The best and worst Super Bowl halftime shows

The good, the bad and the Phil Collins of Super Bowl halftime shows.

Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake perform during Super Bowl XXXVIII
Nipplegate Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake created a suffix thanks to Super Bowl XXXVIII. Image Picture Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Coldplay will put themselves in front of more than 100 million eyeballs this weekend when they headline the halftime show at Super Bowl 50.

They’ll be joined by special guests Beyonce and Bruno Mars in a bid to write their names in the history books of all-time great Super Bowl performances.

The halftime show wasn’t always impressive, though. Up until the early 90s bosses never really saw it as much of an event, filling everyone’s bathroom break with marching bands and bad Elvis impersonators. New Kids On The Block were the first major musical halftime act in 1991 and, well, things have gotten a lot better since then.

Ahead of Super Bowl 50, here are the best and worst halftime performance from years gone by.


5 touchdown-worthy shows


Bruce Springsteen (2009)

Nobody puts on a live show quite like The Boss. Springsteen gigs usually run well past the three-hour mark, but for Super Bowl XLIII he condensed things into a storming 12-minute set. Springsteen knew exactly the audience he was playing to. A quartet of classics: Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Born To Run, Working On A Dream and Glory Days.


U2 (2002)

Wait, don’t turn back! Bono and his boys might be a Marmite proposition, but their Super Bowl XXXVI show hit the right notes considering it arrived only a few months after the September 11 attacks. Beautiful Day shifted into MLK before the names of 9/11 victims were projected high as the band played Where The Streets Have No Name. It was emotional.


Paul McCartney (2005)

12 months on from Janet Jackson’s infamous nipple slip, the Super Bowl got a much safer pair of hands in Paul McCartney. He didn’t disappoint. Drive My Car and Get Back were followed by Bond classics Live And Let Die before he closed out the set with a mass singalong of Hey Jude.


Beyonce (2013)

Beyonce cemented herself as the biggest female music star on the planet thanks to this halftime Super Bowl set. She crammed nine songs into a 14-minute set – Crazy In Love the clear stand-out – before reforming Destiny’s Child for a rendition of Single Ladies. The Louisiana Superdome didn’t know what hit it – right after her performance the stadium suffered a 30-minute electrical blackout.


Michael Jackson (1993)

Pre-Jackon’s 1993 performance, the Super Bowl was mainly the domain of naff marching bands. Jackson’s set at California’s Rose Bowl changed everything. Rattling through Billie Jean, Black Or White and more, Jackson’s halftime show is said to have provided a significant ratings hike and kick-started the trend for signing up big name acts.


And 5 painful halftime fumbles 


Black Eyed Peas (2011)

All flash and no substance, the Peas brought weird robot suits, an epilepsy-inducing light show and hundreds of neon-lit backing dancers. It all looked like Tron seen through the eyes of a drunk David Lynch. To make matters worse, they even wheeled out an unfortunate Slash for an excruciating version of Sweet Child O’ Mine.


New Kids On The Block (1991)

If ever there was an example of an act way out of their depth, this is it. New Kids On The Block made a valiant attempt to inject some life into the halftime show, but they were left with duff tracks like This One’s For The Children. (Nope, us neither.) The presence of a children’s choir lent a shade of creepiness to proceedings. “I’d rather eat rusted nails than watch this,” Donnie Wahlberg tweeted 19 years later.


Gloria Estefan and Olympic Figure Skaters (1992)

Super Bowl XXVI took on a snowy theme in honour of that year’s Winter Olympics. Figure skaters Brian Boitano and Dorthy Hamill were followed by Gloria Estefan crooning Live For Loving You and Get On Your Feet. It was an unmitigated disaster. During the halftime break, 22 million CBS viewers switched over to rival channel Fox to watch a live episode of In Living Colour.


Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias and Toni Braxton (2000) 

What worse way to ring in the Millennium than with a Phil Collins Super Bowl performance. He didn’t even go with a well-known track, instead crooning Tarzan track Two Worlds to promote the just-released Disney film. Collins was sandwiched between a Christina Aguilera and Enrique Iglesias duet and Toni Braxton. Still, at least the pre-game show had a pair of belters from Tina Turner.


Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, P Diddy, Kid Rock and Nelly (2004) 

On paper, this had potential. Jackson’s brother had rocked the Super Bowl a decade earlier, and Timberlake was just starting to find his groove as a solo artist after *NSYNC. Nobody remembers the drab P Diddy, Kid Rock or Nelly performances on the night; Jackson’s duet with Timberlake is another matter. Nipplegate saved Super Bowl XXXVIII haltime from being forgotten completely – but Jackson’s career hasn’t really recovered since.

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