Super Bowl 51 between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons boasts a halftime show that will be headlined by Lady Gaga.
Knowing Lady Gaga, it will likely be a memorable performance that could be in the running for “best of all-time” status. A woman of many costumes and talents, she has even come out and said she wants to perform atop the NRG Stadium roof. Even if that doesn’t happen, it’s hard to remember a halftime performance with so much hype behind it.
Before Lady Gaga does her thing and likely makes history, let’s take a look at what she’s up against.
10. Paul McCartney, 2005
Paul McCartney delivered in every way imaginable back in 2005.
For the NFL, the legendary performer was a way to escape from the fiasco that was Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. McCartney knocked it out of the park, slamming home hits such as “Live and Let Die” and “Hey Jude.”
Sans any silly costumes and showmanship, McCartney had roughly 84,000 people recanting his greatest hits, even allowing NFL organizers to simply sit back and take it all in.
9. Aerosmith, NSYNC, Nelly and Britney Spears, 2001
If McCartney was a safe choice, Aerosmith, NSYNC, Nelly and Britney Spears were, well, something completely different.
This was an odd but pleasantly surprising and enjoyable mishmash of talent across all genres. Basically, it was a Now That’s What I Call Music! CD thrown on stage.
Aerosmith killed it, NSYNC went “Bye, Bye, Bye” and Nelly came out with Mary J. Blige for a song or two where everyone pitched in for a genre-blending experience done right.
8. The Rolling Stones (2006)
Another safe pick, the Rolling Stones didn’t do much different from what they normally do at a concert, and that’s a good thing.
Mick Jagger and Co. walked out on a sprawling tongue of a stage and only performed three songs, including “Start Me Up” and “Satisfaction,” killing the performance in classic rocker style.
Short and to the point, the Rolling Stones played for all of 12 minutes and called it a night. If the last group was the example of a great collaboration, this was how to keep a halftime brief and legendary.
7. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, 2004
Now, for the controversial performance.
Musically speaking, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake didn’t do anything crazy or thrilling on stage back in 2004, as many would suggest. It actually wasn’t too memorable of a set. The whole wardrobe malfunction overshadowed the performance.
Endless debate has occurred since. Was it a planned thing or not?
It’s hard to say, but we’re still talking about it all these years later, and even Las Vegas offers a wardrobe malfunction prop bet each year, so it makes the list.
6. Madonna, 2012
Madonna put on a great performance in 2012, getting girly with pom-poms and running through some old favorites.
Honestly, though, performing alongside the former group LMFAO knocks her down a few slots on this list. They really stunk it up on stage.
It’s a shame, too, because involving performers like Cee-Lo Green and Nicki Minaj was a good way to bridge the young-old gap of the audience.
Oh, and don’t forget her entrance, which was downright epic.
5. U2, 2002
The world needed an uplifting message a few months after 9/11 Terror Attacks, and U2 delivered.
Bono and Co. hopped on the heart-shaped stage and put on a performance for the ages while the names of those killed in the attacks scrolled in the background.
Hits like “Where the Streets Have No Name” perfectly fit the moment and live on today as one of the most memorable performances during a time in which we all needed it most.
4. Bruce Springsteen, 2009
Bruce Springsteen made football fans wait a long time for this one.
After he and the E Street Band turned down multiple offers to perform at halftime, they decided 2009 was the right time to do it.
And boy, was it ever. Springsteen had Tampa rocking to “10th Avenue Freeze Out” and others. At one point he even went sliding and slammed into a camera, as seen above.
The performance is a good lesson for say, Cleveland Browns fans: Good things do come to those who wait.
3. Beyoncé, 2013
Few in history have had a solo stage presence like Beyoncé, which she flaunted loud and clear in New Orleans back in 2013.
That is, until the long-rumored Destiny’s Child reunion became official.
Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams showed up and all bets were off, as the trio went running through some classics and songs such as “Single Ladies.”
One could argue this was the performance that assured Beyoncé global superstar status, though she has been one for so long that it remains up for debate.
2. Michael Jackson, 1993
Few have ever come close to matching Michael Jackson’s 1993 performance.
Jackson is perhaps the only entertainer in history who could stand on stage for 90 seconds and do nothing, while somehow building anticipation instead of disinterest. A marching band, slick dance moves and hits like “Billie Jean” and “Black or White” tore the house down. As a smooth way to wrap things up, Jackson brought 3,500 kids on stage to help with “Heal the World” while a blow-up globe inflated at the 50-yard line.
Only one performance stands toe-to-toe with Jackson’s 1993 showing, which set the bar as far as halftime performances go.
1. Prince, 2007
At first glance, Prince was a bit of an odd choice for a halftime performance, yet he hit the stage solo with his purple guitar and killed his own hits, as well as the hits of others. He weaved through the legendary work of other artists such as “Proud Mary” and “All Along the Watchtower” with ease before crushing “Purple Rain” just as it actually started to rain.
Historic, epic and funky, few have managed to capture the feel of this epic performance. It crossed off all the boxes for what a halftime show should entail, and is now the measuring stick for Super Bowl performances.
This will be the first Super Bowl since Prince passed away last April, and don’t be surprised if we see some sort of tribute during Lady Gaga’s performance on Sunday.