The Super Bowl. Initially a football game, it has blossomed into a full-blown, holiday-like experience. The commercials shown during the Super Bowl cost a fortune and often become famous. The halftime shows boast some of the world’s biggest stars. But which of the Super Bowl’s halftime shows were the most memorable? Here is my opinion on the top five halftime shows in Super Bowl history.
5: Super Bowl XXXIX halftime show. This show featured Paul McCartney. It wasn’t any glitzier or eye-popping than any of the other shows, but it featured the biggest name in music. The songs, which included both Beatles classics and a Wings song, are known around the world. It was both classy and timeless.
4: Super Bowls IV and VI (tied) halftime shows. The reason I include both Super Bowls IV and VI is that Carol Channing was in both of them. For younger readers who might not know who she is, Channing is an actress whose most famous roles were in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello Dolly. She is by far the most interesting choice for any Super Bowl halftime show. Her big eyes, bizarre nasally/squeaky voice, and trademark haircut made her more of a novelty than a celebrity. Imagine if you will Fran Drescher (the nanny on the eponymous show) doing a halftime show. I don’t know if even that would top the weirdness of Carol Channing doing one.
3: Super Bowl XXVII halftime show. Michael Jackson was the sole performer in this show, which featured a radical departure from previous halftime entertainment. Due to lagging interest in the halftime festivities, it was decided that big-name stars should be selected to ensure viewers didn’t flip the channel, head to the store to pick up more beer or munchies, or even just run outside to play in the snow. With a bunch of L.A. area children, Jackson sang “Heal the World”. It was actually kind of touching, as this was before Jackson turned into the suspected pedophile he is today.
2: Super Bowl XXXVI halftime show. This was the first Super Bowl held after the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center. U2 and their lead singer/political activist/humanitarian Bono were tapped to do the show. It was going to be a tough tightrope to walk: Providing entertainment while being sensitive to the recent tragedy. The heart-shaped stage and banner with the names of the 9/11 victims were tasteful, and the show managed the right balance between remembrance and hope.
1: Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show. You just knew that had to be number one, didn’t you? Easily the most talked about halftime show ever, few will remember that it included Jessica Simpson, Kid Rock, Nelly, and P. Diddy. All that history will recall is the famous moment when Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s right breast and the phrase “wardrobe malfunction” entered the popular lexicon. Bashed by everybody from preachers to politicians, Janet Jackson became the physical embodiment of America’s moral decline for the next several months.
Super Bowl halftime shows seem to try to be bigger, better, and cooler than the year before. The five I have listed were each remarkable in some way, be it controversy, catharsis, or craziness. Do you remember them? Maybe, maybe not. For the most part these shows are talked about for a month or so and then forgotten. Such is the nature of Super Bowl halftime shows.