Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and Most Discussed Super Bowl Halftime Shows

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 30, 2018

Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and Most Discussed Super Bowl Halftime Shows

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    JEFF HAYNES/Getty Images

    With Justin Timberlake set to headline the Super Bowl LII halftime show on Sunday, many NFL fans are thinking back on one of the most controversial moments in Super Bowl history: Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction." 

    The incident largely overshadowed what was an entertaining Super Bowl XXVIII between the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots, which ended with a game-winning field goal by Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri in the final seconds.

    In that spirit, let's look back at some of the halftime shows that created the biggest buzz in the days and weeks following the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XXVII: Michael Jackson

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    The NFL had used a few headlining acts in the years preceding Super Bowl XXVII, but Michael Jackson's performance in January 1993 is when the Super Bowl halftime show started to become an annual viewing experience.

    Jackson was unquestionably the biggest performer in the world at the time, and the league spared no expense to give the fans inside the Rose Bowl and those watching at home a show. A pair of Jackson impersonators appeared at the top of the stadium before the real deal exploded through the stage at midfield.

    Around 133 million television viewers watched Super Bowl XXVII, which was a record at the time. According to the New York Times' Richard Sandomir, the second highest-rated half-hour of the program included Jackson's performance.

Super Bowl XXX: Diana Ross

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    ELISE AMENDOLA/Associated Press

    Luckily for Diana Ross, her appearance at Super Bowl XXX went better than when she helped to kick off World Cup 1994 in Chicago. Soccer fans didn't know it at the time, but Ross' missed penalty kick was a fitting beginning to a tournament most remembered for Roberto Baggio's miss from the penalty spot in the final against Brazil.

    To conclude her Super Bowl performance, Ross made a grand exit from Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, boarding a helicopter and flying out of the stadium.

    Ross' performance brought some excitement to what was otherwise an unremarkable Super Bowl. The Dallas Cowboys never trailed in their win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Dallas cornerback Larry Brown earned the game's MVP award after intercepting two passes in the second half.

Super Bowl XXXVI: U2

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    Super Bowl XXXVI came nearly five months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., and U2's halftime performance struck the perfect balance between spectacle and tribute.

    Lead singer Bono opened his jacket to show the American flag sewn inside, and the names of the victims from the Sept. 11 attacks were listed on a screen behind U2 as it performed.

    According to Yahoo Sports' Les Carpenter, Janet Jackson had originally been slated for the Super Bowl XXXVI halftime show, but she canceled her tour in the aftermath of the attacks. 

    Per Carpenter, John Collins, who was in charge of the performance, was looking for a replacement when he went to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden in October 2001. Collins zeroed in on the band when he witnessed how much fans had been moved when the Sept. 11 victims were projected onto the roof of the arena.

    Carpenter reported one NFL official said after a dress rehearsal U2's performance was "going to be the worst halftime show ever." Instead, Super Bowl XXXVI produced what for many fans is the best performance in the event's history.

Super Bowl XXXVIII: Jessica Simpson, Kid Rock, Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake

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    It's easy to forget how many people contributed to the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show. Not only were Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson onstage, but Kid Rock, Nelly, Jessica Simpson and P. Diddy also had a hand in the performance.

    But everything else became a footnote after Timberlake capped the show by removing a piece of Jackson's dress.

    The Federal Communications Commission issued a $550,000 fine against CBS and its network affiliates in September 2004, and it wasn't until June 2012 before the case was finally resolved, with the United States Supreme Court throwing out the fine.

    "I stumbled through it," Timberlake said of his state of mind in the aftermath of the incident in an interview with Beats 1 Radio's Zane Lowe (h/t BBC Music's Mark Savage). "To be quite honest, I had my wires crossed. It's just something that you have to look back on and go, 'OK, you can't change what's happened, but you can move forward and learn from it.'"

Super Bowl XLI: Prince

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    Overall, Super Bowl XLI wasn't one of the worst Super Bowls ever, but it's among the most forgettable. Peyton Manning vs. Rex Grossman was probably the most one-sided quarterback battle in Super Bowl history, and the Indianapolis Colts outgained the Chicago Bears 430-265.

