A Decade of Super Bowl Halftime Shows Ranked!

For those of us who aren’t football fanatics, the Halftime Show is one of the highlights of the event. Here’s our ranking of the last decade of performances!

Whether you’re an avid NFL watcher or not, there’s one thing almost everyone is excited for every year––the Halftime Show. Over the years, performers of all genres and generations have taken the hallowed stage.

This year, iconic California rappers Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar performed for their home team, the LA Rams, alongside Mary J. Blige and Eminem. It was the rap and hip–hop fusion of legends. In honor of the recent superbowl, here’s our ranking of the last ten years of performances (minus 2020, thanks COVID.)

1.) Beyonce, Coldplay, and Bruno Mars (2016)

This performance was the perfect blend for everyone–a blend of pop and rock, and of newer tracks and nostalgic ones that many Gen Z and Millennial viewers would appreciate. The sets were colorful and vibrant, with Coldplay’s Chris Martin making his grand entrance onto a seemingly holographic lit stage singing the band’s early 2000s hit Viva La Vida. The combination of the three artists is a seemingly unlikely one–but all three were reaching peak chart positions that year, and collaborated beautifully. The transitions between artists were smooth, and each had their own unique entrance (a line of drummers unfurled to reveal Beyonce as she began singing Formation). The three reunited at the end flanked in backup dancers dressed in multicolored outfits that looked like flowers from an aerial view. This was also the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, so the end of the performance also included a powerful montage of halftime shows of the past. All in all, this one still deserves a number one spot after all these years–just for its unique yet seamless blend.

2.) Lady Gaga (2017)

No matter the performance, Lady Gaga ALWAYS puts on a show. Between her most theatrical songs like Born This Way and the softer emotional ballad Million Reasons, she was able to both entertain and move the audience. Her glamorous outfits and makeup took the performance to the next level for such a massive crowd, and each set was applicable to the song she sang, which ended with a simple piano for Million Reasons. Gaga’s raw talent and stage presence will always keep this performance at the top of the list.

3. Madonna (2012)

Over the years, pop culture has drawn several comparisons between Lady Gaga and Madonna. While her performance was equally as theatrical, it felt entirely different–Madonna rode into the arena on a golden chariot carried by dancers dressed like Greco-Roman soldiers, and began singing Vogue as she struck poses. Rife with iconic songs of the 80s and 90s, this performance was upbeat and eye catching–Nicki Minaj even made a brief appearance during Give Me All Your Luvin’. The ending of the performance was stunning–light formations and a huge gospel choir led by CeeLo Green joined her as she sang Like a Prayer. The final shot was a light formation spelling out “world peace.” The pop queen had done it again.

4. Shakira and JLo (2019)

This performance was a true celebration of Latin culture. Shakira performed her iconic Hips Don’t Lie and JLo performed Jenny From the Block. The backup dancers were incredibly in sync, and complimented the dance moves of the singers, especially Shakira, who is known for her belly dancing on stage. Shakira’s guitar solo and Bad Bunny’s feature tied the performance together even more. It was fun, upbeat, and the crowd was loving this Latin duo.

5. Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (2014)

This performance was a Rock & Roll lover’s dream. Bruno Mars has undergone numerous genre and stylistic changes over the course of his extensive career. Prior to his funk fueled-Silk Sonic days that we see now, he released an album in the style of vintage 1950s rock-pop fusion. His golden jacket and pompadour haircut completed this image well for the performance. The show opened with a sweet children’s choir linking arms and singing the opening of his hit Billionaire. The switch up to rockin and rollin was quick as the cameras then cut to a powerful drum solo from Mars, leading into him singing Locked Out of Heaven. The transition to the Red Hot Chili Peppers was fairly smooth, but it felt like a bit of an odd combination–they generally complimented each other well, but the two acts certainly catered to two different audiences. The sets for this one were on the simpler side, but the stage presence and instrumentalists definitely carried the performance overall.

6. Beyonce (2013)

This was Beyonce’s first Super Bowl performance, and she absolutely dominated–since this was pre-Lemonade, much of this show included more of her Y2K hits. She commanded the arena and engaged well with the crowd, and everyone was left hypnotized by Halo at the end.

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

This year’s performance featured a lot of the greats–both pop culture icons, Grammy winners, and Pulitzer prize winner Kendrick Lamar. But because there were so many powerhouses sharing the stage at once, it felt a little crowded. Each had the chance to sing at least one of their hit songs, and Eminem, the only white performer, took a knee on stage in the style of Colin Kaepernick (formerly of the 49ers) to symbolize his support for the Black Lives Matter movement. It was an incredibly powerful statement. While each of these performers were fantastic in their own right, they could have been divided between this year and next year.

8. Katy Perry (ft. Missy Elliot and Lenny Kravitz) 2015

If anyone watched this performance in 2015, you most likely remember all of the Left Shark memes it spurred for months afterwards. The iconic Left Shark was a backup dancer in a shark suit behind Perry while she sang Teenage Dream. This performance had a lot going on at once–a mechanical lion she rode in on to sing Roar, backup dancers dressed as beach balls and sharks, and more. Lenny Kravitz popped in for a duet and an amazing guitar solo, and Missy Elliot’s energetic performance was great, but just felt a little random in the middle of the set–I felt she needed more time. At times, it felt a little like the overall fanfare took away from the performance. It was all worth it in the end when she sang Firework and was accompanied by a literal firework show.

9. Justin Timberlake (2018)

Another meme–inspiring performance, you may remember the “selfie kid” of 2018, who appeared shocked to snag a selfie with the former NSYNC star. This was Timberlake’s first reappearance at the Halftime Show since the accidental wardrobe malfunction incident with Janet Jackson in 2004. Timberlake kept it light and fun, and sang some of his more recent hits and some of his earlier solo work post NSYNC, like “SexyBack.”

10. The Weeknd (2021)

While the Weeknd’s 2021 performance included great vocals and many of his catchy hits, the show felt a little lackluster. The backup dancers were all dressed in matching suits and futuristic helmets, but they felt too robotic to contribute enough to the performance. Perhaps it was the reduced capacity amid COVID-19 that contributed to the lack of audience engagement, but the Weeknd still gave it his all.

About the Author

Madison Goldberg

Madison E. Goldberg is a senior at Emerson College majoring in journalism and minoring in publishing and photography. She’s covered numerous topics in news and entertainment as a multimedia journalist.