The 10 best Super Bowl halftime performances

'Blinding Lights' singer The Weeknd is headlining the halftime show at this year's sporting event

Roisin O'Connor
Monday 08 February 2021 01:57
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The Weeknd will become the first Canadian artist to perform a solo headline show at the Super Bowl, when he takes to the stage tonight (Sunday 7 February).

The "Blinding Lights" star has told viewers not to expect any special guests, as he has worked hard on creating a "story" for his halftime performance.

Fans will be wondering if he will appear as the bloodied and bruised character who stars in the music videos for his After Hours album, which was released last year.

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The singer, born Abel Tesfaye, follows a tradition of high-octane halftime shows from artists including Prince, Michael Jackson, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, and Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, who headlined last year in a joint performance.

Read more: Exploring The Weeknd's Hollywood obsession

Ahead of this year's Super Bowl, here are 10 of the all-time greatest half time shows.

10) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – 2008

Tom Petty headlined the Super Bowl halftime show in 2008

No frills, just good old-fashioned rock and roll. Tom Petty’s performance is often omitted from rankings of the best Super Bowl halftime shows, but we’re including it here because he absolutely crushed it. Kicking things off with “American Girl”, he followed it up with “Won’t Back Down”, “Full Moon Fever” and the emotional “Free Fallin’”, rounding off with a stirring rendition of “Runnin’ Down a Dream”.

9) U2 – 2002

U2 had the unenviable task of trying to raise everyone’s spirits just six months after the 9/11 attacks, but they did an admirable job, with performances of uplifting tracks like “Beautiful Day”.

8) Paul McCartney – 2005

McCartney preceded the pop stars trying to outdo one another with extravagant stage designs and lavish costumes. Instead, he offered four beautifully played songs, of which the final one, “Hey Jude”, prompted an epic singalong with the crowd at Jacksonville’s EverBank Field Stadium.

7) Madonna – 2012

One of the few to outdo Katy Perry’s 2015 entrance was Madonna, three years earlier, who appeared on a giant golden chariot led by about a hundred buff men dressed as Roman soldiers. She brought out Nicki Minaj and MIA for “Give Me All Your Luvin’” and also performed hits “Like a Prayer”, “Music” and “Express Yourself”.

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6) Katy Perry – 2015

Katy Perry performing at the 2015 Super Bowl

There are few entrances as grand as standing on top of a giant golden lion with glowing eyes. Katy Perry went all out for her halftime show in 2015 with performances of “Roar”, “Dark Horse”, “California Gurls”, “Firework” and “Teenage Dream”. And who can forget the notorious Left Shark and his poor coordination?

5) Bruce Springsteen – 2009

“Put the chicken fingers down and turn your television all the way up,” the Boss ordered. Springsteen’s 12-minute set started out with “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and also included “Born to Run”, “Glory Days” and “Working on a Dream”. Springsteen will make a cameo of sorts this year, as he stars in an advertising spot for Jeep.

4) Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake – 2004

Janet Jackson delivered a blistering, brilliantly choreographed show that ended with “Rock Your Body”. But the moment Justin Timberlake ripped away her costume, and exposed her breast for approximately half a second, overshadowed all of that. The incident, dubbed “nipplegate”, even inspired the creation of YouTube. Jackson was turned into a scapegoat for the ensuing controversy, while Timberlake didn’t receive anywhere near as much scrutiny.

3) Lady Gaga – 2017

One of the most outlandish halftime shows in recent memory, Lady Gaga began her performance by hurtling herself from the top of the stadium (attached to a harness, of course) – sparking a thousand memes. Once safely on the ground, she thrilled audiences with her biggest hits: “Poker Face”, “Born This Way”, “Telephone”, “Just Dance”, “Million Reasons” and “Bad Romance”.

2) Beyonce – 2013

Beyonce performing with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams at the 2013 Super Bowl

Beyonce basically ties with Prince for the greatest all-time Super Bowl performance. It was bold, it was fierce, it was virtually flawless. Bursting onto the stage with “Crazy in Love” after an a capella “Love on Top”, she threw down some of her best dance moves, before moving on to other hits including “End of Time” and “Baby Boy”. Lastly, there was a hysteria-inducing Destiny’s Child reunion with Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland – a performance so powerful, the lights at the stadium cut out when it ended.

1) Prince – 2007

The greatest. Of course, the Purple One wasn’t responsible for the rain that began to pour during his hair-raising 12-minute performance, which included covers of “We Will Rock You” and “All Along the Watchtower”. But the timing was so perfect, you wanted to believe he was. Following renditions of “1999/Baby I’m a Star”, Prince closed on “Purple Rain” in what has to be ranked among one of his greatest live performances of that song.

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