The worst Super Bowl halftime shows in history

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Please meet Up With People, who will now haunt your dreams.

Please meet Up With People, who will now haunt your dreams.
Image: Getty Images

Oh, you didn’t like The Weekend’s halftime performance during the COVID Super Bowl? Listen, you sweet summer child, if you were upset about the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show, that’s only because you aren’t old enough to remember some of the truly terrible halftime shows your elders have endured. Anyone remember Up With People? No?

Then let’s get right to it.

(Where the NFL has blocked the content from being sharable, we’ve included a link.)

The only reason this one isn’t lower is that I like Indiana Jones and because at least they didn’t drag Harrison Ford out there to make this even more devastating. And because it had Patti LaBelle (who deserves a BIG apology for being included in this). Tony Bennett probably thought he was having a fever dream. Famous jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval (played by Andy Garcia in the HBO movie For Love or Country) and Miami Sound Machine were in there somewhere, too, but I’ll be damned if I could find them amidst (gestures at the screen) all that going on.

This one was a huge downer and you should probably try to get in a screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark before the big game to cleanse your brain.

Yeah, I don’t know.

Yeah, I don’t know.
Image: Getty Images

This one started out as a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Peanuts and wound up as some kind of tribute to New Orleans, and featured Pete Fountain, Irma Thomas, Doug Kershaw, and Snoopy. I’ll give you one guess which one of those four performers I’ve heard of. And why are so many of these halftime performances seemingly aimed at small children? Do you really want them sitting through 2 hours of beer and liquor commercials to get 30 seconds of Snoopy in New Orleans? Do you remember what beer commercials were like in 1990?

What a complete shit show.

This is what you get for holding the Super Bowl in Minnesota (I kid! I kid!) but it does have a real Ice Town feel to it. Gloria Estefan is a transcendent artist with many bangers, but Get On Your Feet is not one of them. I also laughed out loud at Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamil trying to skate on little tiny ice rinks, surrounded by people imploring them to “Pump it up!” What in the world?

By 1997, we’d already had Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and the Judds (and friends), and let’s be honest, no one wants to see The Blues Brothers without John Belushi. So this was an odd choice. And while I’d rather watch John Goodman than Jim Belushi, I don’t really understand what he was doing up there. Blues Brothers 2000 came out the following year, though, so you know this was just one big ploy to try to get you to the theater to shell out $30 to watch Jim Belushi tank a movie. Pass.

I’ll be honest, back in 1991, I definitely did not hate this halftime show. But, in retrospect, it was pretty terrible. A Small World – NKOTB – Salute to the Troops mashup was never really it. And has anything ever summed up America better than, “(N)ow, to honor our armed forces’ children, Coca-Cola proudly presents The New Kids On the Block!”? I submit to you that it has not.

This was the first “real” act we got at halftime that wasn’t just a bunch of anonymous deranged-looking people dancing around with smiles plastered to their faces, but it wasn’t until Michael Jackson in 1993 that the halftime show became the mini-concert it is today.

Wait, this was only 2019? I would have guessed 2016 or even earlier. People were still trying to make Maroon 5 happen in 2019?

The main tenant of Super Bowl halftime shows is supposed to be that a) the artist is popular enough to appeal to a broad cross-section of the audience, and b) the audience knows most of their songs. Maroon 5 satisfies neither of those things. Also, rather than taking questions as to why they agreed to do the halftime show at a time when other artists had refused out of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the group instead canceled their press conference. A true profile in courage.

This was also the Super Bowl halftime show when we thought we might get SpongeBob SquarePants doing Sweet Victory, which would have been about a billion times better, but our voices were not heard.

How in the name of God did they rope Edward James Olmos into this?

Setting aside the fact that this train wreck was just one, giant Disney advertisement, it seems to suffer from “we don’t have anyone big enough to headline this show on their own, so let’s just throw as many second-tier talents in as we can.” And look, I do not in any way believe that Phil Collins is a second-tier talent in the world of rock and roll. But he is second-tier in terms of Super Bowl halftime show headliners. On paper, Phil Collins, Toni Braxton, and Christina Aguilera seem like a great event. In reality, Epcot is objectively the most boring Disney park, and an entire halftime show “inspired” by it had about as much broad appeal as Frozen on Ice.

This was terrible and we should be apologizing to Phil Collins.

Before 1989, these were the kinds of halftime shows we got EVERY SUPER BOWL. Up With People did five halftime shows between 1971 and 1986. Five! For Gen Xers, everything Up With People did have a real “The Sun Belt is where it’s at!” vibe to it that was endemic in America in the late 70s and early 80s, and I blame most of my generation’s indifference to life on us being told to get excited for these halftime performances.

(Incidentally, am I the only one who remembers having to learn the Up With People song in music class in grade school?)

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Wait, what if I told you that this halftime show was also in 3D? Did I just blow your mind? You know this one was designed to bring in a younger audience because Bob Costas kicks the whole thing off with a Honeymooners joke. That’ll bring the kids running. This Elvis impersonator was named “Elvis Presto,” and he also did magic. Gen Z, this is why your parents are the way that they are.

Guh. I know that Black Eyed Peas was having a (blessedly brief) moment, but there was no excuse for this. The only comment I feel l need to make here is that Fergie sang “Sweet Child O’Mine” with Slash on guitar. And it was terrible.

And why are they all dressed like degenerate Raiders fans?

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