Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably well aware that the Super Bowl is happening this weekend. Even if you aren’t a sports fan, this is the one sporting event that you can’t ignore. You may not know who is playing (the Seattle Seahawks vs. the Denver Broncos) or where the game is being played (MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ) but there is no escaping the media blitz that accompanies the big game.
As a football fan I am of course looking forward to the actual game, especially since my pal Peyton Manning is playing this year. Seeing him get the chance to win a long overdue second ring softens the blow that my Bills are not in the Super Bowl, nor will they be in a Super Bowl for the foreseeable future. There are always the commercials to look forward to (you can watch a lot of this year’s ads here), though overall I think they have not been as fun recently as they used to be. And even in years when I wasn’t too excited for either of the teams in the game, I almost always look forward to the halftime show.
This year the halftime show will feature Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers; I’m extremely curious to see how they are going to meld their two different styles together. I have no doubt that they will figure something out that works though of course the real question of the night will be if we get another “wardrobe malfunction” courtesy of RHCP bassist Flea. All of the Peppers have a history of wearing nothing but a well-placed sock during a performance, but Flea seems to me to be the most likely candidate to try and do it during the Super Bowl. That would be ill-advised, as the weather is supposed to be pretty darn chilly on Sunday night for those kinds of shenanigans. Shrinkage and all. Though I do think that they might be able to fit Bruno Mars entire body in a sock – that is one tiny man.
The Super Bowl halftime shows have something of a checkered past. Some were great, some were terrible and some were controversial. Few of them, however, were all that memorable. Thinking back, though I’ve watched the Super Bowl pretty consistently for nearly 30 years, I realized that I only recalled a handful of performances. I have vague recollections of some other years – I know, for instance, that both The Who and Paul McCartney did the halftime show, but I’d be hard pressed to give you more detail than that. When I think Super Bowl halftime shows, I think of the following performances:
Super Bowl XX – Up With People (1986)
This is actually the first Super Bowl that I remember. For some inexplicable reason, I was a big fan of William “Refrigerator” Perry and I was all excited to watch the Chicago Bears play in the big game. I have vivid memories of it snowing that day and sitting at our coffee table with a mug full of hot chocolate. I may have only been nine years old and I may have had no other point of reference, but even I knew this halftime show was crap. See, kids, back in the early days of the Super Bowl halftime shows, they weren’t the music superstar laden events that they are today. They weren’t seen as an attempt to lure in non-football fans, so instead viewers were subjected to a lot of marching bands and drill teams. It.Was.Awful. Up With People did the halftime show a whopping four times. There was even an Elivs impersonator one year. It was a dark time for America.
Super Bowl XXVII– Michael Jackson (1993)
I realize that I skipped over what should have been a memorable halftime show for me in 1991 when New Kids on the Block performed, but I honestly have no recollection of this happening. I chalk it up to the trauma of what happened in the game, when the words “wide right” became permanently ingrained into the subconscious of all of Buffalo. I wasn’t even an official fan of the Bills at the time, but I was rooting for them and inexplicably even wagered a week’s worth of lunches with someone at school. I guess I had a soft spot in my heart for Buffalo even way back then. In retrospect, this game was a warning of what my Bills’ future would hold.
Anyway, I remember watching this game over at my best friend Shana’s house with a bunch of our friends; as a group, we weren’t really that interested in the game, but I remember everyone watching Michael Jackson and debating what we thought about him. This was right before the first of his child molestation charges would surface and then things with him would get really weird (and they were already pretty weird). He was still pretty popular, but not as dominant as he once was. This was the first halftime show that was basically just a concert (no Disney characters dancing around) and it brought in high ratings. This was a bit of a turning point; from here on in, major acts were consistently recruited to perform.
Super Bowl XXXV – Aerosmith, N’Sync and Britney Spears (2001)
This halftime show was an interesting meld of the old and the new and is actually one of the performances that I enjoyed the most, perhaps because it had a high probability of being terrible. A show comprised of Aerosmith, N’Sync and Britney Spears is not necessarily a combination that I would have come up with on my own – remember this was the pre-American Idol Steven Tyler, so there was a little more rock and roll associated with Aerosmith. The “Bad Boys of Boston” were no strangers to collaboration – see their duet with Run D-M-C – but this was something different. I just remember this performance being a lot of fun.
