From New Kids on the Block to Rihanna: A modern Super Bowl halftime history

Courtesy Apple Music

Super Bowl halftime shows have come a long way since their humble beginnings.

Rihanna promises her Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday will be a “celebration of her catalog,” while representing for immigrants and “Black women everywhere.” She’s been very much involved in planning the 13-minute extravaganza, reasoning, “At the end of the day, if it flops or it flies, my name has to stand by that.”

But the idea of having current big-name stars perform during halftime only dates back to 1991, when New Kids on the Block did it. Before that, it was marching bands, older stars like Chubby Checker, or the G-rated vocal troupe Up with People

But what really solidified the halftime show as a showcase for superstars was Michael Jackson‘s 1993 performance, featuring a huge inflatable globe and a choir of over 3,000 local children. Thanks to Michael, for the first time ever ratings increased between halves during the game. From then on, stars and spectacle were the rule.

Over the years, the show has been plagued by controversy, starting with 2004’s infamous “Nipplegate” incident with Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson. That led the NFL to hire “safer” classic rock artists such as Bruce Springsteen as halftime performers. Pop stars returned in 2011 with the Black Eyed Peas‘ performance.

Controversies persist, though. During Madonna‘s 2012 performance, one of her guests, rapper M.I.A., flipped off the crowd. And in 2016, Beyoncé was criticized for having backup dancers dressed in outfits reminiscent of the 1960s’ Black Panther political party.

In 2019, many fans felt that Maroon 5, Big Boi and Travis Scott should have declined to perform, due to the NFL’s alleged treatment of Colin Kaepernick. In fact, Rihanna declined to do the show that year for that very reason.

Here’s a look back at who’s done the halftime show since 1991:

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 and 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, *NSYNC, 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 and Missy Elliott
2016 — Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars
2017 — Lady Gaga
2018 — Justin Timberlake
2019 — Maroon 5, Travis Scott, Big Boi
2020 — Jennifer Lopez and Shakira
2021 — The Weeknd
2022 — Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige and Snoop Dogg with 50 Cent and Anderson .Paak
2023 — Rihanna

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