Before Katy Perry takes the stage this Sunday — with the seemingly immortal Lenny Kravitz — we decided to wade through the historical archives and look at every act that tried to keep our attention for the 15 minutes we could turn away and look at puppies and/or lingerie models frolicking.
25. SUPER BOWL I THROUGH XXIV
If you love random marching bands, loosely defined themes (“Tribute to Mardi Gras,” “A Musical America,” “KaleidoSUPERscope”) and Up With People, then you could just pick any one of these at random and just swim in the glory.
24. SUPER BOWL XXVI
Minneapolis, MN — 1992
It ain’t a party unless it’s an Olympic Figure Skaters Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill party.
23. SUPER BOWL XXV
Tampa, FL — 1991
New Kids on the Block
We’ll not mention the awkwardness of this boy band singing a romantic song surrounded by children. But its super-fucking weird.
22. SUPER BOWL XXIX
Miami Gardens, FL — 1995
Patti Labelle, Teddy Pendergrass, Tony Bennett, Arturo Sandoval, Miami Sound Machine
Without the context of a movie surrounding it, the “Indiana Jones trying to steal the Vince Lombardi trophy from the Temple of Doom Indians” bit is really kinda racist. And Tony Bennett looks more confused than he does now.
21. SUPER BOWL XXVIII
Atlanta, GA — 1994
Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, The Judds
I’ll bet that if you like country, you’d like this. I don’t, so here it is.
20. SUPER BOWL XXXIV
Atlanta, GA — 2000
Christina Aguilera, Enrique Inglesias, Phil Collins, Toni Braxton
Looks way more like an Olympic opening ceremony than a halftime show, complete with Edward James Olmos talking about things like “the tapestry of magic.” Phil Collins got dressed up in his best cargo pants to do his song from Tarzan.
19. SUPER BOWL XXXII
San Diego, CA — 1998
Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Temptations, Queen Latifah
Super low-energy, as if they were trying to put the crowd to sleep. And poor Martha Reeves has clearly forgotten how to sing.
18. SUPER BOWL XXXI
New Orleans, LA — 1997
The Blues Brothers, ZZ Top, James Brown
As we all know, Jim Belushi is no John Belushi, so don’t even bother with the Blues Brothers thing. James Brown is a shade of his former self — watching him mosey through the paces is almost sad.
17. SUPER BOWL XLV
Arlington, TX — 2011
The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Slash
Just, ugh. No one has sounded worse during a halftime show, in the new millennium, than the Black Eyed Peas.
16. SUPER BOWL XXX
Tempe, AZ — 1996
It’s just a juke-box medley of her greatest hits, but the former queen of the Supremes can still get it done.
15. SUPER BOWL XXXIII
Miami Gardens, FL — 1999
Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Savion Glover and ET
Hey, any time Stevie Wonder plays it’s worth watching, even if he’s got to “interact” with E.T. Tap dancing doesn’t really translate on a stage that big — sorry, Savion Glover — and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is an odd relic from that eight weeks were we all cared about big band swing music again.
14. SUPER BOWL XXXVII
San Diego, CA — 2003
Shania Twain, No Doubt, Sting
13. SUPER BOWL XXXV
Tampa, FL — 2001
Aerosmith, ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J Blige, Nelly
A little too much “everything into the pot, boys”: No real rhyme or reason to this lineup — aside from, I guess, that Britney Spears was allegedly sleeping with ‘N Sync’s Justin Timberlake at this point — but it kinda sorta works.
12. SUPER BOWL XLIV
Miami Gardens, FL — 2010
Man, these guys just seemed old. Decades older than the Stones.
11. SUPER BOWL XLII
Glendale, AZ — 2008
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Dad Rock took hold of the halftime show for a while, a harsh corrective after Justin Timberlake unleashed Janet Jackson’s boob on a country that can’t handle the sight of a nipple. They do a fine, if low-energy roundelay through their hits.
10. SUPER BOWL XLVI
Indianapolis, IN — 2012
Madonna, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Cee Lo Green
Not that anyone should’ve been surprised, but this performance was all about Madonna and her attempt to polish her own shrine and gather “the hip youngsters” about her. The desperation wafts off her like body spray.
9. SUPER BOWL XLVIII
East Rutherford, NJ — 2014
Bruno Mars, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Bruno Mars is doing his level best to convince America to love him and, in great part, it works. No idea what the Chili Peppers are doing there, though, and without their cock-socks.
8. SUPER BOWL XXXVIII
Houston, TX — 2004
Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, Justin Timberlake
Miss Jackson’s nipple might’ve been the news of this halftime show, but that scandal has overshadowed the fact that this show tore it up. The Nelly-into-Kid Rock bit kills.
7. SUPER BOWL XXXIX
Jacksonville, FL — 2005
The pivot from youth-centric artists to “Dad Rock” started here, the year right after NippleGate. And who’s safer than Paul McCartney? The Beatle acquits himself more than admirably.
6. SUPER BOWL XL
Detroit, MI — 2006
The Rolling Stones
These guys have been touring for so long, they can show up in any arena and reflexively kick ass. Which they did.
5. SUPER BOWL XXXVI
New Orleans, LA — 2002
Bono and the gang understood that the Super Bowl right after 9/11 was a unique moment in time and they didn’t waste it, erecting a “monument” to those who fell during the attacks. Could’ve been gauche, turned out to be great.
4. SUPER BOWL XLIII
Tampa, FL — 2009
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Nothing surprising out of Bruce — just the best live band in the world turning television’s biggest stage into a juke joint.
3. SUPER BOWL XLVII
New Orleans, LA — 2013
Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child
Where Madonna’s halftime show seemed like an attempt to burnish her ass-groove on the pop throne, Queen Bey’s was designed to usurp it.
2. SUPER BOWL XXVII
Pasadena, CA — 1993
The King of Pop, at the height of his powers, transforming the halftime show into a major event that would never be the same.
1. SUPER BOWL XLI
Miami Gardens, FL — 2007
He didn’t give a shit about the rain, or the possibility that he might get electrocuted. Prince turned the halftime show into a church: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together to get through this thing called life.” Prince blazed through a jam for the ages, including classics and surprising covers — “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Baby I’m a Star,” “Proud Mary,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Best of You,” and “Purple Rain.” (Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins was as surprised as anyone that Prince covered one of their songs. As he told MTV back in the day: “I was watching the game at our producer Nick Raskulinecz’s house, and since he’s doing the new Rush album, all the guys from the band were there. I mean, I’m outside smoking a cigarette with [Rush drummer] Neil Peart and someone sticks their head outside and goes, ’Uh, dude, Prince is doing your song.’”)