendous display when given a shot in Super Bowl XLI. Playing several covers as well as his own tracks, he was also blessed with a little bit of precipitation in time for his performance of "Purple Rain."

    His choice was even more interesting since it came as the NFL and television networks were looking for a more tame act that would ensure there would be no controversy/fines (however, the phallic design of his guitar did bring about minor controversy following the show).

5) Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, OutKast, P. Diddy, Kid Rock and Nelly, 2004

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    "Better have you naked by the end of this song..."

    And with these famous words, America got a full-on look of Janet Jackson's right breast. As if to place an exclamation point on the mistake, a giant pyrotechnics display behind them shot off into the air.

    While the show can be blamed for the tempering of musical acts in the years afterward and way too much coverage of "Nipplegate," it was a fun show leading up to the titillating mistake.

4) Rolling Stones, 2006

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    Playing on the largest stage in Super Bowl history, the Rolling Stones put on a show that few can match.

    Going through three of their biggest hits, "Start Me Up," "Rough Justice" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," the Stones showed no signs of being an act that were old enough to have performed at Super Bowl I (something they joked about on stage).

    While their performance did require some censoring, there was no way that the censors could tune out the excellence of the music that was taking place on stage.

3) Paul McCartney, 2005

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    The visual and sound of 78,125 people singing along to "Hey Jude" alone makes this an unbelievable show.

    The former Beatle showed no sign of age as he put on a timeless 12-minute show at the halftime of Super Bowl XXXIX.

2) U2, 2002

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    Leading into Super Bowl XXXVI, just months after the horrifying acts of Sept. 11, 2001, Irish rockers U2 put on a show that was both moving and inspirational.

    The highlight of the show was the performance of "Where the Streets Have No Name," in which the names of victims in the tragedy were run on a massive screen behind the band.

    Lead singer Bono also received a large round of applause when he revealed an American flag lining to the jacket he wore on stage for the performance.

1) Michael Jackson, 1993

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    Super Bowl XXVII is the standard for all Super Bowl halftime shows, as the league called in the star power of Michael Jackson to keep audiences tuned in to the game.

    Jackson did not disappoint. First taking advantage of some carefully placed look-alikes, Jackson shot out of the floor of the stage to thunderous applause. Going through his catalog of hits, like "Billie Jean" and "Black and White," he ended with a performance of "Heal the World" with the help of several thousand area youth (with a massively sized globe formed on the stage).

    Even the crowd got involved, holding up specially designed cards to create the image of people holding hands.

    Since that 1993 show, the halftime performance has become a huge part of the game and made the game much bigger than the sport of football. It's a cultural event and one that is almost impossible to miss.

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