Here we are once again on the verge of another Super Bowl. Over the years it seems that a lot of focus has been taken off the actual game being played, and a surprising number of people who aren’t even into football have begun to watch the event for other reasons. The first reason being people tend to tune in to big event games like the Super Bowl even if they don’t like the sport. The second reason is the fact that Super Bowl commercials have become an extremely huge deal. The cost of ad time during such a highly viewed event is unbelievable, costing advertisers around $4-5 million for a 30-second spot. The advertisers make these commercials count to make sure all those people are talking about their products the next day. The final reason people tune in for something other than football is the famous (or is it infamous?) Super Bowl halftime show.
The thing about the Super Bowl halftime show is its only really been a spectacle for the last 25 years. That’s just a little more than half of the total number of Super Bowls. Unfortunately, out of these big event halftime shows about half of them have been downright terrible. Embarrassing even. These bad shows weren’t just relegated to the early years of the NFL making the change to a big spectacle halftime show – it has been hit or miss well up into recent years. Let’s take a look at some of the worst Super Bowl halftime shows of all time!
12. Super Bowl XLVI – 2012: No Theme
The Players: Madonna, LMFAO, Cirque du Soleil, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Cee Lo Green, Andy Lewis, enough high school drumlines to fill a cruise ship, the Southern University Dancing Dolls, and a 200 person choir.
This whole thing was just a big pile of sad. A lot of people talked about this halftime show as if it might be some big come back for Madonna. In a way, it was supposed to be since her new album MDNA was to drop not long after the performance. There was definitely an emphasis on style over substance in this performance, as the whole thing (at least for Madonna’s part) totally lacked any kind of energy in both song and dance. The singer was even accused of lip syncing by a number of viewers and publications. The other performers simply provided support and performed their songs as part of a larger Madonna medley, as opposed to doing their own thing. Also, what on earth is that guy with the fake harp supposed to be doing?
Her album that followed was a commercial failure. Her producer blamed this on Madonna’s other commitments and the fact that the best songs written for the album ended up going to Chris Brown. It’s more likely that this halftime show gave people an early warning of what was to come.
11. Super Bowl XLV – 2011: No Theme
If they had given this performance a theme, it would have been What Were They Thinking?
First off, the outfits The Black Eyed Peas wore were some kind of weird bondage, sci-fi, football hybrid kind of things. What were they thinking!?
Second, The Black Eyed Peas took the opportunity to change the words in one of their songs to tell President Barrack Obama to create jobs and educate children. The whole thing just looked like a feeble attempt for Will.i.am to give the impression that he might know something about politics. Can’t we just let the Super Bowl be that one time a year when we don’t get on a soap box and generate divisiveness? What were they thinking!?
Finally, whoever decided that Fergie and Slash getting together to perform “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was a good idea needs to be tarred and feathered in a public square. What were they thinking!?
On top of everything mentioned, the whole thing was just a plain ol’ bad performance. What a mess!
10. Super Bowl XXXVIII – 2004: Rock the Vote
The performances here weren’t necessarily bad, the line-up is definitely a little scattered, but the point to a halftime show is to get as many people as pumped up about the second half as you can. Diversifying the genres was probably a smart move. You know what wasn’t a smart move? Deciding to have a part of your wardrobe ripped off to reveal your breast. On live television. At an event where most of America, including children, is obviously watching. You have to wonder how Janet or Justin didn’t realize that something could very obviously go wrong with this routine. The move and the resulting breast reveal killed Janet’s career, Justin struggled for a couple of years to get his back, and The Bush Administration wanted to come down hard on MTV for producing the event, because apparently there was nothing else for the American government to worry about.
9. Super Bowl XXXVII – 2003: No Theme
Okay, before we get started, No Doubt and Sting absolutely nailed their songs, as well as their collaborative version of “Message in a Bottle”. It was nothing short of absolutely amazing. There was, however, a very weak link that kicked off the halftime show: Shania Twain.
At about this time, Shania was really starting to see a dip in her popularity. It was a little strange they went with the performer since she wasn’t hugely popular at the time, nor had she been “gone” long enough to have this constitute as a comeback or some kind of attempt at nostalgia. She opened the show with an extremely weak rendition of her hit “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”. This was an odd choice considering she’s supposed to be getting people pumped for an event where two teams of large, muscular, sweaty, men engage in a full contact sport. You could literally feel the adrenaline rush from the first half subsiding once she began to perform. It’s no surprise that No Doubt and Sting didn’t invite Twain to the collaboration.
8. Super Bowl XXXV – 2001: The Kings of Rock and Pop
For whatever reason, it was decided that this year they should do a pre-recorded skit with a bunch of comedians to kick off the 2001 halftime show. It was extremely safe and desperately lacked humor. You could almost get the impression they just sort of threw the whole bit together at the last minute because the performances weren’t going to run long enough. It was…we’ll just say it was different.
The performances weren’t terrible, but the final collaboration where N*Sync and Aerosmith performed “Walk This Way” was a bit…busy. Nelly, Mary J. Blige, and Britney Spears all decided to come out and help perform the song when none of them had actually given their own performance. You were definitely left wondering what the point to all of it was. The only thing they succeeded in doing was under-utilize a performer like Mary J. Blige.
Also, what was with that name? The Kings of Rock and Pop? Aerosmith had stopped being a good rock band at least a decade prior and everyone knows the King of Pop is Michael Jackson!
