Evolution of the Halftime Show

The Super Bowl Halftime has a long history of various performances. These performances range from Disney-themed shows to big celebrity names. Some shows brought together people that we never expected to sing together such as the famous early 2000s Halftime Show that brought together Britney Spears, NSYNC, Mary J. Blige, Nelly, and Aerosmith. The Super Bowl had a way of blending those very different groups together, and somehow actually making it work. 

This year’s 57th Annual Super Bowl brought us Usher, a longtime musician in the hip-hop/R&B genre, along with special guests Alicia Keys and Ludacris. Usher sported some glamorous outfits and old school dance moves while energetic back up dancers filled the stage behind him. Usher soulfully sang various throwbacks that lit up the stage filled with blue, black, and white glittery colors. 

Usher’s appearance follows the pattern of the past two decades, with the Halftime Show mainly consisting of artists in the hip-hop and pop genres. A couple of years ago, a collection of famous rappers, such as Eminem, Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre, Krendick Lamar, and 50 Cent, banded together for the 15-minute performance. Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, who performed together in 2020, are both known for their pop hits. Rihanna, who performed last year in 2023, is one of the most successful female pop artists in the world. Katy Perry, Coldplay, Beyonce, Maroon 5, and Bruno Mars are also all names that fall into the pop category, who have performed in recent years. 

While not as prevalent, there have been some rock performances, including The Who in 2010 and The Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2014. Despite the slight variation in genre, all these performers are well-known with at least one or two mainstream hits, helping them connect with the broad audience who tunes in for the Halftime show.  

Although fairly consistent over the past few years, the Halftime showed used to be very different.  Throughout the 70s and the 80s, relatively unknown marching bands would gleefully march across the large football field in fancy attire, playing several theme songs to root for the teams in a flawlessly choreographed lineup. Though marching bands still participate in the Superbowl, big names as part of the performance were introduced in the early 90s, changing the Halftime show forever.

In 1993, Michael Jackson agreed to perform if the money paid to him was donated to a charity provided to an inner city youth program. The year prior was an ice skating show that was not well met by viewers and producers were looking for a change. The children in the youth program got to walk across the stadium right before he performed. More people tuned in to watch Michael Jackson than the game and the whole event broke records. For a full three minutes he stood in silence on stage as the audience roared wildly at his presence before transitioning into dancing to an electric medley of his songs. Michael Jackson was considered to be the saving grace to the Halftime Shows. While New Kids On The Block had performed in 1991, Michael Jackson is considered the catalyst towards more well-known pop singers over marching bands. After Jackson’s memorable performance, Diana Ross came in 1996 followed by ZZ Top with James Brown in 1997, and so the Halftime shows continued in the same format into the 2000’s. 

There have been some quite unique shows throughout the years. The Disney Millennium Celebration  in 2000 combined Phil Collins and Christina Aguilara, who were both pop icons, yet had very different styles. The 1994 Halftime Show held a country-themed display with a variety of singers and dancers. Most shows have been met with good reception, and some mixed reviews along the way. These complaints usually involve “a lack of dancing/energy,” such as The Weeknd’s performance in 2021, though his show was still generally well-received. No matter the show, whether or not it be considered “good” or “bad,” there is always an audience that will enjoy each one. 

The Halftime shows help to provide entertainment  for everyone. Although the Super Bowl is often considered the highlight of sports enthusiasts, the music helps everyone feel engaged, even if they don’t love football. The shows help show that  the event is more than sports and winning, and the music makes the lively atmosphere even more fun.