Super Bowl Halftime Performances Of The 2000s, Ranked

Some watch the Super Bowl for the sports. Some watch it for the ads. Most watch it for the halftime show, that great spectacle of money and talent both perceived and actual. I love the Super Bowl for all of it. I like football, even though I recognize that it can be very, very bad. I know advertising is horrible, but Super Bowl ads are fun, sorta? And most of the performers that stand on a stage for 15 minutes during halftime and sing songs and dodge pyrotechnics are either really, really great or really, really horrid. This year, Katy Perry will strap on a bra that shoots footballs and penalty flags and sing 2-3 of her hits before descending into the stage in a cloud of glitter, whipped cream and sapphire blue hair extensions. In preparation for this event, I’ve ranked the Super Bowl halftime performances of the 2000s, only because that is all I can really remember. Let’s get started.

15. Paul McCartney (2005)

Blah blah, Macca, I don’t wanna hear you do Beatles hits without the rest of your brethren. I would rather listen to the song you did with Rihanna that sounds like Rih’s foray into early Sheryl Crow and gives me goosebumps and chills and happy tears every time. So, don’t watch this. Go listen to that. Or, cry for an hour at your desk and watch the new Kanye video, full screen, in its entirety. Macca plays keyboard on that joint.

14. U2 (2002)

There is something unsettling to me about Bono wearing those dumb purple-tinted ski goggles/sunglasses that he loves so much, singing “Where The Streets Have No Name” as a giant scroll with the names of all the victims of 9/11 unfurls behind him. The effort is nice, but I just am not feeling the result.

13. The Rolling Stones (2006)

Here is the first part of Mick Jagger and his friends doing some of their songs that people like and know. I don’t know. At least Mick looked less like a Sharpei then than he does now.

12. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers (2008)

I know Tom Petty is talented, and he makes songs that make frat boys go “whoo!” and throw their Keystone Lights in the air and sing along, but I can’t get behind this performance, only because I don’t care that much. Really. At all. I also can’t listen to any of his songs without being transported back to the summer after high school, which is both a very good and very bad thing.

11. Tina Turner, Phil Collins, Enrique, Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton, a choir (2000)

The theme of the 2000 halftime show was “Tapestry Of Nations,” and it was produced by Disney. The result is precisely what I saw in my head: a dollar store version of the opening ceremony of every Olympics, ever. Also it must be noted that Mama Tina Turner was the pre-show performer, which is a travesty, as I would’ve much rather watched her shake it with these flag girls for 11 minutes instead of this Cirque du Soleil mess.

10. Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Slash (2011)

This should have been 75 percent more Usher and a lot less of the warbling of Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas. But, they get points for dressing those people up in LED body suits and making them dance.

9. The Who (2010)

While writing this, I left the audio of this playing, open, in a tab, and was neither moved to sing along in my head OR to turn it off. And, “Baba O’Reilly” still makes me feel like I’m stoned, even when I’m not.

8. Shania Twain, No Doubt, Sting (2003)

This is what I want my halftime show to look like. Pyrotechnics! Shania and Gwen both wearing spangly, silvery bra tops, doing the songs that I like to secretly sing/laugh at when I’m doing the dishes! There is nothing groundbreaking here, just some of your standard mid-2000s radio stars, doing what they do best. And, then there’s Sting, for no good reason, singing “Message In A Bottle” at the end. Ugh. Can’t win ‘em all.

7. Aerosmith, N’Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J Blige, Nelly (2001)

So, MTV produced this halftime show, and it was 2001, so you do the math. This is like, vintage everything. Peak Britney. Lance Bass, still in the closet. Mary J. Blige and Aerosmith and Nelly performing a star-studded medley of “Walk This Way,” which I am sure has never happened again. There are sparkles and pyrotechnics and Brit’s wearing a gym sock on her arm and silver pants with a two-inch-rise. I pray for something as patently ridiculous as this was every day.

6. Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock (2004)

Let’s get it out of the way first. This is the Super Bowl where Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s boob to a bajillion viewers. Aside from that, though? This is a pretty solid Super Bowl performance! You got Nelly bein’ Nelly, P. Diddy still being relevant, and the curious case of Kid Rock. Also, Janet Jackson is still a killer performer, and J-Timb can get it, all day. Good. Very good.

5. Prince, Florida A&M Marching Band (2007)

I will never tire of Prince. Here is Prince, wearing a his hair in a scarf + a cerulean blue suit + a shoe with a heel singing  and shredding. This clip exists to prove that any situation is improved with both Prince and a full marching band. And, even though I would’ve preferred a 10-minute rendition of  “When Doves Cry,” this still hits the spot.

4. Bruce Springsteen (2009)

It’s like this: the opening strains of “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” still give me goosebumps, and I vaguely recall waving a chicken wing at the television and singing every word of this entire Super Bowl performance as it was happening. That should lay out where I stand. BROOOOOOOOCE forever.

3. Madonna, LMFAO, Cirque du Soleil, Nicki Minaj, MIA, Ceelo, Andy Lewis, a bunch of drum lines (2012)

This is the one where M.I.A flips off the camera and gets a fine, but also the one where Cee Lo shows up at the end in a sparkly choir robe to help Madonna out with the chorus of “Like A Prayer.” Also, Nicki Minaj is wedged in there somehow. Confusing. Muddled, yes, but campier than usual for a Super Bowl Show.

2. Bruno Mars, Red Hot Chili Peppers (2014)

I didn’t think I liked Bruno Mars. “This song, ‘Treasure’ is okay, but what the hell I don’t get it,” I would say every time he came on the radio. But, when the lights come up and he’s playing drums like his life depends on it and then he goes and sings a bunch and dances, my mind is immediately changed. I fully support his Puerto Rican Pinoy Ritchie Valens vibes. I’m into it. Also, this performance played. OH, and I guess the Chili peppers were there but zzzzzzzzz.

1. Beyonce, Destiny’s Child (2013)

Three things about this performance:

  • Michelle and Kelly popping up from the bowels of the stage like weird Jack in The Boxes.
  • Beyonce’s various dance faces.
  • That time that the motherfucking lights went out for about an hour right after this performance.

That’s all.

[Photo via Getty Images]