Nine years later, this is still the gold standard for the Super Bowl: Prince, euphoric in his mastery of the stage, tossing out “Proud Mary” and “All Along The Watchtower” in between Purple Rain classics. Prince’s performance was so good, it made us forget that we had to watch Rex Grossman play in the Super Bowl that year.
A Super Bowl halftime show isn't required to make a mark beyond the Super Bowl, but Beyoncé turned in an all-time iconic performance in 2012. She launched with 4's "Love on Top," threw straight back to "Crazy in Love" and kept things flying with TNT renditions of her most accessible songs. She reunited Destiny's Child by the seven-minute mark—and did it all with a black-clad band of incredibly badass women, one of whom shredded a solo on a flying V guitar spitting sparks.
In a performance that essentially defined pop culture in the early '00s, Aerosmith and *N SYNC headlined a show that also brought together Mary J. Blige, Britney Spears, Nelly, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller. Kicked off with a skit and moved into a medley of the bands' hits, this youth-friendly, MTV-produced show more or less brought the Super Bowl halftime show into the 21st century.
Just like Madonna’s career, the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show had a little bit of everything: controversy (cheers, M.I.A.!), elaborate stage setups (why don’t more halftime shows call on Cirque du Soleil?), guest stars (Cee Lo Green, Nicki Minaj), guest stars that definitely belong to early 2012 (LMFAO), and a ton of hit singles. When you open with “Vogue” and you close with “Like a Prayer,” you make the Top 5 of this list.
Here’s a secret that’s not too well-kept: Katy Perry is a maximalist performer, and an excellent one at that. Her Super Bowl halftime spectacle predictably threw everyone at its viewers, from sloppily dancing sharks to the resuscitation of Missy Elliott’s career, and, predictably, it was pretty damn awesome. Perry’s not kidding when she says she’s got the eye of the tiger.
Ah yes, the infamous Nipplegate halftime show, which prompted the Super Bowl to remove female performers from the extravaganza for a whopping seven years. It’s a shame that Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction is the only thing that most people remember about this show, because aside from the slip, this mash-up of pop stylings was thrilling.
The first post-9/11 Super Bowl was marked by U2’s touching tribute to the thousands of lives lost on that September day: During “Where The Streets Have No Name,” a list of victims scrolled behind the band. That doesn’t mean the set was a downer, though; Bono’s stage presence soared during “Beautiful Day” and “MLK.”
Despite being one of the biggest pop stars of the moment but only being a household name for a few years, Bruno Mars' Super Bowl performance proved to be a show everyone and their grandmother would appreciated. Bruno didn't need crazy technology or wild pyrotechnics, but instead recalled the performers of yesteryear and demonstrated how a dude in a sharp suit can still rock the stage. Of course, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were also there to offer something a little more hardcore for the beer-guzzlilng rock fans.
The Super Bowl played it safe during the first post-wardrobe-malfunction year, but that didn’t mean that Macca taking the field was a snooze. The music legend performed an admirable medley pulled from the Beatles catalog (“Drive My Car,” “Get Back”) and his own (“Live and Let Die”). Even if you were tuning in for something a little more current, the “Hey Jude” finale was pretty awe-inspiring.
Mick Jagger and co. turned in a strong set in 2006, but with a clipped set list that left us hungry for more. Sure, you have to have “Start Me Up” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in there, but A Bigger Bang cut “Rough Justice” instead of “Sympathy For The Devil,” “Paint It Black” or “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”? Sometimes you have to ignore the new stuff to play the hits.
Just a rock-solid performance by rock’s greatest workman. The best part (aside from the hilarious crotch-in-the-camera shot) is how close Bruce is to the crowd throughout the performance—even when flanked by his lock-step E Street Band, the Boss is a man of the people on the world’s biggest stage.
In reality, this could have been a Shania Twain solo set, as the country superstar was still at the height of her powers when she kicked off the halftime show in 2003. Trotting out No Doubt for “Just a Girl” was a blast (although a little strange, given their more recent hits at the time), and the Sting-Gwen Stefani duet on “Message in a Bottle” was deeply awkward. At least we got some punk-rock cheerleaders in the process!
Or: The Year Before The Super Bowl Halftime Show Got Cool. In this family-friendly Disney production, some trippy visual effects joined a young Christina Aguilera and Enrique Iglesias singing the sleepy duet “Celebrate The Future Hand in Hand”; later, Phil Collins sang a song from Tarzan that’s not even the main song from Tarzan.
Call it Classic Rock Fatigue: The Who performed as the sixth straight older male act, and although “Pinball Wizard” and “Baba O’Riley” forever rule, this performance just wasn’t as pulse-pounding as the Prince, Paul McCartney or even Rolling Stones sets. Even the intro to “Won’t Get Fooled Again” left us wanting more.
Kudos to the Super Bowl for finally flipping back to current music in 2011, but… Fergie singing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” with Slash? Usher only getting a minute of screen time? Weird, green glowing guys on the field? Nah. Midway through the performance, the Black Eyed Peas asked the world, “Where Is The Love?” We’re still searching, guys.
Look, Tom Petty is a rock god and a fantastic performer, but a phallic light-guitar cruising toward the stage as Petty kicks off with a tinny version of “American Girl” just isn’t cutting it on the biggest stage in the world. On the plus side, this is only the second most painful thing New England Patriots fans remember about Super Bowl XLII.