Ranking the last 13 years of Super Bowl halftime shows, from lame to life-changing
Beyoncé announcing an album and overshadowing Usher’s is savage
I could not even tell you what a Super Bowl even is, but what I do consider myself a very serious authority on is what makes a great halftime show. The Super Bowl halftime show is a mythical showcase of an artist and their career – a set of bangers running at just under 15 minutes that takes live spectacle to new heights. Money is no object and ambition is endless – so here’s the recent history of Super Bowl halftime shows, ranked from lame to life-changing.
13. Maroon 5 (2019)
Maroon 5 is rock bottom when it comes to getting Super Bowl halftime shows ranked – truly the pits. After the first half of the 2010s being a steady increase in quality of truly amazing shows with big name artists solidifying their legacy, the last couple of years of the decade were absolute hell. Travis Scott and Big Boi came out as guests, but everyone was past caring. Society would just be way better if we moved past the completely middling annoyance of Maroon 5. Yawn.
12. Justin Timberlake (2018)
Justin Timberlake is rightfully called out for problematic actions in the wake of his behaviour towards Britney Spears and the Janet Jackson saga of the 00s Super Bowl backlash. But if I am being very objective and taking all that out of the equation – he is an artist with a solid string of all out bangers. What a shame then that he did the Super Bowl in 2018 in the midst of his much maligned Man Of The Woods era. No guests, no glitz, no glamour – just a handful of great songs lost amongst twigs.
11. Bruno Mars (2014)
Bruno Mars is an amazing and incredible performer who puts on an absolute show here – but the issue is he did the Super Bowl before any of his genuinely amazing music came out. Just all the annoying stuff here. Just The Way You Are is such a Glee club, Rachel Berry ass song. We want Uptown Funk and 24K Magic! Red Hot Chili Peppers came out but didn’t do Can’t Stop… what’s the point?
10. Usher (2024)
Kicking off the top 10 Super Bowl halftime shows ranked comes this year’s – Usher. What this one does successfully is show how many great hits Usher has in his back pocket from across his career. The guests are naff – will.i.am is irrelevant and Alicia Keys opens with a bum note, but Usher himself sounds great. Something about this one feels like the visuals and spectacle are a bit of a step down from the ones at the top of this list.
9. Coldplay (2016)
This one is great because of its guests. Beyoncé and Bruno Mars storm in and upstage Coldplay with two of their best tunes respectively – Formation and Uptown Funk, which weren’t released when the two of them had their own halftime show. To be fair to Coldplay, they aren’t my vibe but the songs they did for their halftime show go off. Daytime halftime shows always feel a little bit less special than the nighttime ones.
8. Rihanna (2023)
I do think over the last year I have warmed up to Rihanna’s simplistic Super Bowl halftime show, but like most when I first watched it I felt a bit deflated. Especially and particularly because she’s been out of the music spotlight since her last album era – 2016’s magnum opus Anti. Whilst it isn’t quite a top five, truly legendary halftime show – it is one that really truly highlights how amazing Rihanna’s singles discography is, as well as reminding us how likeable a presence and performer she is. I’m on my knees begging for a new album.
7. Shakira and Jennifer Lopez (2020)
The last hurrah before the pandemic ruined our lives, to be honest. I’m not sure why Shakira and JLo weren’t deemed strong enough to have their own halftime shows – but no matter. The two of them come together for an absolute spectacle of Latin pop excellence and provide both a celebration of their hits and their culture – with Bad Bunny and J Balvin proving electric guests also. The staging and choreography in particular is breathtaking. They both absolutely kill it.
6. The Weeknd (2021)
When I told someone I was doing this reaction they said to me “who’s last, The Weeknd?” and honestly, I was gobsmacked. Is this a disliked halftime show? Not in my books, baby. Considering all the restrictions in place due to Covid, I think this is an absolute spectacle – and whilst a lack of special guests might take the novelty out of it, it’s a barebones celebration of an amazing career with an artist who is truly in his imperial phase. The Idol aside, that is.
5. Katy Perry (2015)
A true feat in the excellence of Katy Perry’s pop catalogue. Hit after hit, well sang, big production value and the hijinks of a viral shark suited dancer who got the choreography wrong. This is truly PEAK Perry – the setlist is the kind of string of hits any aspiring pop star would sacrifice an animal to the gods to have in their repertoire.
4. Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J Blige and Kendrick Lamar (2022)
This celebration of hiphop was a different vibe compared to the other Super Bowl halftime shows in the sense that it’s a celebration of an era rather than of a singular artist – and this distinction helps set it apart. Everyone kills their sections and the visuals are insane. It really feels like a proper nostalgic hit of euphoria of a golden era of music.
3. Madonna (2012)
Bitch, she’s Madonna. Only a certain calibre of artist can pull off a celebration of their career like this – and you have to do so with the career to show for it. The absolute grandeur of what Madonna pulls off here is just so stirring. The visuals are incredible, she sounds amazing, she dances rings around acts half her age who’ve done the same slot and proves why she’s a living legend. The only flop is the guests are very 2012 and haven’t aged well, and the fact she was in the midst of MDNA here – her worst album. But when it’s the old golds, it’s untouchable.
2. Beyoncé (2013)
Have you ever been to a gay pre drinks or afterparty if someone hasn’t put on the Beyoncé Super Bowl halftime show and everyone’s sat there and watched every second and repeated every beat of the choreography? No. Between these top two, either option would be more than valid for the title. Both two artists at the top of their game – and the only reason I’d give Beyoncé runner up is because I watch it and long for the music that she’s yet to release to be in the set and I think the top ranked of all the Super Bowl halftime shows outdoes her on the visuals front. But truly – this is as good as it gets. The vocals, the choreography, the hits? Mother.
1. Lady Gaga (2017)
There is no other word for Lady Gaga’s showstopping Super Bowl halftime show than dizzying, and of all the shows ranked here it is the one that leaves me the most breathless. For the best part of 14 minutes, Lady Gaga singlehandedly races you through her career with a spectacle that involves drones and a suspension leap from the roof of the stadium. Lady Gaga is a fearless performer, and she does not miss a trick. Her vocals are exemplary, the staging is thrilling, the blending of hits euphoric – it does not get better than this.
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