Super Bowl Halftime Shows Ranked

For many around the country, unfortunately, the most exciting aspect of the wonderful yearly Super Bowl is not in fact the game, but the halftime performance! Sure, there have been years where this could’ve been acceptable (perhaps the 2013 Super Bowl between the Broncos and Seahawks or the 2019 Super Bowl between the Rams and the Patriots) because of the rather boring nature of the featured games, but for the most part, I’d say that’s a fairly juvenile take! Still, the Super Bowl Halftime shows typically provide stellar entertainment from many of our greatest and most prolific stars. After the strong 2023 performance from Rihanna, I decided to reflect back on the last 11 Super Bowl halftime performances as well as review and rank them.

Where will Rihanna’s 2023 halftime show fall on this list?

My criteria for what made a great Super Bowl halftime show as I made my determinations was based on a few qualities that included, but were not limited to:

-Setlist (quality and quantity of hits, music made to fill a packed stadium, smart transitions from song to song, placement of hits in the setlist)
-Stage presence, showmanship, and energy from the headliner and featured performers
-Vocal ability and musicality, as well as ability as a dancer (when applicable) of headliner and featured performers
-Production design, costuming, and ancillary performances from dancers and show participants being appropriate and memorable
-Cohesion when featuring multiple artists
-Cultural impact and how much of the performance is remembered by the general public
-A performance that matches the moment in time that it’s occurring only helps!

With that criteria in my mind, my ranking is as follows:

11. 2019 SUPER BOWL LIII Los Angeles Rams vs New England Patriots in Atlanta, GA (Maroon 5 featuring Travis Scott and Big Boi)

Not quite my tempo…

“Harder to Breathe” – Maroon 5
“This Love” – Maroon 5
“Sicko Mode” – Travis Scott
“Girls Like You” – Maroon 5
“She Will Be Loved” – Maroon 5
“Kryptonite (I’m On It)” – Big Boi
“The Way You Move” – Big Boi
“Sugar” – Maroon 5
“Moves Like Jagger” – Maroon 5

Highlights: “She Will Be Loved”, “Moves Like Jagger”
Lowlights: “Harder to Breathe”, “Sicko Mode”
Notable omissions: “Animals”, “Maps”, “Payphone”

Man… this one is rough, and for multiple reasons, too! As far as cohesion and matching the moment in time, this performance can only receive failing marks. Not only was it completely nonsensical for Maroon 5 to be the headliner for Super Bowl LIII (which occurred in Atlanta, one of, if not, the most notable region for hip-hop in the 2010s) but trying to blend Maroon 5 WITH Travis Scott (?) and Big Boi lacks cohesion in a way that will never again be matched on this list. For what it’s worth, by 2019, it was clearly a tad silly to not have the halftime show music and entertainment be mostly reflected by the majority of popular music (hip-hop). This show tries to correct that for the first time (unless we count Nicki Minaj making a very spot appearance in 2012 with Madonna and LMFAO and Cee Lo Green), but it does that in the most muddled and half-ass way of all time.

It’s great to feature Big Boi here! He’s an all-time Atlanta legend and a wonderful, underrated artist. However, Big Boi getting featured for under 100 seconds leaves me wondering if it was even worth bringing him out! What would’ve been truly stupendous would’ve been getting him and Andre 3000 back together to do an Outkast headline show in Atlanta (the region they’re one of the faces of) and get them doing all their hits, but Andre would’ve never gone for that, unfortunately. Also, Travis Scott… one of the most soulless, corporate hacks makes an appearance to do Sicko Mode (?) (without Drake), despite the fact that he is not from Atlanta and actually is a Houston representative. It’s all around bad and embarrassing for everybody involved.

Our country’s greatest grifter, Travis Scott (right), somehow grifted himself up onto the biggest yearly stage in America! Land of opportunity, baby!

