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The 10 Greatest Musical Performances in Super Bowl History

Super Bowl is a super popular and highest-rated show on American television. Nearly 100 million people in the United States alone will watch the game (last year’s Super Bowl drew 103.4 million Americans). Today we want to take a look at 10 of the most interesting musical performances at halftime of the Super Bowl, the so-called halftime shows.

The final NFL game is watched by all of America. The Super Bowl is the most expensive commercial and the most expensive airtime, and the only opportunity for an artist to perform in front of a truly huge audience. In other words, a 12-minute benefit. The first Super Bowl halftime musical performances date back to the 1970s, but they are hardly remembered now: during that decade and the next, halftime shows were usually performed by university brass bands performing medleys of jazz and pop standards.

These halftime shows were more like musical interludes, during which the audience could run out for hot dogs and drinks, than colorful and entertaining performances, for which today even those who have no interest in soccer or bet in Ghana are often drawn to the screens.

10. Madonna (2012)

Madonna appeared at halftime of the 46th Super Bowl as an ancient goddess with an entourage of Roman legionnaires dancers and gathered 114 million Americans at the screens. This is a record – the performance even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for this indicator. To sing the hits “Vogue”, “Music”, “Give Me All Your Luvin'”, “Open Your Heart/Express Yourself” and “Like a Prayer” that night Madonna was helped by LMFAO, Cee Lo Green, Nicki Minaj, and M.I.A. The latter, as always, stood out with a rebellious gesture – she pointed to the camera with her middle finger.

9. Paul McCartney (2005)

After the public outcry over Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson’s halftime performance at the 38th Super Bowl (see #6 on our list), showrunners needed something relatively conservative, conciliatory, and lampooning. Sir Paul McCartney, with his hits “Drive My Car,” “Get Back,” “Live and Let Die” and “Hey Jude,” was a win-win.

8. Bruno Mars (2014)

In February 2014, America got its first real appreciation for the enormity of Bruno Mars’ talent. At halftime of the 48th Super Bowl, the artist showed all he could do by rocking the 82,000-seat MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. At one point, the Red Hot Chili Peppers joined the festivities. The hit “Uptown Funk” was nine months away from being released.

7. The Rolling Stones (2006)

The organizers of the 40th Super Bowl decided to build on the success of Paul McCartney’s show in 2005, and immediately afterward invited another legend of British rock music, The Rolling Stones, to perform during the break of the main sports festival of the country. What can we say, that night, after the referee blew the whistle to end the first half of the game, the audience hardly left their TV sets for sausages and beer.

6. Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson (2004)

The 38th Super Bowl halftime show was produced by MTV. The show featured P. Diddy, Kid Rock, Nelly, Jessica Simpson, and other stars of the moment, but what everyone remembered, of course, was the so-called NippleGate: at the end of the show, Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Jackson’s costume, literally exposing her breasts for a split second. That was enough: the story was discussed for another two years. Justin was envied, Janet’s name became the most popular query on all search engines. However, the most serious consequences were experienced not by the artists, but by the management of the NFL and the CBS channel that broadcasted that Super Bowl – they were faced with lawsuits from offended morality protectors.

5. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (2009)

“I want you to step away from the guacamole dish! I want you to put your chicken wings away! I want you to turn your televisions up to full volume! And I want to know: IS THERE ANYONE ALIVE?” – yelled Bruce Springsteen at halftime of the 43rd Super Bowl, opening his show with the legendary E Street Band with an equally legendary picture: silhouettes of The Boss and saxophonist Clarence Clemons standing shoulder-to-shoulder to the opening chords of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” As they say, name a more iconic duo.

4. Beyoncé and Destinyʼs Child (2013)

Beyoncé’s halftime performance at the 43rd Super Bowl, held in New Orleans in 2013, was deemed a failure by TV commentators. Knowles’ performance received an audience of 110 million viewers and thus did not eclipse Madonna’s show of 2012, which was watched by a record 114 million Americans. But the singer’s fans have a different opinion about it: most of them believe that Beyoncé became the main pop diva of the country that night. The thing is that during the second half of the 2000s organizers of the halftime shows invited either a rock group or an authoritative and honored male performer as a headliner (in different years these were Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty, and The Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, The Who).

Madonna reversed the “men’s sports are rock shows for men” perception, but she had to arm herself with the support of popular young stars and Cirque du Soleil artists to do it. Beyoncé, on the other hand, took the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Stadium in New Orleans, yes, with a monster corps, but as the sole, main voice of the revived one-night-stand Destinyʼs Child. Already in 2016, Bee returned at halftime of the 50th Super Bowl with the super hit “Formation,” and her dance duel with Bruno Mars made audiences forget about the main artist, the band Coldplay.

3. Michael Jackson (1993)

For the show, a special transformer stage was erected in the center of the field, and Jackson look-alikes appeared alternately on the edges of two huge screens located at diametrically opposite ends of the stadium. Then the artist jumped on stage from a secret compartment under the platform like a little devil out of a snuffbox and made some signature moves. All of this happened in complete silence – not a note was heard over the Rose Bowl for the first three minutes. Magic! Then, to the endless roar of the stands, the king of pop sang a medley of his hits: “Jam”, “Billie Jean”, “Black or White”, “We Are the World” (with a chorus of 3,500 kids) and “Heal the World”.

Before the halftime show, NFL executives had their doubts about the future of musical numbers between halves of the final game, but after this show they had none: Super Bowl halftime was never going to be the same again, huge amounts of specially acquired sponsors began investing in half-time shows, performances turned into mini-scenes, fantastic in terms of technology and dramaturgy, and producers and writers began racing to think outside the box because now anything could be done at the Super Bowl.

2. Prince (2007)

Any travel guide will assure you that February is one of the most favorable months to travel to Miami. During this time, the Florida coast is warm, sunny, and dry, and there is no exhausting heat. In short, when choosing the location for the 41st Super Bowl, NFL officials hardly suspected that an actual tropical storm would hit the city on the evening of February 4, 2007. But if there’s one immutable thing, it’s the league’s rules: the finals are on the first Sunday in February, and rescheduling the game is out of the question.

The Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears had a tough time. But Prince, who played at halftime, seemed to benefit from the downpour: his “Letʼs Go Crazy” and covers of “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan and “Best of You” by the Foo Fighters sounded incredible under the lightning and the roar of thunder. And at the end, of course, Prince sang “Purple Rain” under the whipping rain: if you don’t cry at this point, you don’t have a heart.

1. U2 (2002)

This was the first Super Bowl since 9/11. Inviting the most populist band in the world to headline such a show proved to be the right decision. There were only three songs: the upbeat “Beautiful Day”, the Martin Luther King tribute “MLK” and the anthem-like “Where the Streets Have No Name”, to which a giant billboard behind the musicians lowered a projector to display an upward spiral of names of the dead. It is impossible to imagine a simpler, more sincere, and accessible way to unite a nation.

At halftime of the 53rd Super Bowl, Maroon 5 and rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi will perform. However, the media and social media uproar over the show broke out long before the artists were announced. The fact is that in the wake of the Black Lives Matter public movement against police violence against black people in the States, which gained momentum in 2016, San Francisco Forty-Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand up during the American anthem before one of the games. Instead, Copernicus, and many other American soccer stars after him, got down on one knee before games to protest police brutality against African-Americans and the tacit support of such actions by authorities.

Author: Robert Hernandez Villalta

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