Written by Live Nation Staff • Photography by Kevin Mazur, Getty Images • January 19, 2017
It’s hard to believe the Super Bowl has been around for 50 years, but back when it began in the 1960s, the game was nothing like the most-watched spectacle that it is today. In preparation for Super Bowl LI, we’ve gathered up a few key halftime performances from over the years. From Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction in 2004 to Katy Perry’s Left Shark, we’ve seen it all at the Super Bowl Halftime show.
2001: NSYNC, Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Nelly
Back before the age of the smartphone, Facebook and Instagram, pop music was the ultimate authority for what was “in" and what wasn’t. The same year Wikipedia was launched and the first iPod came out, Britney and JT were pop culture’s favorite couple and everything was right in the world. One of our favorites from the vault, this performance was diverse, explosive (just check out Justin’s fire hands) and full of raw talent.
2011: Black Eyed Peas (feat. Usher & Slash)
Fast forward to 10 years later—is it just us, or does anyone else really miss Fergie? Though this performance received loads of critical backlash, we can’t help but feel for the hip-hop-gone-pop group. With a viewership of 111 million that year, it’s hard not to run into some tough critics when trying to please a whole nation. Opening up with “I Gotta Feeling,” the group goes through a series of their electro pop hits that dominated the airwaves at the time, continuing with “Boom Boom Pow” and an unlikely duet with Slash for “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” Even Usher drops in (literally) to give everyone a run for their money, with an electric performance of “OMG” with will.i.am.
2012: Madonna (feat. LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Cee Lo Green)
They had us at ‘Madonna.’ One of our personal favorites from the last few years, the original pop queen Madonna gives everyone a taste of her '80s glory days. She party rocks with LMFAO, keeps the football tradition alive with a cheerleader-inspired performance of “Give Me All Your Luvin’” with M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj, and closes out with her classic “Like a Prayer” with fellow sequin-clad singer Cee Lo Green. Dancing and flipping her way across the stage the way she does, you’d never be able to guess the woman was in her 50s.
2013: Beyoncé (feat. Destiny’s Child)
Remember that one Beyoncé concert where they also played a football game? Yeah, that was the 2013 Super Bowl. Fierce, fabulous and unparalleled in skill, they don’t call her Queen B for nothing. One of the few singers who can master full-out dancing and live singing for 13 minutes, she may be one of the greatest performers—if not the greatest—of our generation. Judging by fan comments, we aren’t the only ones who think so. "She is SO powerful in this performance. But I get suspicious.. lol sometimes she looks possessed,” one user commented on the video. In response, another fan commented, “She is possessed by Sasha Fierce.” Possessed or not, the woman is amazing. And how could you not get a kick out of a Destiny’s Child surprise reunion?
2014: Bruno Mars (feat. Red Hot Chili Peppers)
When Bruno opened up with a killer drum solo on a moving platform, we knew we were in for a ride. The 24K Magic star, backed by the incredible “Hooligans,” performs flawlessly in a medley of his own songs. Dressed fittingly in shining gold blazers, Bruno and his crew have the moves and energy to fill up the entire stadium. Eventually joined by the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a rendition of “Give It Away,” the pop idol closed out the show with an uplifting performance of “Just the Way You Are,” with vocal perfection that made teen hearts flutter across the nation.
_2015: Katy Perry (feat. Lenny Kravitz, Missy Elliott) _
With Katy Perry’s wide ranging repertoire of songs, it’s almost expected to put on a show equally as colorful as her music. Riding into the arena in a Katniss Everdeen-like fashion, the pop star was dressed in flames to go along with her fiery show. Lenny Kravitz adds a rock n’ roll kick to her famous “I Kissed a Girl” before Katy shows us her tropical “Teenage Dream,” where we meet the internet’s favorite dancing sea creature, Left Shark. The real surprise of the night though was rapper Missy Elliott making a long-awaited return to the stage. Going through some of her most successful singles dating back to the early 2000s, Missy and her crew got down to “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It” and “Lose Control.” Talk about a throwback! For better quality streaming, you can see the show on NFL’s YouTube page here.
2016: Coldplay (feat. Beyoncé & Bruno Mars)
Now we’re back to the latest Super Bowl performance, led by Coldplay and featuring Halftime veterans Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, who we all know can put on a hell of a performance. Coldplay’s flower of life themed production was colorful and kaleidoscopic, but not nearly as flashy as previous years’ performances, putting a stronger focus on the music—and we’re not complaining, Coldplay’s music is something else. Lead singer Chris Martin adds in, “whoever you are, wherever you are, we’re in this together,” sending a message of unity out to the nation. Bruno’s "Uptown Funk" got us up and moving, while Bey’s “Formation” performance was everything we ever dreamed and more.
The Super Bowl is no longer just a championship football game, it’s become a celebration of the uniquely American sport and culture of football, and a chance for families and friends across the states to gather ‘round the TV screen for an evening of food, fun and clever commercials. The Halftime Show began with traditional college marching bands, but now is held up to a higher standard of shows filled with pyrotechnics, innovative stage set-ups, and the nation’s top performers on the screen, becoming an American tradition in its own right. Blasts to the past are always fun, but we can’t wait to see what Gaga will bring to the table this year.