Shockingly, Maroon 5 isn’t the worst part of this show. They’re not GOOD, but they’re pretty okay. They start off pretty rocky (they didn’t perform “Animals”, but probably should’ve opened with that), but they pick it up as they go. Adam Levine starts out a bit lifelessly and low energy but by the end of the show, he fares a bit better, though he’s never quite strong. His voice is alright, at least. Again, my pick would’ve never been featuring Maroon 5 as the headliner, but if you’re going to have Maroon 5 headline, actually commit to them! Instead, with the way this show was structured, you get a real middle-of-the-road event: It isn’t hip-hop and honoring Atlanta and the culture, but it also isn’t a cohesive Maroon 5 performance. It’s also the only show on this list that features no dance element. A truly tough and incredibly forgettable show.


10. 2018 SUPER BOWL LII New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis, MN (Justin Timberlake featuring The Tennessee Kids)

A moment from one of the highlights of the Halftime show, “Mirrors”

“Filthy” – Justin Timberlake
“Rock Your Body” – Justin Timberlake
“Señorita” – Justin Timberlake
“SexyBack” – Justin Timberlake
“My Love” – Justin Timberlake
“Cry Me a River” – Justin Timberlake
“Suit & Tie” – Justin Timberlake
“Until the End of Time” – Justin Timberlake
“I Would Die 4 U” – Justin Timberlake
“Mirrors” – Justin Timberlake
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Justin Timberlake

Highlights: “Mirrors”, “Suit & Tie”
Lowlights: “Filthy”, “SexyBack”
Notable omissions: “Bye Bye Bye”

This show was better than I remembered, which isn’t saying much… because it isn’t that good! However, I remembered it being wretched, and originally thought it was the worst show from the last 11 years, but thankfully, Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids were fine enough to come in at number 10!

For this one, the show starts off disastrously, featuring Justin Timberlake in a dimly lit and tightly packed club environment underneath the main performance space in the stadium, performing “Filthy” and “Rock Your Body”, neither of which are good, both visually and vocally! Once he emerges from the club environment and gets in the actual stadium, where most of the performance takes place, the show drastically improves, though never truly becomes great.

One of the low points of the set is “SexyBack”, which isn’t even done THAT terribly but just feels so wrong and so off. Timberlake is a very talented performer and showman, legitimately. He’s got a great voice and can really move his feet. But his big opportunity to be a Super Bowl Halftime Show headliner feels like it came about seven years too late. Watching Timberlake perform “SexyBack” at an age where he looks old and withered feels embarrassing and frankly, at times, a bit sad. It doesn’t work.

However, the back half of the show is pretty solid, overall, especially “Suit & Tie”, which is one of Timberlake’s best songs overall and gets him a bit looser and more vocally free. “Mirrors”, another highlight, has some gorgeous production design and sounds excellent, too! And the finale of “Can’t Stop the Feeling” is good fun! Even if the song is (and especially at the time, was) played to death, it’s a good crowd pleaser and got the audience really in it. Justin was much livelier than any part of the Maroon 5 performance and was dancing, quite well, for most of the show, so he needs to be commended for that, too. The Prince tribute felt a little strange, even with the show happening in Minnesota, just because Prince probably deserves a tribute from an artist of perhaps a bit higher caliber, but Prince is also a legend so it’s not that big of a deal, I suppose.


His costuming was horrific, too. Disastrous! It’s very unfortunate they enlisted Justin right after he released his boorish and career-worst album MAN OF THE WOODS. Instead of donning a tuxedo and bowtie, he’s dressed like a frat brother getting ready to attend an Alpha Delta Pi Mallard Ball event, or like a resident of Hudson, Florida, preparing to decimate a family of elk! Perturbing fit!


9. 2015 SUPER BOWL XLIX New England Patriots vs Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, AZ (Katy Perry featuring Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott)

Probably the goofiest opening bit from any of these shows and Katy’s costumer should be tried at the Hague

“Roar” – Katy Perry
“Dark Horse” – Katy Perry
“I Kissed a Girl” – Katy Perry (featuring Lenny Kravitz)
“Teenage Dream” – Katy Perry
“California Gurls” – Katy Perry
“Get Ur Freak On” / ”Work It” – Missy Elliott
“Lose Control” – Missy Elliott
“Firework” – Katy Perry

Highlights: “Teenage Dream”, “Firework”
Lowlights: “Roar”
Notable omissions: “Hot N Cold”, “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”, “E.T.”, “The One That Got Away”

This is an underrated show, honestly, despite it clocking in at number nine here. From here on out, I’m pretty happy with every show on the list! Now, Katy is not the most effortless performer ever, which, frankly, I don’t always mind! There are two types of (good) performers: Performers who are so effortless and cool and make everything look easy, which is always impressive, and then performers who you can see working. I don’t LOVE seeing an artist working, but when I see an artist working, I want to see the work paying off and them being justly rewarded for their efforts. Nothing is tougher than seeing somebody working and failing to come through. Thankfully, despite her maybe working a BIT too hard at times, Katy’s hard work mostly proves to be worth it here!

