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Extraordinary Highs & Unpopular Lows of the Halftime Show

The Turf Writers run down their favorite and least favorite Super Bowl Halftime Shows, and who they would like to see take the stage next.

Extraordinary Highs & Unpopular Lows of the Halftime Show

Estimated Reading Time: 13 Minutes

Every year, Super Bowl Sunday is one of the most watched TV broadcasts of the year. This is only partially because of football. I’d be willing to wager just as many people tune in for the commercials, and more importantly, the Halftime Show. But not all Halftime Shows are created equal. So I reached out to our writer’s room to Weigh In on the mid game spectacle with a particular criteria in mind.

I asked for:

  • Favorite Halftime Show
  • Least Favorite Halftime Show
  • Who Would You Like To Have Seen In A Halftime Show & Who Would You Have Replaced?

Favorite Halftime Show

Jason Barash: 2001 – Aerosmith, Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Nelly, Mary J. Blige

I had to go back and watch some of the shows again, but the 2001 Super Bowl had all the songs that epitomized my childhood.  Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, NSYNC with all their hits, and Nelly comin’ in hot with his half Ravens, half Giants jersey rapping “EI” over “Walk this Way.” So much nostalgia, I can’t handle it. The Ben Stiller cameo at the beginning was also perfect for the era.

Terry Cudmore: 2017 – Lady Gaga

A big reason for my selection is it’s the only one I ever watched multiple times. This was the year the Patriots were getting spanked by the Falcons and I was just not in the mood. I watched this the first time in more of a daze than anything else. Then, after the game I watched it again and you know what, I really enjoyed it. I also liked her incorporating the football catch at the end quite a bit!

Kevin Michael Morin: 2015 – Katy Perry

My favorite halftime show has to be Katy Perry. Not because she was particularly stellar or anything, but because it was total anarchy on the 50-yard line. It introduced us to Left Shark, and she should be commended for that. I also was in a bar in Austin, Texas watching the Patriots play the Seahawks so the whole show was an EXPERIENCE for me.

Craig Kaufman: 1997 – Blues Brothers, ZZ Top, James Brown

My first memory of watching the Super Bowl is 1997 – Super Bowl XXXI between the Patriots and the Packers. It’s also my earliest memory of the Super Bowl Halftime Show, at a time when the show was a true celebration of a musical genre. That year, it was called “Blues Brothers Bash,” and the show began with a pre-taped segment on Fox News explaining that The Blues Brothers had broken out of Joliet Prison and were on their way to New Orleans.

The lineup included the Blues Brothers (Jim Belushi, John Goodman, Dan Aykroyd and their full band), James Brown, and ZZ Top, and then all of them together for a finale.

These halftime shows were produced like segments of an Olympic opening ceremonies. There were dancers everywhere – on the stage, on the ramps to the stage, and all over the field, rather than just a screaming throng of teenagers who are let loose and trample each other on the way to the stage. The entire field was part of the show, including when a gang of motorcycles escorted an antique car to midfield as a means of introducing ZZ Top.

Even 24 years later I remember the sight of James Brown rising up on a platform and singing “I Feel Good” from high above the stage. It was just 12 minutes of energy, and it was good old-fashioned wholesome entertainment with a trio of great acts.

Matt Branigan: 2007 – Prince

Easily my favorite halftime show. It was just so epic. Prince is fantastic to begin with, but he opens with a “We Will Rock You” riff? Amazing. Prince also gave us a few of his big hits, including the grand salami, of course, Purple Rain…in a freaking rainstorm. Prince shredding on his guitar and the Florida A&M band together created the best Super Bowl Halftime Show ever (at least in my opinion).

Justin Colombo: 2007 – Prince

Prince. It’s always been Prince. Simple show. Simple idea. And Prince Slays. Purple Rain IN THE RAIN, WITH A MARCHING BAND? Slays me every single time. If you didn’t understand the genius of Prince before this, I don’t think you understand how music works. Prince literally goes seamlessly from “Along the Watchtower” to “Best of You.” The Man is a Genius.

I’m also going to add Beyonce to this, and I know that means that I’ve chosen two, but she’s the queen and it’s rude to disrespect royalty that way.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm: 2007 – Prince

If there is a “what’s the best” question and Prince is one of the options, 9 times out of 10 the answer is Prince. I watch this Halftime Show at least once a year. And I also watch the incredible NFL Films mini-doc about this show once a year. It’s such a fantastic and iconic show that Justin Timberlake included a video tribute to it during his own Halftime Show. And Let’s Go Crazy is always and forever the best opening to any party, period. (A fact I made sure my wedding DJ was very aware of.)

Least Favorite Halftime Show

Jason Barash: 2010 – The Who

Most halftime shows I think are fine, some good, some ok but mostly fine.  The Who’s performance made me visibly angry.  It was just so boring, blah, milquetoast, whatever adjective you want and had no business being the halftime show at the Super Bowl.

Terry Cudmore: 2012 – Madonna

I was just very underwhelmed.

Also, this gentlemen haunts my dreams.

Kevin Michael Morin: 2002 – U2

U2 is the worst. They shouldn’t have been given a halftime show. U2 is trash. Get off my Apple Music, I don’t want you there.

