Though the Super Bowl is a haven for commercial variety and football excitement, the halftime show is a coveted place for famous musicians to perform.
This year, Beyoncé will enter the annals of Super Bowl halftime history.
However, not every Super Bowl halftime show is memorable for television audiences.
When most people remember past shows, they think of U2’s tribute to September 11th victims in the 2001 Super Bowl game, or Janet Jackson’s unfortunate slipup in 2004. Looking closely at the last five years of Super Bowl halftime shows will show that they’re really not all they’re cracked up to be.
Super Bowl XLII’s halftime show featured Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. This show really did not stand out in any particular way. A huge guitar-shaped stage and some dramatically waving audience lights during “Free Fallin'” were the highlights of the show.
Other than that, it was just a bunch of old guys chilling on a stage. The next year had more to offer with Bruce Springsteen and E. Street Band.
Honestly though, it was Clarence Clemons that stole the show with his signature saxophone solos and goofy outfit. The singing and energy were up from the preceding year, but a lot of the songs came off as just cheesy.
In 2010, I really wanted to enjoy the halftime show; I really did. I remember watching in anticipation, thinking, “It’s The Who! There’s no way this will suck!”
Apparently there was a way, as I realized after about 12 minutes of the band trying to hit notes that were clearly out of their range. A beastly harmonica solo was this show’s saving grace. The light show was also fantastic, but even lasers, fireworks, and windmill-like guitar strumming weren’t enough to hide the fact that The Who just weren’t what they used to be.
Then, things started to get weird in the following Super Bowl halftime performances.
I enjoyed Super Bowl XLV’s show just as much as I enjoyed the movie it was themed after: not at all. “Tron: Legacy” was a strange theme to be acted out by various pop singers, none of whom really pulled it off.
The Black Eyed Peas wore ridiculous outfits and seemed to yelp their lyrics at the audience. Fergie’s opera-like vocals just didn’t cut it for me, especially for such a classic song as “Sweet Child o’Mine” with a guitar solo performed during Slash’s brief visit on stage. Then, bursting out with an awkwardly feminine dance number, Usher’s “OMG” was difficult to watch.
The effects included dancers surrounding the stage in creepy light suits which flashed and changed colors with the musical themes.
I am not sure what happened between 2010 and 2011 to make such a drastic shift in halftime performances, but the strangeness continued into last year’s show.
With a theme that didn’t seem to translate well, Madonna ruled the 2012 show along with LMFAO, MIA, Cee Lo Green, and Nicki Minaj. This show had more well-organized choreography and varied music with interesting transitions and mash-ups. However, the entire show seemed to be trying to outdo everything before it.
Madonna went from being pulled onstage by rows of men, to dancing with members of Cirque de Soleil, to perching atop of LMFAO singer Redfoo’s shoulders. Cee Lo Green brought in a huge drum line – somehow pulling off a drum-major outfit better than I expected he would – with Egyptian-looking cheerleaders chanting the beginning of “Give Me All Your Luvin.”
The soulful ending included a full church choir and lights that spelled out “World Peace” across the field.
Last year’s Super Bowl had something for everyone, but it was too much for me. As the performances stray more and more away from their origins of classic rock, I’m nervous for what could be in store.
This year, I have no idea what to expect. The Super Bowl halftime performances have progressively become more daring, and it is questionable if Beyoncé will follow suit.
After alleged lip-syncing at President Obama’s inauguration ceremony, there is no question that her halftime performance will be picked apart by crowds watching both at the game and at home on their TVs.