Can you guess our 5 most disastrous Super Bowl halftime shows ever?
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This year’s Super Bowl halftime show Sunday night on CBS will feature Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Big Boi — a performance that follows months of controversy, setting up the potential for disaster.
Others, including Rihanna, turned down the show in support of Colin Kaepernick and other players who have taken a knee during the National Anthem to protest racial injustice.
For some, a disastrous halftime show is even more entertaining than a perfectly executed one. And there have been quite a few.
The Super Bowl halftime show as it exists now, featuring major stars performing music live, began in 1993, with Michael Jackson.
Before that, the halftime show featured university marching bands, then musical “salutes” to themes as varied as grand pianos (1988), Paris (1978), Louis Armstrong (1972) and, strangest of all, the Peanuts characters (1990).
Here’s an entirely subjective list of the five most tragic Super Bowl halftime shows, from bad to worst.
5. The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Slash (2011)
Booking the Black Eyed Peas for the Super Bowl XLV halftime show might’ve seemed like a great idea, given their high energy, mainstream popularity and boatload of hits.
Unfortunately, as soon as Fergie, will.i.am, Taboo and Apl.de.Ap began performing, it became clear the group barely sings and doesn’t dance. Their barked-out lyrics don’t really constitute rapping. And their verses apparently were full of expletives that many people never really noticed — until the group’s members had to awkwardly live-edit themselves on stage.
Surrounded by flailing figures in light-up morph suits, the Black Eyed Peas revealed themselves to be a woefully inadequate halftime act, particularly given that most of the singing was handled by Fergie, not the strongest vocalist, as sports fans were reminded by her misguided performance of the National Anthem at the NBA’s 2018 all-star game.
4. ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye’ (1995)
Harrison Ford was smart to stay far away from this “Indiana Jones”-themed oddity for the Super Bowl XXIX halftime show, featuring Tony Bennett, Patti LaBelle, Arturo Sandoval and the Miami Sound Machine, meant to promote Disneyland’s then-new “Temple of the Forbidden Eye” attraction.
The show featured hundreds of dancers in tall feathered hats, LaBelle barely pretending to lip sync and stuntmen in flaming parachutes dropping onto the field. That was the first three minutes.
What followed was a train wreck, featuring laugh-out-loud Indiana Jones sketches and Bennett looking lost as he gamely sang his jazzy standards before joining LaBelle for “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” amid costumed extras.
3. ‘A Tapestry of Nations’ (2000)
The “We Are the World” of halftime shows, 2000’s wild spectacle of a performance at Super Bowl XXXIV, featuring Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias and Toni Braxton, is an example of everything that was wrong with the way the Super Bowl used to do its mid-game performances.
Another Disney production — intended to be a dazzling spectacular of global unity — the show was an incomprehensible mess featuring stories-high, fabulously ugly set pieces, dancers in vaguely ethnic garb, Aguilera and Collins singing songs written for the show, which robbed the performance of sing-along power, and, most inexplicable of all, actor Edward James Olmos delivering deadly serious narration, saying things like, “Go now and celebrate your dreams as the magic of the millennium continues to bring us together.”
2. ‘Blues Brothers Bash’ (1997)
If the 1997 Super Bowl XXXI halftime show didn’t teach the NFL not to book people who can’t sing, than apparently nothing could. With the game in New Orleans, rather than book soul legends who hailed from the city, instead we got The Blues Brothers — despite the death of original star John Belushi — with Dan Aykroyd and stand-ins Jim Belushi and John Goodman singing soul hits including “Gimme Some Lovin’” as a marketing play for the upcoming “Blues Brothers 2000” sequel.
James Brown and ZZ Top appeared, too, but that didn’t change how ill-equipped the Hollywood guys were for such a large stage.
1. Janet Jackson, Nelly, Kid Rock, P. Diddy, Justin Timberlake (2004)
You’d be forgiven if you forgot that Nelly, P. Diddy and Kid Rock were even part of the Super Bowl XXXVIII act. That’s how monumentally disastrous this was — one of the only halftime shows that managed to effectively halt the forward momentum of one of its performers’ careers.
You also can be forgiven if you can’t remember a single song during the show that wasn’t “Rock Your Body,” which Jackson and Timberlake were performing when the infamous “Nipplegate” incident happened, with Timberlake accidentally exposing Jackson’s breast during some choreography gone wrong.
That moment would define Jackson’s career for years, as radio stations and MTV blackballed her new music, and she was turned into a national punchline.