7. Super Bowl XXXIV – 2000: Tapestry of Nations
This wasn’t a particularly bad halftime show. The problem here is the show had the potential to be so much better!
Phil Collins plays “Two Worlds” from Disney’s Tarzan instead of “In the Air Tonight”. Christina and Iglesias don’t perform any of their hits, but instead perform some goofy “Heal the World” inspired throw back called “Celebrate the Future Hand in Hand”. Turner performs “When the Heart Ache Is Over” instead of “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”. Even better, why didn’t she and Enrique do a duet of “River Deep – Mountain High”? Toni Braxton finishes things off with her performance of “We Go On”. You know, the biggest hit from her greatest hits release. Oh, wait a minute. “We Go On” isn’t even on her greatest hits release!
Every single performance was a completely missed opportunity.
6. Super Bowl XXXI – 1997: The Blues Brothers Bash
The Players: The Blues Brothers, ZZ Top, James Brown, and Catherine Crier
You would think that this would be extremely awesome. Then you forget that The Blues Brothers are a comedy routine and they’re not actually gifted musicians or singers. It was all commodity and the music suffered. James Brown nails it, but ZZ Top seemed to be trying their hardest to just phone one in and bore their audience to tears. It was very obviously a lip synced performance for their part.
In the end, everyone gets together for a final stage jam to “Gimme Some Lovin”. This could have been an opportunity to save the show but someone found it necessary to mic the constantly revving engines of a motorcycle parade going down on the field around the stage.
5. Super Bowl XXIX – 1995: Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye
This may actually be the single worst halftime show in the history of halftime shows. If it isn’t the worst, it is definitely the most bizarre. This isn’t even bizarre for a halftime show. This looks like the type of bizarre and irreverent comedy that airs late at night on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. It’s impossible to tell what anyone could have possibly been thinking. It looked like they had a thousand people all write down ten things they like on ten different scraps of paper, threw those ten thousand things in a hat, drew six of them, and put it all in a halftime show. The theme here was Indiana Jones and a stunt show inspired by the film went on through the whole thing. The last Indiana Jones film prior to this Superbowl predated the event by six years. Never mind the fact that they went with characters from the first Indiana Jones film.
The musical performers couldn’t have been more irrelevant at the time and none of them were on the verge of any kind of come back. They finish the whole thing with Bennett performing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from the Lion King. Nothing gets you pumped for a football game like love songs from a Disney animated feature.
4. Super Bowl XXVIII – 1994: Rockin’ Country Sunday
We can’t really say that any of these performances were particularly bad. The problem here is the whole thing was just so safe, boring, and totally lacked any kind of diversity in the performances. To just pick four country artists, three of whom were rather big at the time, and call your event Rockin’ Country Sunday, sounds like someone had a year to put together a halftime show but waited until the week before the event to start doing any work. The whole thing couldn’t have possibly been more phoned in.
In defense of the halftime show, the NFL had previously tried more pageantry and variety (with horrible results) that maybe they just wanted to tone it down this year. As you could see by the full-on bonkers show that followed in 1995, this type of vanilla halftime show wasn’t exactly the start of a trend.
3. Super Bowl XXVI – 1992: Winter Magic
There isn’t much to say about this one. It’s just bad. There is a lot bad choreography that suffers more by bad timing and poor execution. A couple Olympic Skaters performed inside of the mess. Gloria Estefan gave a performance that was unanimously deemed as terrible (though she would redeem herself in a future Super Bowl). The whole thing looked more like a children’s Christmas pageant rather than a performance that should keep people watching the biggest football game of the year. In fact, the sketch comedy series In Living Color aired a live episode against the halftime show that stole around 22 million viewers from the game. It’s said that this halftime show and the resulting loss in viewers is singularly responsible for the NFL’s decision to generally go with big name pop acts at halftime.
2. Super Bowl XXV – 1991: Small World
The Players: New Kids on the Block, Warren Moon, and a bunch of kids
The NFL hadn’t quite worked out all the kinks when attempting to make big spectacles out of the halftime show. Prior to this, the halftime show was more or less an excuse to use the bathroom and refill your drinks and snacks. It was an attempt to make things more exciting, but it was most definitely a failed attempt.
At the time, New Kids on the Block had a fan base that was built primarily out of preteen females. Perhaps the NFL was trying to bring in their weakest market? Who even knows what the logic was here? Prior to the New Kids performing, Disney and the NFL thought it would be a great idea to have nearly 2,000 local children perform “It’s A Small World After All”. You know, a song that is widely regarded as one of the most annoying songs of all time. Over 2,000 people on the field might have looked great from the nosebleed seats, but the whole thing just looked like a big cluster of junk on a 1990’s tube television set.
1. Super Bowl I – 1967: No Theme
The Players: University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band, Grambling State University Marching Band, Al Hirt, and the Arcadia High School Drill Team and Flag Girls
Yep. That’s it – A high school Drill Team, a high school Flag Squad, and a couple of marching bands. It was basically the same thing you would probably see at your local high school’s football game. At this time there weren’t really a lot of different networks, and two networks would broadcast the game simultaneously since one network had AFC rights and the other had NFC rights. You were either watching the game because you liked football or you weren’t watching the game because you didn’t. There wasn’t much of a need on the part of a network or the NFL to bring in viewers or deter them from changing the channel.
This painfully boring halftime show would be commonplace for just over twenty more years. With the advent of cable giving people other options, the Super Bowl had to fight for ratings just like everyone else. Without a big spectacle at halftime, it became easy for viewers to get distracted by something else on another channel.