For all the on-field action taking place, the Super Bowl is most often defined (and remembered) for the Half Time performances. Taking centre stage at the Super Bowl is a milestone for any musician, a sure sign that you’ve made it. While the lead up to Super Bowl LV has been mostly dominated by talk of Tom Brady, the focus has also been on The Weeknd as he prepared to grace the Super Bowl stage.
The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye,) had been teasing a once in a lifetime performance, a fate already achieved given the 2021 performance comes during a once in a lifetime pandemic, and he did not disappoint.
The Grammy award winner allegedly tipped in more $9 million dollars of his own money to ensure the half time show meets his lofty expectations and the result was a cinematic masterpiece from the 30-year-old Canadian. In addition, the performance lasted a whopping 24 minutes, a pivot from the usual 13-minute special. The Weeknd spent much of the performance flanked by copycat performers dressed identically to the performer. Eventually, he descended from the stands, taking to the field for a breathtaking performance of Blinding Lights.
— NFL (@NFL) February 8, 2021
While it remains to be seen where The Weeknd’s performance ranks in the annals of Super Bowl’s half time shows, history tells us we won’t soon forget it.
Half Time Hits and Misses
1993: Michael Jackson
If anyone can justify standing still for two minutes straight while the eyes of the world watch on in awe, it’s Michael Jackson. The King of Pop became one of the first ‘famous faces’ to tackle the Super Bowl half time show, after the disastrous 1991 performance by New Kids on the Block.
Perceived by many as the shift into a more celebrity-focused spectacle, Jackson blew the crowd away with a medley of his hits including Billie Jean, Black or White, We Are the World, and Heal the World.
2004: Janet Jackson and Nipplegate
From one Jackson to another, easily the most infamous internet moment of the Noughties, the 2004 Super Bowl performance will be forever remembered as the time we all saw Janet Jackson’s nipple. Mid-way through a high energy performance Janet was joined by Justin Timberlake, both looking suitably sexy while strutting their stuff.
But things took a controversial turn when a choreographed move resulted in Timberlake exposing Jackson’s left breast during the broadcast. A shellshocked Jackson was able to recover from the incident mid-performance but the damage was done.
The moral outrage was swift and the NFL received a record number of complaints following the broadcast. Nipplegate became such a divisive moment that it even reached the upper echelons of power, with then-First Lady Laura Bush weighing in.
“What it represented was a kind of television viewing that you don’t want little children to see, it was at a family time of day, a time when many, many families were together watching the Super Bowl,” Laura Bush said. “So I think that makes it really unfortunate. Parents didn’t know to turn the television off before that happened.
Jackson’s representative explained the incident, saying: “Justin was supposed to pull away the rubber bustier to reveal a red lace bra. The garment collapsed and her breast was accidentally revealed.”
Arguably the greatest Super Bowl Half Time show of all time, Prince had the weather gods on his side when he stepped onto the stage in 2007. Kitted out in a brilliant aqua suit and an orange button-up shirt, Prince looked every inch the superstar when he belted out the first few bars of Purple Rain.
And then, as if on cue, the heavens opened and a torrential downpour commenced lending his performance an out of this world quality that has yet to be matched. One of the great half time shows from one of the great half time performers.
2013: Beyonce and Destiny’s Child
Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned reunion? When Beyonce got the nod to perform at Super Bowl XLVII speculation was immediately rife that she may be joined by former Destiny’s Child pals Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland.
Beyonce kicked things off with a scintillating solo performance of Crazy In Love before blowing our minds by unveiling Kelly and Michelle. The trio then performed a medley of their hits including Bootylicious and Survivor. Michelle and Kelly then lent a hand on Beyonce’s mega-hit All The Single Ladies.
Were we ready for this jelly? No, we were not.
2015: Katy Perry and the Left Shark
File this one under ‘weird but wonderful,’ Katy Perry’s half time show became part of NFL folklore thanks to a slightly out of time performer in a shark suit.
Standing directly to Katy’s left was Bryan Gaw, forever known affectionally as Left Shark. Try as he might, Left Shark was unable to keep up with Katy and the rest of the troupe, remaining a few beats behind for the entire performance. The internet appreciated Left Shark’s determination though and he quickly became a beloved meme.
2020: J Lo and Shakira
Despite being only a year ago this performance seems to exist in an alternate universe, one where Shakira and J Lo were allowed to touch, hug and dance without social distancing. Pairing up these two Latino leading ladies was a masterstroke by the NFL and they didn’t disappoint. They each took turns performing individual hits, Shakira belting out Hips Don’t Lie, Lopez dropping Jenny From The Block, before joining forces to collaborate on each other’s songs, the setlist included Let’s Get Loud and Waka Waka.