Whether you’re a fan of American football or not, there’s still a good chance that you tune in for the Superbowl Halftime Show. On average, viewership for 2021’s Halftime Show averaged at around 104.1 million viewers, which is 8 million more than the actual game’s 96.4 million viewers.
But Halftime Shows aren’t exclusive to the Super Bowl. They’ve been a part of American tradition that featured bands, dancers, drill teams, and cheerleaders at every level of the sport. It wasn’t until 1970 that we would see the first singers. This year, we saw New Orleans take the stage for a tribute to Mardi Gras with soprano Marguerite Piazza, jazz trumpeter Doc Severinsen, and more. Two years later, jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald performed a salute to Louis Armstrong.
However, it was the 90s that really changed the game. In 1992, New Kids On The Block was slated to perform at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. It would go on to be the first pop act to ever perform at the event, and the popularity of names only skyrocketed from there. With a highly anticipated performance from Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Mary J Blige on the horizon, we decided to share our official list of the best Super Bowl halftime shows of all time.
1. Prince (2007)
As the thundering rain poured over the stage and “We Will Rock You” began bursting through the speakers, the crowd ran towards Prince. Never one to disappoint, Prince performs 12 minutes of rock and roll, singing and playing the electric guitar with an energetic intensity that’s palpable even through the rain-drenched camera lens. After a soulful performance, Prince ends the iconic performance with his hit, “Purple Rain” and a passionate guitar solo.
2. Beyonce (2013)
Any 90s kid knows that Destiny’s Child getting back together was the biggest plot twist in pop culture. Beyonce started the set off by herself, and as per usual, she did not disappoint. But it was the halfway mark when Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams popped up for “Bootylicious” that the crowd went wild. Their harmonies were so tight you wouldn’t even think they had a hiatus. They even stayed to do the iconic “Single Ladies” dance. Things haven’t been the same since.
3. Paul McCartney (2005)
Paul McCartney is undoubtedly one of the best songwriters to ever live. Even if you aren’t a fan of The Beatles, there’s a good chance you know the lyrics to some of the iconic hits the songs he performed at the 2005 Halftime show like “Drive My Car,” “Get Back,” and “Hey Jude.”
4. Shakira & J. Lo (2020)
It’s not surprising that the most popular Super Bowl halftime show features the sexiest Latina stars in the globe. Shakira and J. Lo do their own type of live versus for this performance (with Shakira taking the first half and J. Lo taking the second) and even incorporate other special Latinx guests Bad Bunny, J Balvin, and Emme Muñiz. Not only can you expect the pop stars to give a fiery show with dancing, they even have a mini-orchestra playing in the background.
5. Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Temptations, Queen Latifah (1998)
Taking it back a couple decades, we can’t forget the Super Bowl’s Salute to Motown’s 40th Anniversary. It even begins with the biggest stars in TV, film, and sports singing The Temptations’ “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and goes into The Temptations performing live. While lip-synching isn’t a crime in our book, it was refreshing and incredible to see every single artist giving a true live performance, even while dancing. R&B legends Smokey Robinson and Martha Reeves join in and even make way for Queen Latifah who sings a hip-hop reimagination of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” The show ends with the label’s biggest artists ever at the time, Boyz II Men.
6. Jessica Simpson, Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, Justin Timberlake (2004)
With a lineup this stacked, everyone was expecting one hell of a show. But this halftime show made for a pop culture moment that’s still talked about today. When Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson linked up for “Rock Your Body,” nobody saw a nipple coming. Then everyone saw it. It was the event that changed live television forever.
7. Diana Ross (1996)
The impact that Motown had on music as a whole is indisputable, so we couldn’t go without mentioning its Queen, Diana Ross. The ex-leading lady of R&B girl group The Supremes took the stage and made for a dynamic performance full of all of her biggest hits. It was upbeat, energetic, and an actual feast for the eyes. How Diana Ross worked the stage and took up the whole stadium with her performance makes it truly one-of-a-kind.
8. The Who (2010)
Sometimes it’s as simple as one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time playing the hits. It’s rare that the broadcast picks up crowds singing along with all the production that’s taking place, but hearing them bellow the lyrics to “Baba O Reily” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” will give you chills.
9. NSYNC* & Aerosmith (2001)
Possibly the strangest lineup of performers who came together for one of the most wildcard pow-wows we’ve seen in Halftime Show history. In the most epic rendition of “Walk This Way,” Aerosmith and NSYNC invited out Britney Spears, Mary J Blige, and Nelly to turn the performance into a historic moment. It was also this show that started the tradition of bringing out special guests.