Now, she opens with “Roar”, riding in on a giant animatronic lion in a ridiculous dress of flames. It’s a terrible costume that’s mostly distracting (she will thankfully change it as the show carries on) and her hair is styled with a slicked back tight ponytail, which unfortunately, is not the look that most suits her. “Roar” is hilariously silly and impossible to take seriously, but Katy is so committed and hellbent on looking commanding that I almost have to tip my cap to her.

Once she gets into her TEENAGE DREAM music, the show really takes off. “I Kissed a Girl” with Lenny Kravitz on guitar is mostly good, though Lenny’s inclusion doesn’t really feel needed. “Teenage Dream”, maybe Katy’s greatest song ever, coincides with a costume change and production design into a more summer-y, beach themed dress and scenery and it is greatly appreciated. It’s a big goofy and earnest, but charming enough and completely good fun! It works, and Katy sounds quite excellent. She does bring Missy Elliott to perform a couple of tracks and while I love Missy, it really doesn’t make sense to bring her in here. It sort of throws off the entire cohesion of the set and it would be one thing if Katy and Missy made music together ever or had similar music stylistically, but they don’t, so I’d call Missy’s inclusion a bit of a misstep overall.

Much better costuming here, even if the tight ponytail DOESN’T work. But this segment of the show is truly a lot of fun!

Katy concludes with “Firework”, which she does pretty exceptionally and really ends the show on a high note, featuring plenty of fireworks going off before the return to the game. It’s a good set, even if it’s perhaps a tad overrated overall. Good work for the most part and few complaints, outside of costuming and hair for Katy and maybe she should’ve performed a couple of her other big hits (“Hot N Cold” or “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”) instead of the Missy inclusion.


8. 2016 SUPER BOWL 50 Carolina Panthers vs Denver Broncos in Santa Clara, CA (Coldplay featuring Bruno Mars and Beyoncé)

Fondly remembering when Carl Nassib came out as gay and everywhere the NFL official accounts posted “Fooball is gay!”

“Yellow” – Coldplay
“Viva La Vida” – Coldplay
“Paradise” – Coldplay
“Adventure of a Lifetime” – Coldplay
“Uptown Funk” – Bruno Mars
“Formation” – Beyoncé
“Fix You” / “Up&Up” – Coldplay (featuring Beyoncé and Bruno Mars)

Highlights: “Uptown Funk”, “Formation”, “Viva La Vida”
Lowlights: “Adventure of a Lifetime”, “Paradise”
Notable omissions: “Partition”, “7/11”

In my head, this show was better! Again, it isn’t bad, per se, but I have such a fond memory of Bruno Mars and Beyoncé being so incredible that it has always painted an incorrect idea of the overall quality of the show in my head. For what it’s worth, those two are PHENOMANAL here and truly both deliver showstopping moments, but the actual issue here is that Coldplay is the headliner and the environment is just a tad too big for them, despite being a decent enough group.

Unlike all of the previous entries that come before this one, Coldplay opens relatively strong with “Yellow” and an impressive “Viva La Vida” before things start to go downhill. “Paradise” is fairly weak and it’s followed by “Adventure of a Lifetime”, which is particularly lackluster. Chris Martin’s vocals, as a whole, are just a bit too thin for a lot of the show to really bring the power needed for a huge stadium performance with 70,000 people screaming their heads off.

Thankfully, Bruno comes roaring in with “Uptown Funk”, saving the show as he steals it. It’s an excellent performance, reminiscent of the strong work he did in 2014 as the Super Bowl headliner. This is followed by Beyoncé appearing and giving an incredible performance of “Formation”, one of the stronger songs on one of her more overrated (though, good) albums, LEMONADE. I would’ve loved to have seen her perform “Partition” or even “7/11” (my favorite song of hers), but “Formation” was still an obvious highlight here and thankfully helped to save the show.