Matt Branigan: 2011 – Black Eyed Peas

First off, this Super Bowl happened during a real tough time in my life, so already I wasn’t feeling it. But this show was just…awful. I understand there were technical issues with the audio, but even still, Black Eyed Peas did when you could hear them. Fergie absolutely butchered Sweet Child O’ Mine. I don’t even think Usher was singing, and if he was, you couldn’t hear anything. I was super confused about the audience on the field, I guess those weren’t fans at all, they were the damn backup dancers? And the whole running on and off the field act – not sure what that was. Then you had some of the dancers in the most bizarre outfits that looked like…I don’t even know – iPhone chargers? Easily my least-favorite halftime show. And to make matters worse, my team was in that Super Bowl and lost to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. So yeah, bad time in my life + awful halftime show + Steelers lost = My personal Worst Super Bowl experience ever.

Craig Kaufman: 2006 – Rolling Stones

I remember that after the “Nipplegate” incident of Super Bowl XXXVIII, they brought in new producers and had to go super safe with a string of old white rock bands that pretty much all were terrible. Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and The Who were among this group, but after reviewing the film, I think the worst was the 2006 performance of The Rolling Stones at Super Bowl XL.

Apparently, by the Stone’s demand, this is the only halftime show that featured live singing as opposed to lip syncing to piped in sound. At 65 years old, it’s hard to blame him, but Mick Jagger sounds out of breath and spends much of the show just strutting around the massive stage (largest ever assembled for the Super Bowl) shaking his hips.

All in all, it was just a boring halftime show. Three songs, no guests, no scene changes, no production value. And who decided “Rough Justice” should be the middle song? “Why not Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or “Brown Sugar” or change the tempo a little bit and do “Angie,” “Sympathy for the Devil”, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” or “Beast of Burden”?

The cameras also seem to have an unhealthy obsession with drummer Charlie Watts.

Justin Colombo: 2006 – Rolling Stones

This just felt easy. There wasn’t anything remotely inventive or fancy. Just felt like a “Here’s Mick Jagger for 10 minutes” kind of thing. Eh. Cool. Thanks, I guess?

Andrew Mark Wilhelm: 2006 – Rolling Stones

As has already been mentioned, this is just a bad performance. I like the Stones. Shine A Light is one of my favorite concert films. But this was extremely poorly planned. I get MTV had ruined everything a couple years earlier and this was a “safe choice,” but with the entire rich history of Detroit music and you choose an English band that has been on a 20+ year reunion tour? LAME. I know the NFL had recently done a Motown inspired show at this point, but it would’ve still been a far better choice.

Who Would You Like To Have Seen In A Halftime Show?

Jason Barash:

Ok I’m about to throw out my credentials here, but I’ve been a fan of the Weeknd since 2011 when I first heard “The Zone”.  I know we have a completely different Weeknd these days but I’m excited for his performance this year and this strange persona he’s developed.  He should have had a halftime performance YEARS ago!

Terry Cudmore:

Replace Madonna with Blink-182, and this is solely a choice for me and my personal interests.

But it would have worked as a nice 20th anniversary for the band and they definitely would have brought the energy level which is often missing from these shows.

Censors probably would have needed to be on the top of their game, but there likely wouldn’t have been any nudity. Well not any female nudity at least.

Kevin Michael Morin:

Dave Grohl is someone I’d love to see play a halftime show. Give me an evolution of your music, Dave. Move through playing every instrument. Scream for education. Be the hero you are. And help me wipe U2 from the history books.

Matt Branigan:

Instead of the Black Eyed Peas? I don’t know… anyone? Who could have done worse?

Ok, I’ll give you a better answer. The Rolling Stones for the 2005 Super Bowl was an odd choice. And listen, I love the Stones, but for the first Super Bowl (and still the only) to be held at Ford Field in Detroit, in 2006, how could you not go with Eminem? A Detroit native himself, during a time when he was actually relevant, would have been a great choice. And you could have paired him with several other people. I recall 50 Cent being popular at that time, he could have paired up with Eminem. Who knows, maybe they would have freestyled! (I’m only half-joking). Or maybe, bring out another Detroit Native – Jack White! That could have been fun. But, at least the Steelers won THAT Super Bowl.

Craig Kaufman:

There was a lot of talk that my favorite band, Dave Matthews Band, was going to play a halftime show at the Super Bowl. It was a popular pick in lists predicting future performers, and made sense with their global stardom at the time. I think they would have brought high energy, even while having to pare down the hallmark of their live shows, which was extended jams. They likely would have played “Grey Street”, “The Space Between” as their mid-show slow jam, and probably closed with “Ants Marching.”

Justin Colombo:

My initial thinking was give Travis Scott a halftime show. Don’t shoe horn him into Maroon 5’s set. But truly the only only correct answer here is the Foo Fighters. The fact that they haven’t already gotten a slot is WILD. ABSOLUTELY MENTAL. Give the Foo Fighters a Super Bowl Halftime Show. DO IT.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm:

There are many good choices here from my fellow writers (and I hope they all appreciate the videos I chose to accompany their picks. And like I said in my least favorite, I would’ve liked to have seen a Motown inspired show, specifically Stevie Wonder, in place of The Rolling Stones, but technically that HAS happened as part of the 1999 Super Bowl. So I’ll instead feature someone I consider to be one of the best lyricists we’ve ever seen, and whom I’m certain would deliver a Halftime Show that would rival the Purple One.

What are some of your favorite (or least favorite Super Bowl Halftime Shows? Who do you think should perform one soon? Let us know in the comments.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm is a professional Sound Engineer/Designer, and amateur photographer, writer, musician who recently relocated from California to Rochester, NY. Born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit has made Andrew an avid fan of all things Detroit but nothing more so than his beloved Detroit Tigers. Every year he tells himself he won't drink the Lions Kool-Aid, and every year winds up heartbroken come January. A Spartan by heart, and a Golden Grizzly by degree, you can catch his (almost) weekly Hot Takes every Hump Day here at The Turf.

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