Superbowl XLVII is only days away, and with it it’s famous halftime show.1 The most-watched (single-day) sporting event of the year has a great history of performers. This year, Beyoncé will start her comeback on the stage of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. She’ll be joining a list of legendary artists, such as Prince, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. In recent years we’ve been treated with some very good shows during halftime of the Superbowl, but it wasn’t always like that. So let’s take a look at the evolution of these halftime shows.
From Mickey Mouse to Michael Jackson
In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s the halftime show almost always existed out of two things: 1) a theme and 2) a marching band. What they didn’t have were known artists, let alone superstars like Madonna. Somewhere along the way, some genius said “let’s invite a pop star to perform instead of these marching bands”. Of course, a big change like that doesn’t happen overnight, but 1991 brought two major changes: a famous pop group2 was scheduled to perform and, maybe even more important, sponsors were paying for it. One of these sponsors was Walt Disney World, and yes, there were Disney characters involved:
How amazing is that? Not amazing at all? Okay, let’s move on.
The next year, Gloria Estefan and a bunch of Olympic skaters put on a show (as a tribute to the 1992 Winter Olympics), but in retrospect you could say it was the calm before the storm. Where audience ratings dropped ten points when Estefan performed, the King of Pop managed to turn this around and even increase the ratings. Michael Jackson performed five songs (Jam, Billie Jean, We are the World, Heal the World and Black or White) and his show was the start of the halftime shows as we know today.3 It actually still is one of the most-watched television broadcasts in the USA (number 27, to be precise).
Rock, pop and controversy
It’s hard to top a legend like Michael Jackson, but the NFL tried hard. Artists like Patti Labelle, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan filled out the rest of the ’90s. They are all big stars, but past their prime. In the new millennium, there seemed to be a more modern approach to the selection of the halftime show performers. Some of the artists who performed in the beginning of ’00s: Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Nelly, ‘N Sync and Enrique Iglesias. They all have one thing in common: they were all insanely popular at the time. Now and then, there were some ‘older’ artists (like Phil Collins, U24 and Sting). This trend ended abruptly when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake thought it was a good idea to take some clothes off. The NFL and CBS thought otherwise.5 The following six years, no contemporary artist took the stage. More conservative acts like Paul McCarthy, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty were asked to perform. In 2011 the NFL decided to go back to more contemporary artists (The Black Eyed Peas and Usher). Last year, we’ve had Madonna and friends taking the stage, which caused some controversy, again. This time it was M.I.A. (she flipped the bird), but the scandal (or the artist?) was not big enough to have any major consequences.
Predictions for the Beyoncé show
Details about the halftime shows are always kept under wraps, like it’s some CIA mission. But the always-reliable US Weekly claimed to have information on the set-list of Miss Knowles-Carter. According to the magazine she will open with Crazy in Love (it’s unclear whether it’s with or without Jay-Z), followed by a Destiny’s Child medley.6 Michelle Williams already denied the rumors about a reunion in New Orleans, but that’s probably more reason to believe a reunion will happen this Sunday. It’s also not unthinkable Bey will perform a new song during her halftime show, considering the fact that she has an upcoming album to promote. Besides these speculations, there is some actual proof that Beyoncé will not be alone on the big stage. Through Instagram, she shared this picture:
So it’s safe to say there will be dancers. No surprises there. But it is likely she’ll be joined by other artists. Last year, we saw LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, Cee Lo Green, M.I.A. and Cirque du Soleil join Madonna on stage. The year before, The Black Eyed Peas shared the spotlight with Usher and Slash. Beyoncé could choose to perform solo7 or with the usual suspects (the aforementioned Destiny’s Child and/or Jay-Z). I think -and I must admit it’s more hope than reality- she and Justin Timberlake will debut a new song. They both have an album coming up, and it’s a fact Bey and JT recorded at least one song for one of those albums. Is there any better way to promote that song, and with it the albums, than to perform that song during the Superbowl? I don’t think so.
In a couple of days we’ll know. I’m ready.
- This year you could argue there’s a Beyoncé concert Sunday night, with some football before and after. Just like Obama’s inauguration was a pre-show to Beyoncé’s too-much-talked about performance of the national anthem. ↩
- Yeah, New Kids on the Block was a wildly popular boy-band back then. ↩
- This almost didn’t happen. MJ initially asked $1,000,000 for his show. One problem: the NFL doesn’t pay the performers. And they shouldn’t. It’s free publicity and the artist will make money of the extra album- and single sales anyway (on average sales go up by a stunning 555% after a Superbowl performance). The NFL covers all expenses and, in the case of Michael Jackson, donates 100.000 dollars to his charity. Check out this article of the New York Times for more details on the deal. ↩
- The U2 performance is arguably the best show in halftime show history. Right after 9/11, U2 hit just the right spot. Watch it again. It’s amazing. ↩
- This has to be the most nonsense controversy in the history of forever. Maybe I’m just too European to understand, but the aftermath of this ‘incident’ was ridiculous. MTV will never produce another halftime show, CBS almost had to pay $550,000 and all live events are now 10 seconds delayed. And all of that because of this? Insane. ↩
- The medley would be: Bills, Bills, Bills, Survivor and the new song Nuclear. In case you were wondering. ↩
- The last time a solo artist really was the only singer during the halftime show was Prince in 2007. ↩