NFL: The Greatest Super Bowl Halftime Performances of All Time

Christopher Olmstead@@whooyouknowitSenior Analyst IIIFebruary 12, 2013

NFL: The Greatest Super Bowl Halftime Performances of All Time

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    We are all just over a week removed from Super Bowl XLVII. In the week following the big game, often times you will hear discussions over the best television spot as well as the quality of the halftime show.

    For many years the halftime show would consist of very talented marching bands as the main attraction.

    Over time, the show has morphed into an event of all its own. Present-day shows usually cast a big name from current music or a big name that revolutionized a previous generation.

    Either way you look at it, today's halftime show is about star power. Sometimes those stars align and create a memorable show; sometimes it's a dud.

    Let's take a look at the greatest halftime shows of all time.


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    Greatness is truly in the eye of the beholder.

    That being said, here is the criteria that was used to come up with this ranking.

    • Performance: The performance needs to be worthy of the stage on which it's performed. After all, millions and millions of people are watching.
    • Entertainment: Nobody wants to realize halfway through watching a performance that they are bored. The show needs to hold the viewers' attention.
    • Awareness of the Times: A show in 2013 is obviously going to have some cooler technological aspects than a show from 1992. I tried to view each show from the time frame during which it was performed.
    • Audience: If the people watching the show live were not feeling it, how are those at home supposed to? If the audience didn't seemed interested, then the show probably didn't make the cut.
    • Lasting Appeal: A great show should still have people talking about it years later. I also took into consideration some of the pregame fodder in regards to past halftime shows.

Honorable Mention: Gloria Estefan and Stevie Wonder (Super Bowl XXXIII)

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    This show also featured the band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

    The opening with ET was a nice touch, especially with the fireworks going off when he turned the lights back on. One of the coolest things about this show was that the main stadium lights were kept off. This allowed for us to see some neat on field things like the sun during Wonder's performance.

    Wonder put on a very solid show. I especially enjoyed his little tap dance routine.

    This night marked the second time Estefan performed at the Super Bowl. I was not a huge fan of her previous performance in 1993, but she redeemed herself on this night.

    Estefan performed a solid set. One of the highlights of her performance was her glowing dancers, which stood out well because of the lack of stadium lights.

    This show ended with a duet between Wonder and Estefan. It was a nice way to end this show.

Honorable Mention: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Super Bowl XLII)

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    Petty and company made a smart choice in regards to their opening number. Their choice of "American Girl" had the audience involved early.

    One of the best parts of this show was the stage they were standing on. The heart and arrow effects on the staging were very cool to watch.

    The highlight of the performance was "Free Fallin." The lights the audience were waving along with them singing along was an awesome moment.

    Overall this was a solid effort, but it just fell a bit short. I understand that classics tend to speak for themselves, but this show needed a little bit more.

10. Indiana Jones (Super Bowl XXIX)

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    This show also included Patti LaBelle, Tony Bennett and The Miami Sound Machine.

    When it comes to entertainment value, this might be one of the greatest shows of all time. Indiana Jones was huge at the time, and this show was being used to promote Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

    As entertaining as this was to watch on television, I am not so sure those in attendance got the same vibe. As a live spectator it was most likely difficult to take in and appreciate all of the Indiana Jones parts of the show.

    The vocal performances were decent. LaBelle was pretty much on the mark, whereas Bennett has had better. The Miami Sound Machine sounded great as usual.

    If you were a kid at this time, this one probably stands out the most for you.

9. Diana Ross (Super Bowl XXX)

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    Ross is the original diva, and on this night she showed us why.

    Vocally it was a good performance for her, although she was clearly tired at the end.

    Some of the highlights of this show included her dancers, the balloon release, multiple costume changes and some cool looking on-field dance formations.

    Ross made her big finish and exit in true diva fashion, leaving the stadium by helicopter.

    This show overall was good. However, there were times while watching that it seemed like she was trying to cram to much into it.

8. Madonna (Super Bowl XLVI)

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    Madonna was joined by Cee Lo Green, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A and several marching bands during this performance.

    If one thing has been consistent about Madonna, it's her "go big or go home" mentality. This was quite evident by her lavish parade into the arena to open this show.

    Aside from the sets and staging, one of the coolest parts of this show was the wire performer. The stunts and tricks that this gentleman did on a strap were breathtaking.

    This performance was a bit slow in the middle. LMFAO was not needed, but at the same time they didn't detract from the show. "Give Me All Your Luvin" was brutal, and it's clear dancing is no longer Madonna's strong point.

