The Best & Worst Super Bowl Halftime Shows – Fantastic Flops and Epic Successes (2023 Update)

Are you ready for the biggest sporting event of the year? The Super Bowl is right around the corner, and with it comes the much anticipated halftime show. This year, the Philadelphia Eagles will face the Kansas City Chiefs at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. 

The event will take place on Sunday, February 12. Whether you’re interested in the game or not, the Super Bowl halftime show has become a cultural phenomenon in its own right. According to Forbes, the average yearly viewership of the Super Bowl halftime show is more than 100 million people. 

With an audience like that, it’s no wonder the halftime show features the biggest names in music. From Michael Jackson to The Rolling Stones, the halftime show has something for everyone — even if you’re only watching for the slip ups.

Let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable Super Bowl halftime moments in history. 

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Why Is the Super Bowl Halftime Such a Big Thing?

Since the first Super Bowl 56 years ago, the Super Bowl halftime show has grown into a significant annual event in American pop culture. 

Before the 1990s, the halftime shows exclusively featured university marching bands. Now, it includes diverse performances from the music industry’s most iconic stars

The first pop-centric halftime show was in 1993 and starred Michael Jackson. It granted a whole new life into the once dull event. Ever since, musicians have been trying to live up to the halftime show standards set by the King of Pop.

For Hollywood stars, performing at the Super Bowl halftime show is a marker of career success. While some give their all to deliver unforgettable performances, others become memorable in the worst way possible. 

The Super Bowl halftime show is more than just a stage for singers — it’s a highly sophisticated marketing strategy. At some point, the NFL realized not everyone cares about sports. And hosting performances by artists with enormous fan bases was a clever way to increase viewership. 

In 2021, Super Bowl halftime ad space generated record-breaking revenue. According to Statista, advertisers spent a stellar $545 million on in-game advertising. Advertising revenue combined with ticket revenue makes the Super Bowl an extremely profitable event. According to Ticketmaster, the cheapest Super Bowl ticket is around $5,000, but prices can go as high as $37,000 per ticket. 

Stars who perform at the Super Bowl halftime show don’t get paid, but the NFL covers production expenses. Moreover, it’s a chance for them to solidify their position as a figure in contemporary US culture.

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Super Bowl Halftime Controversy

The 2022 Super Bowl halftime became a memorable event when it stirred controversy about racism. The show featured Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, and Mary J. Blige. But since many of these rap idols are controversial figures… what did the NFL expect?

Eminem kneeled down during his performance on stage. This was a commemorative gesture for Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 anti-racism protests. Colin Kaepernick was an NFL quarterback who frequently took a knee during the Super Bowl’s pregame national anthem. 

After winning reporters’ attention, Kaepernick said he didn’t want to “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people.” He went on to say the issues were “bigger than football.” 

After his kneeling protest, he no longer played on the field and was benched. And while his team denied this was a result of the protest, suspecting fans believe otherwise.

The 2022 performance also crossed boundaries when Dr. Dre failed to omit the lyrics “still not loving police” despite warnings from the NFL. They stated they didn’t want the event to be a “divisive culture war moment,” but Dr. Dre reported feeling “disgustingly censored.”

The hullabaloo led to a slew of 2022 Super Bowl halftime memes and funny captions — speaking of which, here’s one from me. 

Super Bowl halftime meme with Eminem,Mary J.Blige,Dr, Dre, and Snoop Dogg
They might be old-school, but they’re still timeless rap icons

Possible Upcoming Controversy With Rihanna?

Despite turning down an offer to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2019, Rihanna will be the main performance this year. The change of heart has left audiences wondering what’s going on. In an interview with Vogue, Rihanna said the decision was a form of support for Kaepernick. 

While Rihanna stated in 2019 accepting would make her a “sell out” and “enabler,” she agreed to take the lead role for this year’s halftime show. 

Perhaps she’s had a genuine change of attitude, or maybe she too is seeking an opportunity to show public support for Kaepernick. You’ll have to tune in to find out! 

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The 5 Best Super Bowl Halftime Shows

Of course, which halftime shows were the “best” is a subjective question. However, some shows rocked the stage more than others, and certain artists are simply more timeless than others. Here’s my take on the 5 best halftime shows in Super Bowl history.

1. Michael Jackson (1993)

The King of Pop was the first solo artist to perform at the Super Bowl and he set the stage for the decades of shows after. His performance was nothing short of spectacular with eye-catching costumes and unique dance moves. The crowd was ecstatic. 

His 15-minute performance consisted of hit songs Black and White, Billie Jean, and Heal the World.

Image of Michael Jackson performing at the 1993 Super Bowl
Now, that’s entertainment!

2. Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan (1999)

Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan led the show with some Latin soul alongside Stevie Wonder. Together, they created a 90s disco extravaganza.

The show opened on an extremely jazzy note with suited dancers prancing around along to trumpet melodies. Stevie Wonder then stunned the audience by entering the stadium in the driver’s seat of a car all the while singing his hit tune Sir Duke.

If you find yourself in the mood for a feel-good live show recording, you might enjoy taking a trip back to this pre-2000s halftime show. It’s both peculiar and fantastic!

3. The Rolling Stones (2006) 

This raw and original halftime show stayed true to the classic Rolling Stones style. McJagger and the gang worked their magic on a stage shaped like the Rolling Stones tongue-out logo. Although they offered few surprises on the musical front, they gave the crowd satisfaction. They’re already one of the most legendary rock bands in history — that’s enough, right?

They played their music authentically live. That’s more than we can say for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers who played with unplugged instruments when they opened for Bruno Mars.

