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Here are our 5 best, worst Super Bowl halftime shows

The Super Bowl halftime show has become the spectacle of spectacles. It has evolved to a point where it’s even bigger than the actual game to many viewers.

That wasn’t always the case.

The early days of the NFL championship game featured marching bands and milquetoast Up With People performances. There was even some weird giant card trick with Bob Costas introducing the world to 3D.

That started to morph in the late 1980s and early 1990s into the famed Michael Jackson show during Super Bowl XXVII at the Rose Bowl in 1993.



A ratings bonanza sent the message to the NFL, and modern-day halftime shows were born. There have been plenty of hits and a good share of misses in the years since.

Here are our five best and five worst shows since that night in Pasadena, California:

The worst

5. Super Bowl XXIX — The biggest misses have often come when networks go for a marketing angle. This was no different. “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye,” which promoted a new ride at Disneyland, featured actors representing characters from the film series trying to recover the stolen Vince Lombardi Trophy. Tony Bennett, Patti LaBelle and Miami Sound Machine were more victims than offenders here.

4. Super Bowl XLIV — Yes, The Who are an iconic band. But even Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend have to step up their game when such a massive live audience is tuning in to see them perform. Instead, they largely went through the motions of performing some of their biggest hits with little energy and few theatrics.

3. Super Bowl XLV — The Black Eyed Peas were a massive band in their prime when they were booked for this gig at the beginning of 2011. They announced a hiatus less than six months later. The audio mix was awful, though that was overshadowed by how poorly the guest appearances by Slash and Usher were incorporated. It was just uncomfortable to watch.

2. Super Bowl XXXI — Jim Belushi sang, and it was as bad as you might expect. The “Blues Brothers”-themed show kicked off with a fake special report from Fox News about a prison break and only spiraled from there. ZZ Top joined the spectacle, and even the great James Brown couldn’t save it.

1. Super Bowl XXXIV — On the surface, it would seem a tall task to ruin a performance that included Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias and Toni Braxton. Disney found a way. The “Disney Millennium Performance” featured the stars singing original numbers with an orchestra instead of their own hits. There were also dancing puppets and costumes all over the field. The live-action acid trip even had a narrator in Edward James Olmos. It was enough to make viewers wish Y2K had done enough damage to the grid to wipe out this memory.

The best

5. Super Bowl XLIX — Katy Perry was amazing throughout, masterfully incorporating Lenny Kravitz and the return of Missy Elliott. It was a great blend of over-the-top showmanship with very strong musical performance. Oh, and Left Shark went rogue and became one of the most iconic side characters in Super Bowl history.

4. Super Bowl XXXVI — A previously announced show featuring Janet Jackson was scrapped in order to bring in U2, which proved to be a stroke of genius. The iconic Irish band struck a perfect chord for a world still reeling from the tragic events of 9/11. Bono revealed a jacket lined with the American flag, and the band paid tribute to the victims of the attacks while still finding a way to entertain.

3. Super Bowl XLVII — Beyonce is Beyonce, and she was as sensational as always during this show. What made it truly memorable was the Destiny’s Child reunion. She brought Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams on stage with her as the only guest stars. A rumored appearance from Jay-Z never materialized, but even his brilliance wasn’t necessary on that night.

2. Super Bowl XLI — From a pure music perspective, this one is tough to beat. Prince, one of the greatest performers of all time, delivered a medley of hits not just from himself, but covers of Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Foo Fighters. He also got cooperation from the weather as he crushed the “Purple Rain” finale in a South Florida thunderstorm. There was also the controversial silhouette.

1. Super Bowl XXXVIII — Somehow, an eccentric mix of Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Kid Rock, Jessica Simpson, Kid Rock, Nelly and P. Diddy worked out musically. But, of course, nobody really remembers that. This is the “wardrobe malfunction” performance, which wasn’t a malfunction at all. Shortly after Timberlake’s “Gonna have you naked by the end of this song” line on “Rock Your Body,” he ripped off a bit of Jackson’s costume and provided the most replayed moment in TiVo history. If the Super Bowl halftime show is about entertainment and producing memorable moments, this is its biggest success. Were you not entertained?

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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