    The closing of the show was terrific and brought everyone back to Madonna's heyday. 

    Overall Madonna put on a solid performance for someone who is definitely past her prime. Lastly, the drum line was pretty awesome!

7. N*SYNC and Aerosmith (Super Bowl XXXV)

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    This show was tailored for the MTV youth of that time. With that being said, this show more than hit its mark.

    The opening video with Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Chris Rock was funny.

    N*SYNC was huge at the time and Aerosmith was relevant with the MTV crowd because of their singles "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" and "Jaded." Add in Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly and you had a show that every teen wanted to see.

    Aerosmith and N*SYNC put on good sets. The show closed with everyone singing one of Aerosmith's classic hits.

    Overall, this show killed it with the audience at which it was aimed. Unfortunately, not only teenagers were watching this performance.

    Aerosmith was definitely here to pull in the older crowd. I just can't imagine many of their fans loving the fact that they were singing up there with the likes of a boy band and Britney Spears.

6. Beyonce (Super Bowl XLVII)

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    This show was so awesome that it literally sucked the power out of the Superdome. OK, that might be going a little to far, but it was still a good show though.

    Performance-wise, Beyonce killed it!

    Entertainment-wise, this show was fantastic!

    Singing-wise, well, there really wasn't much of that.

    The one area where this show fell flat was that Beyonce chose to put more effort into dancing and hyping up the crowd than in singing her own songs.

    Some highlights of this show include the double-faced stage and of course the reunion of Destiny's Child. When Beyonce finally did decide to sing at the end, she did very well. Her live rendition of "Halo" was very well done and a nice way to close the show.

    Did I mention how good she looks?!

5. U2 (Super Bowl XXXVI)

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    I could not think of a better band to perform following the events of 9/11 than U2.

    This was a very emotionally charged performance that prominently featured the names of all those lost in the September 11th, 2001 tragedy.

    The energy that Bono was able to elicit from the fans was electric. The emotion that was in the air literally jumped off the screen.

    This show did not have some of the over-the-top production aspects that others on this list do. However, this show still managed to find a way to stand out.

    For me, the best part of this show was when Bono screamed "America" and ran all the way around the stage. The reaction of the crowd while he is running is incredible.

4. The Rolling Stones (Super Bowl XL)

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    Do you see how huge that stage is? In fact, this was the largest stage ever performed on during a Super Bowl halftime show.

    Having the crowd under the tongue tarp was pretty cool.

    The Rolling Stones are incredible and literally haven't lost much of anything with age. Going into this event some questioned whether or not they still had it, and they proved that they did.

    There was not much to this performance in the way of theatrics, but that's OK.

    The Rolling Stones delivered a solid rock and roll performance. I just hope that I can still move around like that when I am Mick Jagger's age.

3. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake (Super Bowl XXXVIII)

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    This was the one that messed it all up.

    This performance will always be remembered for the "wardrobe malfunction" that took place in its final moments.

    P. Diddy, Nelly and Kid Rock were also a part of this show.

    The show itself was actually pretty good. Jackson and Timberlake both looked great and performed awesome sets. It was great to see Diddy perform. Nelly making his second halftime performance was also solid. Kid Rock added a quick rock aspect to the show, which was nice.

    The crowd was amped up and into this entire performance.

    Unfortunately, all of these artists performances will always come second to the aforementioned incident between Jackson and Timberlake.

2. Bruce Springsteen (Super Bowl XLIII)

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    What a performance this was!

    Springsteen is called "The Boss" for a reason, and we saw many of those reasons right here in this performance.

    The crowd was alive and and raucous from the beginning right up til the end.

    Halfway through his set, you almost forgot that this was the Super Bowl. Springsteen was terrific on this night.

    There was so much energy in this show.

    Highlights of this performance were the choir, his performance of "Working on a Dream," the guitar spin with firework finale and, of course, the E Street Band.

    Once a boss, always a boss!

1. Michael Jackson (Super Bowl XXVII)

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    The only thing better than "The Boss" is "The King of Pop."

    Jackson just might be the greatest performer to have ever lived. His Super Bowl halftime show was one of his greatest performances.

    The opening with the Michael's popping up on the towers was just the tip of the iceberg.

    Jackson delivered one of his patented heart-stopping performances during this show as he moonwalked through all of his hits.

    The highlight of this show was when the audience transformed into a collage of children holding hands. This chain of children literally went all the way around the stadium.

    Jackson gave the audience everything it could possibly ask for out of a performance.


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