Katy Perry performs at Super Bowl 49; Tom Pennington/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Super Bowl halftime show normally features the biggest names in music, who are often veteran performers. This year’s headliners, pop/rock band Coldplay, aren’t on the level of past headliners like The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, but they’re a bit more seasoned than the headliners from the last two years: Katy Perry and Bruno Mars.
Coldplay, who just released a new album, A Head Full of Dreams, will celebrate their 20th anniversary this year. They’ll take the stage with some help from past headliner Beyonce and, rumor has it, Bruno Mars, who headlined in 2014. Special guests have also been teased for today’s 12-minute performance.
It’s more than been ten years since Janet Jackson’s notorious “wardrobe malfunction” scandal of 2004 led the NFL to turn to “safe” classic rock acts. In addition to the Stones and Springsteen, we saw Paul McCartney, The Who and Tom Petty take the stage over the past decade. Contemporary pop returned to the scene in 2011, when the Black Eyed Peas took the stage; no wardrobe malfunctions ensued.
The NFL took a risk in 2012 with one of pop music’s most controversial stars, Madonna, but the only controversy that emerged from that was courtesy of one of her invited guests, M.I.A., who flipped the bird during the performance. In 2013, Beyonce delivered a widely-acclaimed performance, though some felt her outfit and her gyrations were a bit racy.
Early in her career, Katy Perry had been a bit controversial due to her #1 hit “I Kissed a Girl,” and for her cleavage-baring outfits, but last year, her spectacular headlining show went off without controversy, to great critical acclaim and record viewership.
But believe it or not, the trend of having major pop, rock and country music stars appear at the Super Bowl halftime show only dates back to 1991, when New Kids on the Block performed. Before that, the halftime show usually consisted of marching bands, older stars like Chubby Checker and Ella Fitzgerald, or the G-rated vocal troupe Up with People. That’s because initially, the halftime show was designed to entertain the audience in the stands, not those viewing at home. As the New York Times puts it, “It was decades before the NFL realized that the halftime show plays not to the stadium but to the camera.”
But after ’91, it was all stars, all the time, especially in 1993, when Michael Jackson, the reigning King of Pop, sang “Heal the World” with thousands of children. Writes the Times, “It was one template for the Super Bowl shows that eventually followed: a superstar, big hits, a cast of thousands and graphics for blimps to photograph from above.”
Here’s a reminder of who’s played Super Bowl halftime shows in the modern era:
1991 — New Kids on the Block
1992 — Gloria Estefan
1993 — Michael Jackson, performing with 3,500 children
1994 — Country stars Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, Wynonna, and Naomi Judd
1995 — Patti Labelle, Miami Sound Machine & Tony Bennett
1996 — Diana Ross
1997 — ZZ Top, James Brown, the Blues Brothers featuring Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman and James Belushi
1998 — Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, the Temptations, Queen Latifah
1999 — Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
2000 — Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton
2001 — Aerosmith, ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, Nelly, Mary J. Blige
2002 — U2
2003 — Shania Twain, No Doubt, Sting
2004 — Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Nelly, Kid Rock, P. Diddy
2005 — Paul McCartney
2006 — The Rolling Stones
2007 — Prince
2008 — Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
2009 — Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
2010 — The Who
2011 — Black Eyed Peas
2012 — Madonna
2013 — Beyonce (and Destiny’s Child, briefly)
2014 — Bruno Mars feat. Red Hot Chili Peppers
2015 — Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz & Missy Elliott
2016 — Coldplay, Beyonce and guests
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