The student news site of Emmaus High School



The student news site of Emmaus High School



Ranking best and worst Super Bowl halftime shows

Canva graphic by Clare Sheehan.

This was previously published in our February 2024 issue.

Just three days before Valentine’s Day, Sunday, Feb. 11 marks Super bowl LVIII, an event which almost 150 million people are expected to tune into. Within three hours, two football teams compete for the title, but smashed right in the middle of it is an iconic halftime show that has featured some of the most prominent names in music over the years.

While all of them certainly leave something to remember, quite a few fell short of spectacular, with some even sparking controversy.

Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson’s joint 2004 performance is noted as one of the worst Super Bowl performances in history due to a wardrobe malfunction. Timberlake and Jackson performed a duet of Timberlake’s song “Rock Your Body” in which he was supposed to pull off  Jackson’s jacket, but instead snagged a part of her costume, pulling it down and leaving a part of her chest exposed.     

Luckily, Jackson was able to self-correct within seconds, continuing the show. In fact, Timberlake was asked back to headline his own Super Bowl show in 2018.

While certainly not as revealing, in Katy Perry’s 2015 Super Bowl show, a costumed shark went rogue and decided to perform his own choreography. Perry’s show included a medley of her songs “Roar,” “Dark Horse,” “I Kissed a Girl,” “Teenage Dream,” and “California Girls.”

The performance, costing over ten million dollars, included advanced techno-theatrics and props. In her performance of  “Teenage Dream,” Perry had two costumed sharks surrounding her, mimicking her choreography.

However, midway through the song, the left shark decided to dance on his own, and wiggled across the stage instead. The left shark revealed himself three years later on NPR News in 2018, where he performed his wiggling once again.

Another flop was The Black Eyed Peas 2011 Super Bowl performance, which included failed attempts at lip-syncing, an army of neon green dancers, boxed-head robot costume performers, and traffic sign-themed lighting. In their performance of “I Got A Feeling,” one of the band’s most notable songs, The Black Eyed Peas made a clear (and horrible) attempt at lip syncing which was caught by the viewers and the TV screen. The rest of the performance could barely be enjoyed due to the intensively loud costumed dancers.

To round off this list of notably bad Super Bowl performances, a throwback to 1992 is necessary. Super Bowl XXVI in Minnesota brought a halftime show sung by a children’s choir. The setlist included a medley of children’s classics such as “Winter Magic,” “Winter Wonderland,” “The Nutcracker,” and a disco version of “Frosty the Snowman.”

The performance, featuring Gloria Estefan and the University of Minnesota Marching Band, was overwhelmingly winter-themed, with an inflatable snowman and over 12,000 dancers in snowflake costumes running around the field. Notably, a Fox comedy special of the show “In Living Color” received higher viewing numbers than the performance at the same time.

On a brighter note, many Super Bowl performances went above and beyond with new techniques, technology, and spectacular sets. Most notable was Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl performance, where he performed at the now Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

At the time, the stadium had no roof, which made for an even more magical performance. During the performance of “Purple Rain,” it started raining, making for an exciting and unforgettable show.

Next, in 2012, Madonna made history as the first solo female pop star to headline a Super Bowl. Her performance included a setlist of some of her most popular songs such as “Vogue,” “Music,” “Give Me All Your Luvin,” “Like a Prayer,” and a mashup of “Express Yourself” and “Open Your Heart” featuring a local high school drumline.

The following year in 2013, Beyonce wooed the crowd and over 100 million viewers with an incredible set and setlist featuring some of her most popular songs such as “Crazy in Love,” “Independent Woman,” and “Baby Boy.”

However, what made this performance unlike any other was the reunion of Beyonce’s former group, Destiny’s Child. Midway through the performance members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams joined Beyonce on the stage and performed classics “Bootylicious,” “Independent Women,” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”

Other notable top mentions include Rihanna’s 2023 Super Bowl Performance featuring intense choreography and dancing. Rihanna performed many of her popular songs while being almost four months pregnant. This also served as her pregnancy announcement to the world.

Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl performance in 2017 made headlines as well with an intricate set and choreography.      

While this list certainly does not cover the lengthy history of Super Bowl halftime performances, it is safe to say that they have had many ups and downs.

This year, Usher is set to perform at the 58th Super Bowl in Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium. Surely, this too will be one to remember.

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