Eternally grateful for the contributions of Beyoncé and Bruno Mars here

The performance concludes with Bruno, Beyoncé, and Coldplay joining forces to perform “Fix You” / “Up&Up”, which is fine and acceptable as a closer. It’s a solid show, but it could’ve been an all-timer if it was just a duo show between Bruno and Beyoncé, as opposed to letting Coldplay headline AND be the weakest aspect of the show. Overall, a good show that could’ve been great but still manages to remain quite memorable because of some excellent cameo performances!


7. 2020 SUPER BOWL LIV Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Miami Gardens, FL (Shakira and Jennifer Lopez featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin)

Shakira (left) and Jennifer Lopez (right) looking absurdly great!!!

“She Wolf” – Shakira
“Empire” – Shakira
“Ojos Así” – Shakira
“Whenever, Wherever” – Shakira
“I Like It” – Shakira featuring Bad Bunny
“Chantaje” – Shakira featuring Bad Bunny
“Hips Don’t Lie” – Shakira
“Jenny From the Block” – Jennifer Lopez
“Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix)” – Jennifer Lopez
“Get Right” – Jennifer Lopez
“Waiting for Tonight” – Jennifer Lopez
“Que Calor” / “Mi Gente” – Jennifer Lopez featuring J Balvin
“On the Floor” – Jennifer Lopez
“Let’s Get Loud” – Jennifer Lopez and Shakira
“Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” – Jennifer Lopez and Shakira

Highlights: “Get Right”, “Chantaje”, “Que Calor” / “Mi Gente”
Lowlights: “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)” (not because it is bad, but shouldn’t have been the closer)
Notable omissions: “Can’t Remember to Forget You”

This would be my sleeper pick for the most underrated show of the 11 shows here! This is certainly the sexiest of any of the halftime shows (with only Beyoncé and Rihanna presenting any competition), filled with fiery and bombastic dancing from two of our most tantalizing performers. Referring back to the Katy Perry write-up and the idea of artists showing their audiences their “work”, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez couldn’t be more opposite.

Shakira is undeniably effortless, moving with a swiftness and grace at every moment, appearing to never break a sweat and looking otherworldly the entire time. Lopez, on the other hand, you can visibly observe her WORKING. She is putting in a major effort and actively having to exert every ounce of energy she has. Both of them deliver excellent performances, despite their differences in approach. To call Lopez a popstar would be incorrect, I think. She’s one of our most notable celebrities, but I’m not sure 20 years from now we will remember Lopez as a “popstar”. Regardless, she delivers an evocative and dynamic set of numbers, even collabing with J Balvin at one point on “Que calor” / “Mi Gente”, which is one of the many highlights of the show.

Shakira’s performance as a whole is probably the slightly more effective of the two, but she’s also the more seasoned performer. Her work with Bad Bunny is also exceptional (he’s a superstar and this should’ve really been the cue for everybody that he was about to blow up). If I would have any criticisms of Shakira’s side of the show, I would say it’s a tad disappointing that for the first half of “Hips Don’t Lie”, she’s being passed around by the audience as opposed to showing off how her hips don’t, in fact, lie. By the conclusion of the number, she is dancing with the full ensemble, but it almost feels like a missed moment, given that it’s easily the most iconic song of the entire setlist.

In the words of our great Stephen A. Smith, “I mean, my GOODNESS!”

I also probably wouldn’t have closed the show with “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa). It isn’t performed badly, but also probably doesn’t really work as the finale (it probably should’ve been “Let’s Get Loud”?). Also, both stars are so blisteringly bright that there almost isn’t enough stage for either of them, yet I also don’t know that either of them could’ve just carried an entire show themselves. There is a clear and obvious cohesion to the set (the NFL found all of the most notable Hispanic performers that most Americans could identify), which works quite well, but per usual, I find the sets headlined by one sole artist with a set designed entirely with their discography in mind to typically be stronger. Still, the costuming is excellent, the dancing is incredible, the music is strong, and the women are beautiful. It’s a pretty sublime set for the most part.


