The time for the 2023 Super Bowl is over. Yet for some people, the football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles tonight is meaningless compared to the halftime show. There’s an argument to be made that the Super Bowl halftime show is the most prestigious performance in all of music. For 15 minutes, millions of people around the world tune in to see the spectacle of the Super Bowl halftime show.
Since it’s such a high-profile gig, the halftime show is reserved for only the biggest stars in music and entertainment. Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, The Weekend, Sir Paul McCartney, Carol Channing (yes, really), U2, and Beyoncé are a few of the renowned artists to perform at the Super Bowl. At Super Bowl LVII, Rihanna added her name to the list of memorable Super Bowl halftime performers.
In honor of Rihanna’s spectacular performance, here are the 10 best Super Bowl halftime shows of all time.
10. Jessica Simpson, Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, and Justin Timberlake — Super Bowl XXXVIII
Unfortunately, the wardrobe malfunction is what people will remember about Super Bowl XXVIII. However, the performances were very good. The eclectic group of pop stars, rock stars, and rappers performed a medley of hits that satisfied millennials all over the world.
Unfortunately, Janet Jackson was unfairly left to deal with the backlash after Justin Timberlake exposed her chest. However, Jackson was the best performer on the stage that night, highlighted by her performance of All for You.
Setlist: The Way You Move, All for You, Bad Boy for Life, Diddy to the tune of Mickey, Hot in Herre, Mo Money Mo Problems, Bawitdaba, Cowboy, Rhythm Nation, Rock Your Body
The most over-the-top performance of all time belongs to Katy Perry. However, her excessiveness was not a deterrent, but rather a strength. Perry rode a giant mechanical tiger for Roar and soared across the sky on a shooting star for Firework. Perry utilized guests to her advantage, bringing out Lenny Kravitz for I Kissed a Girl and Missy Elliot for Get Ur Freak On and Work It.
However, Perry’s pop-centric performance will undoubtedly be remembered for Left Shark, who became a first-ballot meme Hall of Famer with his animated dance moves.
Setlist: Roar, Dark Horse, I Kissed a Girl, Teenage Dream, California Gurls, Get Ur Freak On, Work It, Lose Control, Firework
It had been four long years since Rihanna had performed live, and even longer for her to release an album. So her halftime show was already viewed with more anticipation, and some skepticism, than most. Could the increasingly reclusive singer, who seems more interested in managing her billion dollar cosmetics company Fenty than making music, pull it off?
She didn’t disappoint. Revealing her pregnancy right out of the gate, RiRi put on one of the most tightly choreographed and conceptual halftime shows in history. While she didn’t flip through the air or run around on the stadium like other performances, she didn’t need to. Armed with a brigade of puffy pants and jacket-wearing backups dancers and levitating platforms straight out of a Super Smash Brothers video game, Rihanna dazzled the eye and reminded everyone why she’s a music superstar. The climactic “Diamonds” number, with the stadium illuminated by fans’ mobile phone flashlights, was a standout in a halftime show full of memorable moments.
Setlist: Bitch Better Have My Money, Where Have You Been, Only Girl (In The World), We Found Love, Rude Bow, Woke, Wild Thoughts, Pour It Up, All of The Lights, Run This Town, Umbrella, Diamonds
When jumping off the stadium’s roof does not even crack the top five for memorable moments from a performance, you know it’s a special moment. Lady Gaga showed the world why she’s one of the finest pop stars of her generation during her excellent 13-minute halftime show.
Gaga made use of the entire stadium and emphasized spectacle in her performance. From the aforementioned jump to constant pyrotechnics and complex choreography, Gaga was the ultimate showwoman. Plus, it helps to have hits like Poker Face, Born This Way, and Just Dance at your disposal.
Setlist: God Bless America/This Land Is Your Land, Poker Face, Born This Way, Telephone, Just Dance, Million Reasons, Bad Romance
There was not going to be a top 10 list without Beyoncé. The Grammy GOAT ran the world during her 13-minute performance. From Run the World to Love On Top to Crazy in Love, Beyoncé’s performance was the perfect mix of crowd-pleasing anthems that all fans could appreciate.
Like the great performer that she is, Beyoncé saved her best for last. “Queen Bey” invited Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams onstage for a Destiny’s Child reunion. Watching the talented group sing together once again was worth the price of admission.
Setlist: Run the World (Girls) (Intro), Love On Top, Crazy in Love, End of Time, Baby Boy, Bootylicious, Independent Women Part I, Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), Halo
One of the best live performers of the last 50 years is Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band. The New Jersey legend is known for performing north of three hours during every concert. His energy is infectious, and the entire world got a taste of “The Boss” at Super Bowl XLIII.
Once Springsteen told fans to “step away from the guacamole dip,” he injected life into living rooms around the nation. Springsteen performed legendary classics like Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and Born to Run, proving why he remains one of the best live acts ever.
Setlist: Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Born to Run, Working on a Dream, Glory Days
At Super Bowl LVI, California knew how to party. It was a tribute to hip-hop in Los Angeles when Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar took the halftime stage. Snoop and Dre kicked off the performance with The Next Episode and California Love. Family Affair, Alright, and Lose Yourself were performed by Blige, Lamar, and Eminem, respectively.
Anderson .Paak and 50 Cent made surprise appearances, with the latter performing In Da Club while temporarily suspended upside down. The ensemble ended things with a bang, coming together for Still D.R.E. on top of the stage designed as a house.
Setlist: The Next Episode, California Love, In da Club, Family Affair, No More Drama, M.A.A.D City, Alright, Forgot About Dre, Lose Yourself, I Ain’t Mad at Cha, Still D.R.E.
The “King of Pop” was always going to find himself toward the top of this list. In 1993, there was no superstar bigger on Earth than Michael Jackson. Jackson’s appearance elevated the halftime show, and A-list stars began playing the event in the proceeding years.
At the Rose Bowl, Jackson played smash hits like Billie Jean and Black or White. The highlight of the performance occurred when a children’s choir joined the singer for a rendition of Heal the World to benefit Jackson’s Heal the World Foundation.
Setlist: Jam, Billie Jean, Black or White, We Are the World, Heal the World
Five months after one of the nation’s worst tragedies, U2 performed a tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The Irish band opened with one of their signature songs, Beautiful Day, but the ending is why this performance is regarded as one of the best of all time.
During their final two songs, a giant backdrop contained the names of the victims of the September 11 attacks. It’s truly one of the most beautiful moments you’ll ever witness for a country struggling to heal.
Setlist: Beautiful Day, MLK, Where the Streets Have No Name
There was never any debate as to who would top this list. Prince gave the greatest Super Bowl halftime performance of all time. In Miami, “The Artist Formerly Known As” dazzled the audience in the pouring rain in true Prince fashion.
From his magnetic stage presence to his insane guitar solos, Prince had the crowd in the palm of his hand. After covers of All Along the Watchtower and Best of You, Prince capped off his epic performance with a rousing rendition of Purple Rain. It does not get any better than Prince.
Setlist: We Will Rock You (Intro), Let’s Go Crazy, Baby I’m a Star, Proud Mary, 1999, All Along the Watchtower, Best of You, Purple Rain
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