Since 1967, Super bowl has been the championship game for the National Football League, and for many of those years, the single most watched TV coverage in the US. In the early days, halftime performances featured local college and high school marching bands, a far cry from the loud, star-studded music, lighting and set extravaganzas they are today.
Being prime time TV, commercial airtime is possibly amongst the most expensive 30 second slots sold and competition is fierce. Disney have been involved for many years and have managed to wangle some entertainment space into their contract as seen most obviously in 1991 when New Kids on the Block were surrounded by saccharine Disney children singing It’s a Small World, and in 1994 when part of the show consisted of a lengthy ad for the new Indiana Jones ride.
Most shows have tried to capture different audiences by hiring mismatched multiple artists and throwing them together in early mash-ups. Michael Jackson in 1993 was the first single artist to carry the show, although he was joined by 3500 children in a wrenching version of Heal the World. This was the turning point that changed Super bowl from a military tattoo meets pseudo Olympic opening ceremony to a rock concert extravaganza.
The most headline grabbing show stopper literally, was the infamous wardrobe malfunction of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. No one even remembers who else performed that day. In order for that never to happen again, the organisers decided to play it safe with super groups and aging rockers, such as Paul McCartney, U2, Rolling Stones and Tom Petty, who unsurprisingly gave brilliant performances.
The XLV Super bowl seems to win the popular vote for worst performance ever, ironically with management going back to attracting a younger audience with Black Eyed Peas.
What were they thinking with this 1992 ode to snow in winter magic of Minneapolis Super bowl XXVI? Just a year before Michael Jackson changed the face of half time entertainment forever, we had ballroom dancing snowflakes and inflatable snowmen.
Even the previous year in ’91, the New Kids on the Block brought a little bit (really, just a little tiny bit) of street cred. But even then, it was pretty awful in the grand scheme of arena entertainment. It was dedicated to troops serving in the Gulf – the first time around.
Super bowl XXXV had multi generational and genre artists with Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Nelly, N’Sync and Aerosmith. Despite a very funny intro film from Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, the result was a whole lot of shouting and inappropriate leering.
For a truly ‘what were they thinking’ moment you have to go back to 1989 to find a wacky Elvis impersonator, Elvis Presto attempting to do a card trick that fails impressively.
Nipple gate eclipsed the game, the other artists and even Jackson and Timberlake’s performance. What a storm in a C cup.
Without doubt, the 2011 half time show has already topped the worst ever charts for flat singing and plenty of screaming. Fergie destroyed Sweet Child of Mine, Usher did his best to add some cool and talent to the show, but just got yelled at. It was obvious why the dancers had cardboard boxes on their heads for the final songs.
The final word has to go to satire – the long running Whose Line is it Anyway? Seems bad Super bowl has become a genre all of its own.