6. 2022 SUPER BOWL LVI Cincinnati Bengals vs Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood, CA (Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem featuring 50 Cent and Anderson .Paak)

Watching these two do this in Los Angeles was genuinely terrific

“The Next Episode” – Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg
“California Love” – Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg
“In Da Club” – 50 Cent
“Family Affair” – Mary J. Blige
“No More Drama” – Mary J. Blige
“M.A.A.D City” – Kendrick Lamar
“Alright” – Kendrick Lamar
“Forgot About Dre” – Eminem and Kendrick Lamar
“Lose Yourself” – Eminem
“Still D.R.E.” – Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent featuring Anderson .Paak on the drums

Highlights: “The Next Episode”, “Still D.R.E.”, “California Love”
Lowlights: “In Da Club”, “Family Affair” (neither are bad, per se, but not to the same level as the rest of the show)
Notable omissions: Given that there were five headliners, nothing was omitted that should’ve been performed, probably

From this point on, I’d say the remaining shows are all quite excellent and worthy of immense praise. This show was special, given the performers, the location, and the team playing in the game. The NFL lucked out having the Super Bowl take place in Los Angeles with the Los Angeles Rams playing in the big game featuring many of the biggest artists to ever come out of SoCal.

This show features Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem, and truth be told, everybody is mostly on top of their game. For starters, Snoop and Dre are particularly great playing some of their greatest hits. Snoop genuinely appears like the coolest guy in the entire world, slinking through some of his most iconic verses with an effortless swagger that only he possesses. Dre is commanding and steady, bouncing off of and being the perfect “yin” to Snoop’s “yang”.

50 comes in next doing “In Da Club” and while he is mostly effective, he appears a tad out of breath by the end and starts out upside down on the ceiling, which is certainly a bit goofy. Mary J. Blige gets two numbers, coming with imperfect results. Her first song, “Family Affair”, is okay, but the performance also requires Blige to split her energy between challenging choreography and singing difficult music and at her age, she doesn’t QUITE have the chops to still pull it off perfectly. When she gets to slow down and perform “No More Drama”, she really nails it. 50 and Blige being satisfactory but not as great as some might have expected did make me a bit sad, though. These artists are musical legends and should not have had to wait until they were past their primes to get a huge moment like this and if they had gotten the moment maybe a decade earlier, they might’ve truly blown everybody away.

Eminem (left front), Kendrick Lamar (left back), Dr. Dre (center), Mary J Blige (right center front), 50 Cent (right back), Snoop (right front) all together. A true collection of stars!

Kendrick and Eminem come next and they both mostly nail it. Kendrick is an elite showman and always brings an interesting visual quality to his live performance events and Eminem performs “Lose Yourself”, which, no matter what anybody will ever try to say about Eminem now, is an excellent song and a great Super Bowl (or any sport, for that matter) song.

As a whole, the production design is cohesive and clever, and the dancing, though mostly minimal, is certainly clean and effective. This show happening in Los Angeles with a Los Angeles team playing really does feel like a cool and important moment, though. However, the fact that there are five headliners does make it feel a bit muddled in the cohesion of the overall show and none of the headliners providing a dance element does cap the ceiling for this one a bit. Overall, excellent, but not strong enough to surpass the following five acts!


5. 2014 SUPER BOWL XLVIII Denver Broncos vs Seattle Seahawks in East Rutherford, NJ (Bruno Mars featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers and a children’s choir)

Incredible levels of swagger from this one

“Billionaire” – Children’s choir
“Locked Out of Heaven” – Bruno Mars
“Treasure” – Bruno Mars
“Runaway Baby” – Bruno Mars
“Give It Away” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Just the Way You Are” – Bruno Mars

Highlights: “Locked Out of Heaven”, “Treasure”, “Just the Way You Are”
Lowlights: “Give It Away”
Notable omissions: “Grenade”, unfortunately half of his greatest hits because this performance came in 2014

For the longest time since I could remember, before I began working on this, this had always been my favorite Super Bowl halftime show. Bruno starts the show with a choir singing “Billionaire” before he descends, banging out an impressive drum solo before jumping up and performing two of his finest songs ever (“Locked Out of Heaven” and “Treasure”). Upon reflection, though it is still an excellent set, there may be a few stronger ones, mostly because the Red Hot Chili Peppers hijack the show for maybe 1/3 of the set (only to perform one song) and because Bruno was so early in his career that he just didn’t have a deep enough catalogue to justify being the headliner.

