February 26, 2024

Super Bowl halftime shows of 21st century, ranked


It’s weird to schedule a concert in the middle of a sporting event, but the NFL has delivered a musical component since the very first Super Bowl in 1967 when a couple of marching bands and a drill team entertained the crowd. Since then, everyone from Michael Jackson to Diana Ross have had the honor of playing on football’s biggest night. In the past couple of decades though, the halftime shows have gotten bigger and better. Well, sort of. Not every performance has been a winner, but which ones have scored major wins with audiences in recent years? It’s time to look at the Super Bowl halftime shows from the 21st century, ranked from fumble to touchdown!

 

The Rolling Stones

Lionel Hahn/Abaca Press/KRT

There aren’t a lot of artists doing it like The Rolling Stones once did, but to only perform three songs? Come on. They’re The Rolling Stones. They could have gotten anyone to make a guest appearance and pump up the show in a much-needed way.

 

Rihanna

Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

The most entertaining thing about Rihanna’s halftime performance was when she was on a pedestal high above the stadium. Other than that, it was pretty one-note with the red hues and lackluster energy. She could have at least gotten Spider-Man’s Tom Holland to do his rendition of “Umbrella.” Those who know, know. Those who don’t, please look up “Tom Holland + Umbrella.” You’re welcome.

 

Paul McCartney

MCT

Paul McCartney is undoubtedly an icon — a legend among men — but the halftime show should be hype, and that’s just not something the former Beatle delivers. If they had a performance element during a golf event? Heck. Yes. Football, though? Not so much.

 

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The Black Eyed Peas

The Black Eyed Peas

David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT/Sipa USA

The Black Eyed Peas were a mistake society collectively made in the 2000s. Are they an energetic bunch of performers? Of course, but even the addition of Usher and Slash couldn’t help this one rank higher than it does currently.

 

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Tapestry of Nations

Tapestry of Nations

Bill Steber / The Tennessean, Nashville Tennessean via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Disney produced the first Super Bowl halftime show of the 21st century and decided it was a time of celebration with the theme, Tapestry of Nations. This included a random assortment of performers: an 80-person choir to Phil Collins (hot off his Tarzan soundtrack), Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, and Toni Braxton. Again, random but also a lot of fun to watch it come together.

 

Maroon 5

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Maroon 5 was the “it” band for a good chunk of the early 2000s, but it took until 2019 for them to land at the Super Bowl. The best part was their Jagger-like moves, but Big Boi and Travis Scott really didn’t add much more.

 

Madonna

Sam Riche/MCT/Sipa USA

The biggest issue with Madonna and her performance was that she tried too hard to be “with it.” She was joined by LMFAO (why?), Nicki Minaj, and CeeLo Green — just to name a few. Madonna could have and should have just stepped out on her own like it was 1984.

 

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came through in 2008 with one of the more bare-bones halftime shows playing only a handful of songs; less than half the artist the year prior played. However, when you’re that good, less proves to be more.

 

Shania Twain & No Doubt

? MCT

Country and rock came together in 2003. Well, on paper. Shania did her two hits, then No Doubt did one of their biggest songs from the ‘90s, and then the Orange County darlings were joined by Sting. This halftime show had zero cohesion, but it was an adequate time.

 

The Who

Lionel Hahn/Abaca Press/MCT/Sipa USA

The coolest part of The Who’s halftime performance in 2010 was finally putting a face to the band behind CSI.

 

Shakira & Jennifer Lopez

Lionel Hahn/Abaca/Sipa USA

They didn’t need to share the headliner title. Jennifer Lopez could’ve held it down on her own so long as she did have the likes of Ricky Martin, Ja Rule, and Pitbull.

 

The Weeknd

Martha Asencio Rhine/Tampa Bay Times/TNS/Sipa USA

The Weeknd was a great choice for the halftime show in 2021. He had a lot of hits and included nine of them in his performance — all while unknowingly serving up one of the best GIFs to use when confused.

 

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Harry E. Walker/MCT/Sipa USA

Why make legends of music get out of the house for them to just do a few songs? All four were done well, and Bruce killed it alongside The Miami Horns, but if the NFL wants to continue to bring out the big dogs, it should have them do a little more.

 

Justin Timberlake

Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

The jury is still out on why he was invited back after 2004, but as far as his performance when he did return 14 years later? Almost a dozen hits packed quite the punch.

 

Bruno Mars

J. Patric Schneider/MCT/Sipa USA

Bruno Mars could do the halftime show every year, and no one would complain. He’s a true showman and showcased that playing not only several of his hits but also by being joined by Red Hot Chili Peppers for “Give It Away.”

 

U2

? MCT

U2 was tasked with performing at the Super Bowl a handful of months after 9/11. To add to that pressure, they were performing a tribute to those who lost their lives in the attacks. They did three songs, and while it was a short set, it was a moving one that still touches hearts years later.

 

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“Choose or Lose”

"Choose or Lose"

Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY NETWORK

Some years, the halftime show has a theme, and in 2004, it was “Choose or Lose” with Janet Jackson being the biggest name on the bill alongside P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, Jessica Simpson, and Justin Timberlake. It was all good up until the end, and then, well, everyone knows the drama Jackson had to deal with afterward. Performance, though? Top-notch.

 

Katy Perry

Anthony Behar

She came in riding a giant lion looking like a Flaming Hot Cheeto, and people knew this was going to be something, and it was. Left Shark, Lenny Kravitz, and Missy Elliot. Every aspect was on point.

 

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“The Kings of Rock and Pop”

"The Kings of Rock and Pop"

? Eileen Blass, Eileen Blass / USA TODAY NETWORK

Aerosmith knows how to do the dang thing on stage, but they shared the spotlight in 2001 with NSYNC, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly. Only five songs were sung, but they were five bangers that kept the energy going.

 

Beyoncé

Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/MCT/Sipa USA

Whenever Beyoncé is involved, people can expect the cream of the crop. In 2013, she did not disappoint. She did her best alone, but  she also brought out Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams for a Destiny’s Child reunion.

 

Lady Gaga

Frank Micelotta/FOX/PictureGroup

There are very few artists like Lady Gaga who can command a stage all on their own, but she did that. By her lonesome, armed with a barrage of dancers, she whipped that halftime show slot into shape with everything from a rendition of “God Bless America” to “Bad Romance.”

 

Usher

Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

In 2024, the Super Bowl was in Las Vegas, so it was only fitting to get someone who had the most dynamic residency on the Strip at the moment. With that, Usher took the stage and killed it. Not only was there roller-skating choreo, but H.E.R. on the guitar, Alicia Keys stunting like a red superhero, and Ludacris and Lil Jon. Tens across the board for U-S-H-E-R.

 

Coldplay

Anthony Behar

One time, Coldplay was named the headliner of the halftime show, and then Beyonce and Bruno Mars showed up and made it their show. It was glorious.

 

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Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, and Kendrick Lamar

Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, and Kendrick Lamar

? Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2022 Super Bowl being in Inglewood, California, it was only fitting to have artists who put West Coast rap on the map. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg made Southern California proud as could be and brought friends along for the ride to amplify the moment: Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar.

 

Prince

Lionel Hahn/Sipa USA

It’s going to take a heck of a lot for a modern-day performer to dethrone Prince.

Kendra Beltran went to college with no game plan and found herself falling back on her love of writing soon after graduating all the way back in 2009. Since then, she’s written for MTV Geek, Cosplay Central, Collider, Apartment Therapy, and many other sites that allowed her to showcase her love of all things pop culture. When she isn’t writing, Kendra is either hosting her show, Crushgasm, baking all the cookies, or spoiling her fur baby, Mason.





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