    Despite the rainy conditions in Miami Gardens, Florida, Prince delivered an electrifying performance alongside the Florida A&M University marching band.

    In addition to performing two of his biggest hits, "Let's Go Crazy" and "Purple Rain," Prince offered covers of "All Along the Watchtower," "Proud Mary" and "We Will Rock You."

Super Bowl XLIII: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band consistently provide one of the strongest live performances going today, and their work at Super Bowl XLIII illustrated why. Springsteen wasn't transcendent on the stage, but his enthusiasm was infectious.

    More than anything, fans will remember getting a little too up close and personal with The Boss, though. Springsteen slid across the stage during his opening number, "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," and groin-first right into an NBC television camera.

    Luckily for viewers, Springsteen didn't experience a wardrobe malfunction of his own during the slide.

Super Bowl XLVI: Madonna, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Cee Lo Green, LMFAO

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Singer M.I.A. might have flipped the most expensive bird in television history when she raised her middle finger during the course of Madonna's performance during halftime of Super Bowl XLVI.

    The NFL sued M.I.A. for $16.6 million in March 2014, and the two sides reached a confidential settlement in August 2014.

    In a 2013 interview with NPR, the British-born singer explained she wasn't trying to offend viewers by flipping them off but instead extended her middle finger as part of a spiritual exercise.

    "Well, 5,000 years ago, there was thing called a mudra, which is your sitting position when you do yoga or you're meditating or praying or whatever," M.I.A. said. "And you have different ones based on what you're meditating over. There's not a lot of them that are named after gods and goddesses, but the middle finger is specifically named Matangi—the Matangi mudra."

    Regardless of the reasoning behind it, M.I.A.'s gesture left fans talking well after the final play of the New York Giants' upset win over the New England Patriots.

Super Bowl XLVII: Beyonce and Destiny's Child

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    Beyonce is among the select few who can lay claim to having performed at multiple Super Bowls. She sang at Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 and then joined Coldplay and Bruno Mars at Super Bowl 50 in 2016.

    Of the two, Super Bowl XLVII is arguably the more superior, largely as a result of the reunion she had with Destiny's Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. The trio sang "Independent Women Part I" before collaborating on "Single Ladies."

    Considering Destiny's Child's last studio album came out in 2004, it was nice seeing them together again—if only for the halftime show.

Super Bowl XLIX: Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott

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    The halftime show at Super Bowl XLIX is basically what you get when a group of people get together and try to build the most optimal performance for the internet.

    Katy Perry started off the performance in a flame-themed outfit that would make former professional wrestler Bam Bam Bigelow jealous, and she rode in on a giant mechanical lion no less. Perry also flew across University of Phoenix Stadium on a platform resembling NBC's "The More You Know" television graphic.

    And of course, Left Shark became a part of the pop culture zeitgeist temporarily after his out of sync dancing sent social media into a frenzy.

    "I don’t think anybody on the team had any idea that Left Shark was going to become such a cultural phenomenon," said Super Bowl halftime show director Hamish Hamilton said in February 2016, per Entertainment Weekly's Jessica Goodman. "But to be part of this team that came together to put that show on was a beautiful thing."

Super Bowl LI: Lady Gaga

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    OK, so Lady Gaga didn't actually jump off the top of NRG Stadium in Houston during the course of her halftime performance, but the visual of her rappelling down from there was awesome all the same.

    The inclusion of drones as she sang "God Bless America" and "This Land Is Your Land" also added to the spectacle and offered a glimpse at what's to come as musicians look for ways to innovate.

    The Super Bowl LI halftime show was also an example of how less can be more. Often, the NFL focuses on one star but adds more names to the event as a way to try and create an even larger extravaganza. The strategy can work sometimes but has also backfired in other instances as the stage becomes overcrowded.

    Last year, the spotlight was on Lady Gaga and Gaga alone, and she more than delivered.