This set comes in 2014, long before he added the likes of “Uptown Funk”, “24K Magic”, “That’s What I Like”, “Chunky”, “Finesse” and all of his Silk Sonic work. If Bruno performed for the Super Bowl halftime show now, the set looks MUCH different and the show as a whole is probably better. Still, despite the limited number of songs performed (of all the shows, this has the smallest setlist, clocking in at five full songs and one quarter of a song sung by a choir), Bruno really makes the most of his time onstage, electrifying the crowd and giving a really sleek and easy-breezy performance that oozes with charm and swagger. The Chili Peppers make an appearance and though they aren’t even bad, they just don’t fit in with the rest of the show and would have been better off omitted. Bruno closes out with a piano rendition of “Just the Way You Are”, which sounds terrific.

Bruno making the most of his short setlist!

Mars is a masterful vocalist and, overall, musician so it is no surprise much of what he does works extraordinarily well. The costuming is smart and simple but appropriately classy, and the dancing from Bruno and his team is also impeccable, invoking James Brown and artists of that caliber. It’s a great and memorable show, albeit a little thin as far as sets go.


4. 2023 SUPER BOWL LVII Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles in Glendale, AZ (Rihanna)

It isn’t recency bias!! The Rihanna set was incredible!

“Bitch Better Have My Money” – Rihanna
“Where Have You Been” / “Only Girl (In the World)” – Rihanna
“We Found Love” – Rihanna
“Rude Boy” – Rihanna
“Work” – Rihanna
“Wild Thoughts” – Rihanna
“Pour It Up” – Rihanna
“All of the Lights” – Rihanna
“Run This Town” – Rihanna
“Umbrella” – Rihanna
“Diamonds” – Rihanna

Highlights: “Work”, “Diamonds”, “Pour It Up”
Lowlights: N/A, “Bitch Better Have My Money” is probably the weakest part of the set
Notable omissions: “Disturbia”, “SOS”, “Don’t Stop the Music”, “Needed Me”, “Love On the Brain”

From here on out, I would be okay with any of the top four headliner performances being picked as the finest of the past 11. They’re all incredible and for various reasons, too. Perhaps this is a prisoner of the moment take, but I found the Rihanna performance to be nearly perfect!

Rihanna is one of our finest pop artists of this century. For my money, she released the best album of the last decade (2016’s ANTI) and she could take any artist from her era in a Verzuz matchup. Despite having not released new music in essentially seven years, she has one of the deepest catalogues of hits at her disposal, to the point that she neglected some of her best songs ever because she simply didn’t have enough room to fit them in (she did find time to interpolate little moments from “Kiss It Better”, “S&M”, “Numb”, “Pose”, and “Birthday Cake”, to be fair).

I really have no complaints about the set, outside of perhaps the start of the show being just a TAD bit tepid, opening with a censored version of “Bitch Better Have My Money”. I love the song, for what it’s worth, but opening with a song that you have to censor on repeat over and over again isn’t nearly as strong as perhaps a few other options. I also wish we got to hear “Disturbia” or “Needed Me” badly, but when she was giving us performances of “Pour It Up” (her underrated gem) and “Where Have You Been”, how can I really complain?

Rihanna ascending with these lights as she performed “Diamonds” as her closer was one of the more memorable images from any of the halftime shows of the past 11 years. Beautiful stuff!

Rihanna gave a true superstar performance. The dancing was light from Ri (it was revealed that she was quite pregnant during the performance), but she handles all of the movement effectively, displaying next-to-no effort and looking stunning all while doing it, glowing and radiating with confidence, even going as far giving playful winks to the camera. She appeared in total control of her faculties, never having to do too much because she knew nobody could look anywhere else. Her being the only artist performing helped to really focus and center her performance and provide it with clear cohesion, too.