Super Bowl XXXVI – U2 (2002)
This was potentially the saddest of the bunch, as this was the first Super Bowl after September 11th. U2 actually did a great job with a nice tribute to those who died without getting too depressing. They stuck the perfect tone and it was really a beautiful performance.
Super Bowl XXXVII – Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, and Justin Timberlake (2004)*
Be honest – does anyone even remember that P. Diddy, Nelly and Kid Rock were even a part of this halftime show? Of course not. All anyone remembers is the fateful “wardrobe malfunction” heard round the world. I was watching this Super Bowl with friends in Massachusetts, where I’m sure I was annoying everyone there by not rooting for the Patriots and for cheering for a safety so that I would hit with my Super Bowl square. I actually saw the wardrobe malfunction as it happened – I was the only person really paying attention to the halftime show and I remember whipping my head around to see if anyone else saw what I saw or if I had just imagined that I just saw Janet Jackson’s breast.
This was the halftime show that would result in almost a decade of old white guys being selected to be performers, who were deemed to be less of a potential risk (sound logic since so many of them could barely move). This was also the halftime show that soured me a bit on Justin Timberlake; I never really respected how he hung Janet Jackson out to dry and forced her to take all the heat for what happened. I thought that showed cowardice and while I’ve come back around on JT, it hasn’t left the back of my mind that when the chips were down, he ran away.
*Oddly, this was the only full performance that I couldn’t find on YouTube – though of course there were plenty of videos featuring the offending incident.
Super Bowl XLIII – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2009)
I’ll admit that this performance is probably only memorable to me because I love Springsteen, but I thought he and the E Street band put on one hell of an entertaining show. It was high energy (unsurprising given their penchant for 3+ hour concerts) and though I may have been the only person rocking out at the bar, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Springsteen even livened things up a bit by sliding right into the camera, giving the world a (fully clothed) crotch shot.
Super Bowl XLVI– Madonna (2012)
This was the first post-Janet Jackson halftime show that had the real potential for something interesting or racy to happen. Nothing all that ordinary happened – save for a few scantily clad men – but this performance is what convinced me that I had to fulfill my dream of going to see Madonna live sooner rather than later. She still had it, but she was slowing down a step and I wanted to see her before it would be disappointing. I’m thankful that I saw her that summer, based on what I saw at the Grammys this year. I know that she was injured, but she sounded terrible.
Super Bowl VLVII – Beyoncé (2013)
I am usually one of the only women at the bar where we watch the Super Bowl every year (minus the staff) so it is no surprise that I was the only person who was really excited to see Beyoncé take the stage and for the rumored Destiny’s Child reunion. I thought Beyoncé killed it and it may or may not have encouraged some slightly intoxicated men at the bar to try and do the “Single Ladies” dance.
The past is the past; while these are the halftime shows that are most memorable to me, what about the future? If I was in charge of booking the talent, the following acts would be on my wish list:
- Journey – My love for this band is well established, but I think that they would do a great job. Their new lead singer loves to run around the stage and would be exciting to watch. Plus you are hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t secretly like Journey. A performance of “Don’t Stop Believin” would bring the house down.
- Kanye West – I know, I know – people hate this guy. He is a little delusional and insufferable. But having seen him perform live and experiencing the crazy genius that is Kanye, I would love to see what he would do with such a performance on such a large scale. It would be bat shit crazy and totally over the top – and I’m sure that half of the country would despise every minute of it. But it would be guaranteed to be memorable, regardless. The Internet might explode.
- Foo Fighters – Probably my favorite band, I think that they would give us a rocking crowd pleasing performance. The real challenge would be convincing them to take the gig; the Super Bowl may be too corporate for their liking and they don’t really need the bump.
Who would you like to see perform at the Super Bowl? Who have been your favorite halftime performances? Sound off in the comments below – and enjoy the game Sunday!