The best Super Bowl halftime shows

The best Super Bowl halftime shows

Julie selected this photo of Bruno Mars
Julie selected this photo of Bruno Mars
Photo: Getty Images

It’s hard to know whether the ads or the halftime show has become the bigger attraction of the Super Bowl. It feels like the combination of the two has made the game ancillary. Certainly nothing exemplifies the bombast and ridiculousness of the occasion more than the halftime show, with a two-hour show’s worth of pyrotechnics, choreography, and lighting somehow shoehorned into a 15-minute performance. The sheer scale of it is a show unto itself. Here’s who did it best, in someone’s opinion.

We can't be too careful. Two guys in an airport...talking? It's a little fishy.

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2 / 9

734th - U2

734th - U2

What happens when you let a guy who already has an uncontrolled Jesus complex feel like he’s America’s savior by performing at halftime of the Super Bowl after 9/11? You get the kind of asshole like Bono forcing his album onto your iPod without your say-so because he thinks that’s what you want. How has The Edge not bludgeoned this guy by now? Oh right, the hundreds of millions of dollars. This is how you get a dickhead who ruins Kings Of Leon, foists Coldplay upon the world, and all the other musical and societal crimes Bono has committed. In Bono’s mind, the NFL didn’t pick U2, they were ordained by a higher power to heal the nation. Woof.

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3 / 9

4th - Beyonce

4th - Beyonce

Like she wasn’t going to make the list. 50 different powerful figures would have me killed if she didn’t. And rightly so. The height of Beyonce owning the world, which was something of a departure as usually this stage is either reserved for nostalgia acts, or those who are about to be nostalgia acts. Nothing about Beyonce’s performance suggested she was riding off to the sunset, and she very much has not.

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4 / 9

3rd - Tom Petty

3rd - Tom Petty

Only because he was friends with Prince.

Much like Petty himself and his songwriting, it was understated and simple, and great because of that. Petty wrote songs that we all knew, played them exactly how they were supposed to be played, and let that be enough. Always felt like Petty never understood what the fuss about him was about, or the fuss about this show, he just showed up and played. Which is all anyone ever needed from him.

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5 / 9

2nd - Shakira and Jennifer Lopez

2nd - Shakira and Jennifer Lopez

Not to take anything away from two superb performers, and you can throw Beyonce who guested onto this, but the lasting image/feeling of this was two Latina women in the midst of a country’s disgusting and shameful immigration policies simply dominating the world. It felt like a moment of defiance, and in some ways it was, and a celebration of just how much Latin culture is American culture now. Rarely does the Super Bowl halftime show stand for anything more than just the league’s largesse, but this was one of them.

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6 / 9

1st. Prince

1st. Prince

By definition. Because everyone else who performed at Super Bowl halftime is either trying to be Prince, so by definition not as cool as Prince, or has given up on trying to be Prince, so also by definition not as cool as Prince. There was always the small chance that Prince would mail in or actively shit on a setting he was far too cool for. But Prince also realized any stage to prove why he was the best performer in the history of popular music was one to be taken, so he did. Added bonus of the Miami rain making everything look even more epic, including “Purple Rain,” which would have felt so cliche and scripted if it weren’t for the fact that it was, y’know, Prince.

Sidenote: I didn’t actually see this one live, as this being the only Bears Super Bowl of my conscious life, I was on my porch chain-smoking in -2 weather. Maybe if I’d just stayed inside the night wouldn’t have been quite the crashing experience for my psyche that it became. Maybe. But even Prince might not be able to do anything about Bears-related psychosis.

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7 / 9

Jumping in here because Sam’s list is terrible - Julie

Jumping in here because Sam’s list is terrible - Julie

How do you manage to leave out The Who, who, in 2010, showed up dressed like my dad and then proceeded to crush Baba O’Riley all over the stage? They’re AARP members and still rock as hard as anyone. And Peter Townshend can’t even hear anymore.

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8 / 9

And another thing... - Julie

And another thing... - Julie

Hello... BRUNO MARS? He’s the most underrated live performer in America and showed why at 2014’s halftime show. It’s not his fault the NFL tried to cram the Chili Peppers into his performance. Don’t believe me? Check out Mars’ tribute to Amy Winehouse.

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9 / 9

We can't be too careful. Two guys in an airport...talking? It's a little fishy.