She knocked “Work” out of the park (even though she didn’t bring Drake out for it, which would’ve broken the internet but was never going to happen) and she closed with an ethereal performance of her finest songs, one that I didn’t appreciate at the time because it became so overplayed but is truly exceptional, “Diamonds”. She shone as bright as anybody that night, elevating up and looking angelic as she concluded her excellent set, comfortably one of the finest of the last decade.


3. 2017 SUPER BOWL LI Atlanta Falcons vs New England Patriots in Houston, TX (Lady Gaga)

Incredible show and probably the strongest ensemble featured in any of these shows!

“God Bless America” / “This Land Is Your Land” – Lady Gaga
“Poker Face” – Lady Gaga
“Born This Way” – Lady Gaga
“Telephone” – Lady Gaga
“Just Dance” – Lady Gaga
“Million Reasons” – Lady Gaga
“Bad Romance” – Lady Gaga

Highlights: “Bad Romance”, “Born This Way”
Lowlights: N/A but if something had to be chosen the “God Bless America” / “This Land is Your Land” is so goofy
Notable omissions: “Love Game”, “Applause” “The Edge of Glory” (though she sings one line of it)

I didn’t appreciate the Gaga performance how I should’ve when I watched it originally, which is shocking because I was surrounded by 40 loud and buzzing performing arts majors, which feels like the perfect setting to enjoy Gaga. Still, upon reflection this is a set that works on just about every single level.

Gaga opens up singing “God Bless America” / “This Land is Your Land” before shrugging and jumping from the top of the stadium attached by a bungee cable to descend to the stage. It’s about as goofy and campy as anything that’s happened at a Super Bowl show in the last 11 years, but it’s genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.

The rest of the show, Gaga tears through all of her greatest hits, costumed excellently with a wonderful and gifted ensemble of dancers and performers behind her. “Born This Way” is performed masterfully but truly, she doesn’t miss on any number. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is one of our greatest and most committed pop acts ever and she brings that showmanship and commitment to this inspired performance. This is an example of somebody we see working WORKING to perform, pouring her blood, sweat, and tears out on the stage and we are lucky for it. She’s a beautiful woman, of course, but the performance and how into it she gets is always unnerving and unapologetic to the degree it almost appears repulsive and unflattering, but it also makes her work deeply compelling.

This goofy little football jersey crop top outfit is CAMP!

“Bad Romance” as the closing number is a true mic drop moment. It’s a perfect capstone to one of the most memorable and impressively performed Super Bowl Halftime shows ever. There isn’t really anything that could be done to improve upon this set all that much. Gaga has an incredible connection with her devoted and ravenous fans, providing excellent crowd work as she played the hits. I wouldn’t have minded hearing “Love Game” or opening with “Applause” (frankly, a longer set would have been awesome), but as a whole, it’s about as close to flawless as a set can get. Kudos!


2. 2021 SUPER BOWL LV Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, FL (The Weeknd)

The ingenuity and creativity of this halftime show sets it apart from the others!

“Call Out My Name” – The Weeknd
“Starboy” – The Weeknd
“The Hills” – The Weeknd
“Can’t Feel My Face” – The Weeknd
“I Feel It Coming” – The Weeknd
“Save Your Tears” – The Weeknd
“Earned It” – The Weeknd
“House of Balloons” – The Weeknd
“Blinding lights” – The Weeknd

Highlights: “Blinding Lights”, “I Feel It Coming”
Lowlights: N/A but “Call Out My Name” is insane as an opener
Notable omissions: “Tell Your Friends”, “True Colors”, “Die For You”, “The Morning”, “Acquainted”, “Often”

I think many would consider this placement to be controversial and frankly, incorrect, but I would say they are wrong! The Weeknd, the Canadian guy who came out making HOUSE OF BALLOONS and coked-out, seedy club music found himself headlining the biggest show in the world in the midst of a global pandemic and for my money, he excelled in almost every single way.

I think there has to be something made of the fact that the set-up required to make this show go smoothly required an unprecedented approach to the show, both to ensure the safety of those involved with the performance and also fans of the show. Prior to this point, every Super Bowl show had an active and lively crowd of fans around watching in close proximity, often involved in some way with props or subtle crowd choreography. After this show, which features no fans, the following shows mostly also are fan-less (Rihanna’s show featured none and the Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg show had very few). I think there is something missed in these later shows without the crowd and energy to feed off of, but I think the Weeknd navigates and handles it exceptionally well, which should be commended.