4. Prince (2007)

Prince’s flashy blue suit and musical prowess had crowds of fans running to the stage for a closer experience of the star. The Super Bowl XL show at Dolphin Stadium in Miami went down as one of the greatest halftime shows of all time. 

The event is remembered for its stormy weather and the excitement when he sang Purple Rain in heavy downpour

5. Eminem, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and 50 Cent (2022)

Despite the controversy around their show, the hip hop legends were a pleasing assembly of old-school rap stars. Each performed their most quintessential tune and together they had the crowd in high spirits. 

But, seeing as the artists might be way past the peak of their careers, it makes one wonder what took so long. Has modern music deteriorated so much we have to bring back the oldies-but-goldies?

The 4 Worst Halftime Shows

It’s true Super Bowl halftime shows have been historically epic. Otherwise, why would non-sports audiences continue to buy such expensive Super Bowl tickets? But, it hasn’t been all magic and wonder, and some shows have gone horribly wrong. 

You’d think with the massive budget it has, the NFL could reliably produce top-notch shows, but it’s just not the case. Here’s my list of the 4 worst Super Bowl halftime shows. Get ready for some real entertainment:

1. Patti LaBelle’s Lip-Syncing (1995) 

Patti LaBelle set the bar low for live performance artists by lip-syncing her way through the Super Bowl halftime show. To be fair, the performance would have been impressive — if it was real. But Patti couldn’t even lip-sync on time to the music

At certain times, you could hear her singing, but her mouth was closed and the microphone was nowhere near it. Poor show, Patti, poor show.

2. Elvis Presto  (1989)  

As part of the 1989 halftime show, an Elvis impersonation act hit the stage, creating enormous controversy in the audience. While some found it funny, others were left shocked and disgusted at the NFL’s audacity and lack of sensitivity. 

It’s bad enough to mock a rock and roll legend, but it adds insult to injury how they failed to consider the feelings of his living loved ones. It was insensitive and crass by most people’s moral standards.

Image of Elvis Presto performing at the Super Bowl
Elvis Presto’s performance was definitely not for everyone.

3. Fergie Murders “Oh Sweet Child o’ Mine” (2011)

I don’t know whose idea it was to get anyone but Axle Rose to try to sing a Guns and Roses song alongside Slash, but it’s blasphemy. To put it mildly, Fergie’s voice was not suited for the song. On top of that, her unapologetic dance moves next to Slash’s obvious shame made for quite an uncomfortable watch. 

Someone has to say it — this isn’t the first time Fergie botched a performance during a national sports event. Her performance of the US National Anthem at the NBA All-Star was otherworldly — in the worst way possible. I never thought I’d say this, but maybe lip-syncing is okay in some cases.

4. Janet Jackson’s Nip Slip (2004)

Janet Jackson’s surprise nipple slip during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show sent shockwaves around the country. The scene took place at the end of Janet’s dance routine with Justin Timberlake.

While some suspicious viewers believe the two planned the exposure, Janet’s career was somewhat derailed as a result. Unlike Janet, Justin’s career skyrocketed, which raised many thought-provoking questions about gender equality in Hollywood. 

Despite the fact Justin pulled off Janet’s garment, revealing her breast to the world, she was the one who had to give a public apology, not him.

Watch the 2023 Superbowl Online With Ease

To many Americans, the Super Bowl is more than just an annual sporting event — it’s a moment of cultural reflection and great significance. The halftime show isn’t just any old performance to pass the time. Rather, it’s a representation of contemporary pop culture and something to relish. That’s why only the top stars are invited to perform. 

The performances are certainly memorable… but not always for the right reasons. Over the decades, the 15-minute intermission has seen jaw-dropping performances of talent, controversy, and even a bit of nudity. 

If you’re not willing to spend your savings on Super Bowl 2023 tickets and plan to watch from home, make sure you catch every moment glitch-free. You don’t want to miss historical happenings because of buffering or network throttling, so be sure to stream the Super Bowl with CyberGhost VPN. 

With thousands of streaming-optimized servers to choose from, you’ll never be left without a solid connection. Get CyberGhost VPN and watch the Super Bowl unfold wherever you are.


Who is performing at the Super Bowl halftime show 2023?

Rihanna will be the main performer at the Super Bowl 2023 halftime show despite declining invitation to perform in previous years. In 2019, she stated she wouldn’t perform due to political disagreements with the NFL and in support of Colin Kaepernic’s anti-racism protests. However, this year, she accepted.
You can also expect to see Roc Nation and Shawn Carter. Some rumors have been circulating that Jay-Z will make a surprise appearance. Regardless of who’s performing, you’ll want to stream the NFL without having to deal with buffering.

Who was the headliner for the first Super Bowl halftime show?

For decades, the university marching bands played during the Super Bowl halftime show with the first performance at the Super Bowl was the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band.
But, in 1993, the NFL changed tone by inviting famous Hollywood stars to take the stage. Michael Jackson was the first solo star to play the NFL halftime show. Whether you’re catching up on past halftime shows or getting ready for 2023, install CyberGhost VPN to make sure you don’t miss a beat.

How much did Michael Jackson get paid for the Super Bowl?

The NFL doesn’t pay stars to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show, but it does cover production and travel costs for stars and their crew. By performing at the Super Bowl, stars also solidify their legacy and promote their music. 
Be sure to connect to CyberGhost VPN when you’re watching famous faces take to the stage. Enjoy excellent streaming speeds and uninterrupted connections with our ultra-fast VPN, so you can watch the action unfold as if you were there yourself.

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