The Evolution Of The Super Bowl Halftime Show

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I’m not a sports fan, so on Super Bowl weekend I only get excited for the following reasons.

1-I can eat Doritos without guilt throughout the entire game, because anything you eat during the Super Bowl doesn’t count as real calories.

2-The commercials, and that cute puppy bowl thing.

3-THE HALFTIME SHOW.

When thinking about my favorite halftime shows throughout the years, I started to wonder when this show became such a fundamental part of American culture. This led me down a six hour rabbit hole of watching every Super Bowl halftime show available on the internets. I have for sure earned at least a PHD in halftimes. Here is what I learned.

The very first Superbowl took place on January 15th, 1967, with a halftime show featuring The Three Stooges with The University Of Arizona and Grambling State marching bands. That’s right. Up until the 1990’s the Super Bowl halftime shows primarily consisted of marching bands, drill teams and jazzy tribute groups like “Up With People”. In 1972 Ella Fitzgerald and Carol Channing became the first celebrity singers to ever appear on the show. Next came Andy Williams singing about maralade, molasses and honey in 1972, and it was all downhill from there. In 1973 the big act was Miss Texas playing a fiddle, with the University Of Texas Longhorn band. Another boring decade of themed shows with college marching bands followed.

The 1972 halftime show.

In 1987, the halftime celebrated the 100th anniversary of Hollywood. George Burns introduced the show, while hitting on Snow White. Mickey Rooney pranced around in a band leader uniform and there were DANCING GAY COWBOYS SINGING FOOTLOOSE! Chubby Checker and the Rockettes performed the following year. The most surprising act in this decade is an actual Elvis impersonator in 1989, performing a tribute to 1950’s Rock N Roll.

The 80’s decade in halftime shows makes me sad considering all of the great hair bands and pop music happening at the time. I mean, where is the Queen, Journey, Bowie, Van Halen, Quiet Riot with Cyndi Lauper halftime of my fantasies!? Having been born in 1984, I kind of just assumed that all happened but I was SO WRONG.

Welcome to the 90’s. After the 1990, (almost unbearable to watch), salute to The Peanuts and New Orleans, someone on the production team decided it was time to step it the fuck up. In 1991 the show featured it’s first pop act ever, New Kids On The Block. This halftime opened with all of the contents of Disney’s “It’s A Small World” ride being puked onto the field. About ten minutes in, NKOTB (presented by Coca-Cola, honoring armed forces kids), busted out of a cardboard castle and sing “Step By Step”. The halftime show would never be the same. In 1992 Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill ice skated on a giant snowflake, the USA Olympic hockey team held up sparklers for what seemed like a really, really long time and Gloria Estefan rose onto the field on the Statue Of Liberty’s head.

1993’s show with Michael Jackson is the year that things start to get iconic. A bunch of MJ doubles pop up on all sides of the stadium, before MJ himself pops out of center stage. He stands in silence while the crowd looses it’s shit for two straight minutes. This performance was a game changer in Super Bowl ratings, and at the time was the most watched television event in history. Lady Gaga’s show would later take that title. Though the NFL does not pay anyone to perform on the show, Michael Jackson was an exception. In exchange for his performance, they agreed to make a large donation to his Heal The World Foundation as well as give it commercial time. After this massive increase in viewers, the NFL made a deliberate effort to snag the biggest acts possible for the halftime. Aside from MJ, the other most notable halftime moment during this decade was in 1996, when Diana Ross had a helicopter land onstage for her grand exit.

The 2000’s brought us halftime shows with NSYNC, Aerosmith, Christina Aguilera, No Doubt, Sting, Britney Spears, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen & Shania Twain to name a few. The most notable shows in this decade were the post 9/11, U2 performance and 2004’s “Nipplegate” with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. This was the first time the NFL had ever had any sort of scandal associated with the previously squeeky clean halftime show. The FCC received over 540,000 complaints and CBS was fined $550,000 for the “unplanned” wardrobe malfunction. All for less than 3 seconds of boobage. The NFL didn’t hire another female halftime performer for seven years after the incident.

In the 2010’s we start to see the production design of halftime shows get more innovative, bigger and better. Beyonce took things to a whole new level in her 2013 show, raising the bar for all future performers. Lady Gaga upped the technology game by using 300 Intel shooting star drones in her 2017 show. There were also some unforgettable entrances in this decade, including Madonna being dragged in by 100 man slaves, Katy Perry on a massive golden lion puppet, and Lady Gaga famously dropping from the ceiling.

Despite it’s slow start, the Superbowl halftime show has evolved into an iconic moment, embedded into American culture. It’s one of the few times when pretty much everyone comes together to watch the same thing, and gives us something fun to talk about for the next few days. Though i’m not a big fan of the performers this year (Maroon 5), at least it’s better than Miss Texas and a marching band.

Click here for a detailed list of every Super Bowl performance ever.

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