The 10 Most Memorable Super Bowl Halftime Performances Of All Time

Idolator Staff | January 19, 2012 6:00 am

On February 5, Indianapolis will host Super Bowl XLVI — the 46th iteration of America’s biggest game. Millions of fans will gather ’round the television set with seven-layer dip and cold drinks to watch an epic match-up of teams, the year’s funniest and most expensive commercials and most importantly — as far as we’re concerned — Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show. The newly minted Interscope singer has been on her grind lately, promoting her Golden Globe-winning directorial debut W.E., unleashing a super sexy fragrance line and gearing up for the release of her 12th studio album MDNA and a world tour.

With so much going on, can Madonna still quarterback a show as memorable as these 10 amazing Super Bowl halftime performances?


10. U2 honor the victims of 9/11 at Super Bowl XXXVI (2002). Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the Irish supergroup gave a bittersweet performance of “Where The Streets Have No Name”, while the names of FDNY, NYPD and the passengers of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 93 were projected on stage behind the band.

9. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake get NSFTV at Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004). Litigation for perhaps the most controversial Super Bowl halftime moment of all time was just recently put to bed — seven years after the MTV-produced segment first aired. The five-minute set saw Janet rocking a medley of “All For You” and “Rhythm Nation” before JT joined her on stage for the big, um, reveal during “Rock Your Body”, off Justified.

8. Gwen Stefani gets Stung at Super Bowl XXXVII (2003). Halftime shows have frequently paired together odd combos of musicians. And when Gwen Stefani joined Sting on stage for “Message in a Bottle” there was a definite “Well, that’s not something you’ll see everyday” vibe.

7. Stevie Wonder shares the stage at Super Bowl XXXIII (1999). Apparently someone thought Stevie Wonder didn’t pack enough star power to command the entire Super Bowl halftime stage, so producers brought Gloria Estefan, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and tap dancer Savion Glover along for the ride. The show was all over the place, with Wonder running through his hits before clomping along with Glover, then making way for Estefan’s salsa-tinged, baton-wielding finale.

6. It’s a small world for New Kids on the Block at Super Bowl XXV (1991). The groundbreaking boy band’s first run happened to coincide with America’s first war in the Middle East: Desert Storm. The resulting feel-good Disney-fied performance was actually pre-recorded and then aired after the game, due to news coverage of the conflict.

5. Everybody loves Paul McCartney at Super Bowl XXXIX (2005). After “Nipplegate,” the NFL powers that be thought it wise to go with a “guaranteed-not-to-get-naked” act. Sir Paul McCartney is a classy guy and turned in a sterling set of Beatles faves “Drive My Car” and “Get Back”, before delivering a pyrotechnic punch with “Live and Let Die” as a finale.

4. The Black Eyed Peas rep GNR at Super Bowl XLV (2011). Who, besides people with short-term memory loss, could forget last year’s halftime show, which introduced the world to Fergie’s Axl Rose impression? The show experienced an array of sound and technical problems that critics were enthusiastic to point out.

3. Pop royalty reigns at Super Bowl XXXV (2001). Basically everyone you cared about in 2001 took the stage that night: *NSYNC, Britney Spears, Aerosmith, Mary J. Blige and Nelly all performed, with a hilarious comic lead-in from Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Chris Rock. There’s really nothing else that needs to be said.

2. Michael Jackson brings the “World” to Super Bowl XXVII (1993). It’s no surprise that the King of Pop sits so high on our list: MJ gave an electrifying performance with all the right moves, performing his biggest hits to date, including “We Are The World”.

1. Prince makes it (purple) rain at Super Bowl XLI (2007). When Prince took the stage with his powder blue guitar with matching leopard strap, the crowd erupted in cheers only a true giant of pop can produce. He whipped through his own hits as well as a surprise cover or two (who expected to hear a Foo Fighters jam?). But it’s the finale, when mother nature decided to get into the act, that truly makes this performance. As the Artist Formerly Known As The Artist shifted into “Purple Rain”, the skies opened fully and it… rained. With water dripping down his guitar, streaking down his face, and the A&M marching band glowing neon through the downpour, it was a moment of high drama and celebration, and the perfect way to cap off our list.

Did our list of Most Memorable Super Bowl Halftime Performances makes your list of Most Memorable Lists? Sound off in the comments below, or on Twitter and Facebook.

—Reporting by Maud Deitch