Opening the show with a weirdly heavenly/demonic blend of “Call Out My Name” in four-part choral harmonies is so bizarre and hilarious that I kind of just have to respect it and then Abel busts into his set of hits (which, boy, does he have a lot in such a short time) and he sounds pretty impeccable, as he always does. You can really feel the moment here. This was for most, essentially the first musical performance in almost a full year due to the pandemic and I think saying that Abel was deeply impressive would be underselling it. “I Feel It Coming” is performed quite well, but really, there isn’t anything that isn’t performed well. The “I Can’t Feel My Face” in a house of mirrors with masked dancers is so strange and was memed to death, but it really works and is also unlike anything we had ever seen out of a Super Bowl Halftime show before. It’s incredible that Abel manages to get away with singing a song about doing so much blow that your face goes numb on TV for over 100 million people to see, too. I think the uniqueness and overall concept of the show makes it a remarkably memorable and a wonderful standout.

Truly incredible superstar-type-of-shot to conclude the show. Excellent performance!

And to conclude with “Blinding Lights” feels like maybe the greatest moment of any Super Bowl Halftime show from the last decade. The song (and TikTok dance) was ubiquitous and inescapable from 2020-2021 (understandably so, because it is one of Abel’s finest songs ever, easily) so when it finally started, it felt genuinely dramatic and deeply exciting. The build up to that moment and all the dancers running around was well worth the wait and Abel, like always, gave us vocals that soared out of this stratosphere. And the camera zooming in on him with all the fireworks in the back just feels like true superstar stuff. It’s an incredible performance and honestly, one that should be talked about more. It’s near flawless. I do wish he could’ve found a way to sneak in a performance of “The Morning” (his best song), but everything else works so well that I can let it slide.


1. 2013 SUPER BOWL XLVII Baltimore Ravens vs San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, LA (Beyoncé featuring Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child)

Hard to top this set. Perfect in just about every conceivable way!

“Love On Top” – Beyoncé
“Crazy in Love” – Beyoncé
“End of Time” – Beyoncé
“Baby Boy” – Beyoncé
“Bootylicious” – Destiny’s Child
“Independent Women Part I” – Destiny’s Child
“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It” – Beyoncé (featuring Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams)

Highlights: “Crazy In Love”, “Halo”
Lowlights: There are none, but the set is at its weakest with Destiny’s Child, probably
Notable omissions: “Run the World (Girls)”, all of SELF-TITLED because it hadn’t been released yet

Earlier, while talking about Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, I maybe erroneously named that the sexiest Super Bowl Halftime show… I think it actually might be this one, truly. Beyoncé… good lord! What a woman, what a powerhouse, both as far as her vocals, her dancing, and her looks go! She just has it all and this Super Bowl Halftime show is about as good as any show has ever been. It is essentially picture perfect, stunning from the opening number to the final moments.

There are no complaints here, other than the fact that Beyoncé would go on to release her masterwork SELF-TITLED album later on in the year, thus robbing us of seeing “Partition”, “7/11”, and “Drunk In Love” during this show. But still, I cannot hold that against her when judging this show and she still has more than enough hits to fill up a suitable setlist.

One of our greatest stars ever!

In particular, the opening with “Love On Top” into “Crazy In Love” is just dynamite, the latter being one of the sexiest numbers in the history of the Super Bowl halftime show. Beyoncé looks and sounds otherworldly, completely in command of the stage and the stadium. Destiny’s Child comes out and joins her for a few numbers. None of the performances with the trio are weak at all. In fact, they’re incredible and it is wonderful seeing Kelly and Michelle up there with Beyoncé sharing the moment, though I wouldn’t have minded the entire show just being purely Beyoncé because she is that strong and dynamic.

She closes with “Halo”, which up to that point, may have been her greatest song (it would a few months later become “Partition”) but she legitimately brings the house down with her vocals and delivers a transcendental performance, connecting with the crowd in the way only a true icon and superstar can. She leaves it all out there, and, thankfully, delivers the greatest Super Bowl Halftime performance of the last 11 years.


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