Top 10 Super Bowl Halftime Shows

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes Super Bowl Halftime Shows (Part 1)

Rihanna is ready to rock the stage at the Super Bowl Halftime Show on Sunday.

Fans are already trying to guess the setlist with countless hits: “SOS,” “Umbrella,” “Shut Up and Drive,” “Don’t Stop the Music,” “Take a Bow,” “Disturbia,” “Rude Boy,” “Only Girl (In the World),” “What’s My Name?,” “S&M,” “We Found Love,” “Diamonds” and “Work.”

In the meantime, it’s time for our fun annual tradition on WTOP ranking the best Super Bowl Halftime Show performances ever. Each year, some performances rise, others fall, but it’s all subjective and mostly just a fun way to get excited for the Super Bowl.

Here’s my personal top 10 ranking, alternating between classic and modern artists:

Singer Paul McCartney performs during the Super Bowl XXXIX halftime show at Alltel Stadium, Feb. 6, 2005, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
The Rolling Stones perform at the Super Bowl. (MICHAEL ZAGARIS/GETTY IMAGES)

10. Paul McCartney (2005) vs. The Rolling Stones (2006) — TIE

After Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction,” the Super Bowl turned to safer throwbacks with Paul McCartney, who performed “Live and Let Die” and “Get Back” before a stadium sing-a-long to “Hey Jude.” The following year, The Beatles’ rivals The Rolling Stones rocked out to “Start Me Up” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” They would both rank higher if they were in their prime, but their timeless showmanship deserves a spot.

Eminem, from left, performs with Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige and Snoop Dogg during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

9. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar & Eminem (2022)

Who cares if it was just last year? The hip-hop show was fire. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg kicked it off with “The Next Episode” and “California Love,” followed by 50 Cent hanging upside-down for “In da Club,” Mary J. Blige crooning “Family Affair” and Kendrick Lamar rapping “Alright” before culminating with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and Dre’s “Still D.R.E.”

In this Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008 file photo, Tom Petty, of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, performs during halftime of the Super Bowl XLII football game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

8. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (2008)

After years of cluttered stages, it was refreshing to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers hit the stage alone. “American Girl” kicked off a superb set list of “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin'” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” Now that Petty has passed away, it should make fans realize that they took his Super Bowl concert for granted. Play it back and see.

This Feb. 1, 1993 file photo shows Pop superstar Michael Jackson performing during the halftime show at the Super Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy, File)

7. Michael Jackson (1993)

Despite obvious lip-syncing, The King of Pop put the halftime show on the map. He shot up through the stage and stood like a statue for 90 seconds as the roaring crowd hung on his every head turn, before launching into “Billie Jean” and “Black or White.” Alas, the kids on stage for “Heal the World” feels awkward after the “Leaving Neverland” documentary.

Musician Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform at the Bridgestone halftime show during Super Bowl XLIII between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (JAMIE SQUIRE/GETTY IMAGES)

6. Bruce Springsteen (2009)

Springsteen regularly performs four-hour sets with his E Street Band, so the Super Bowl was a cake walk. The Boss mixed new tunes (“Working on a Dream”) with classics (“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “Born to Run,” “Glory Days”) and slid on his knees right into the camera before a final exchange with Stevie Van Zandt: “What time is it?” “It’s Boss time.”

NEW ORLEANS, LA – FEBRUARY 03: Kelly Rowland, Beyonce and Michelle Williams perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

5. Beyoncé (2013)

If future generations want to know what made Beyoncé a star, just play them her halftime show. Bey owned the stage, opening with “Crazy in Love,” dancing with Destiny’s Child to “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and closing with “Halo.” It was so electric that it caused a stadium blackout in the second half, shifting momentum from the 49ers to the Ravens.

Lady Gaga
In this Feb. 5, 2017 file photo, singer Lady Gaga performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, in Houston. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

4. Lady Gaga (2017)

After declaring “I’m on the edge” to “leap” off the stadium roof, Gaga froze like a statue to sing, “I wanna hold ’em like they do in Texas, please,” rattled off “Poker Face,” “Born This Way” and “Telephone,” played keyboard on “Just Dance,” piano on “Million Reasons” and ended with “Bad Romance,” donning shoulder pads to catch a pass and fly off stage. Wow.

Super Bowl (AP)
Bruno Mars performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

3. Bruno Mars (2014)

If anyone doubted whether Bruno Mars was ready for prime time, his halftime show was proof. After a drum solo, Mars launched into “Locked Out of Heaven” with Motown moves, slick jackets and brass instruments that were both nostalgic and fresh. It was a “star is born” moment that catapulted him to Grammys for “Uptown Funk” and “24K Magic.”

In this Feb. 3, 2002 file photo, The Edge, from left, Bono and Adam Clayton, of U2, perform during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVI at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

2. U2 — 9/11 Tribute (2002)

Not only is U2 one of the most prolific rock bands in history, the Irish group crossed the pond to help America heal after 9/11. We got goosebumps watching the victims’ names rise as The Edge played “Where the Streets Have No Name” before Bono let out a primal scream as the names tumbled down like the Twin Towers. Words don’t do it justice.

In this Feb. 4, 2007, file photo, Prince performs during the halftime show at the Super Bowl XLI football game in Miami. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)

1. Prince (2007)

Topping the list is Prince, whose 2016 death cements this performance for the ages. Standing on his giant symbol, Prince shredded guitar on “Let’s Go Crazy” before killer covers of “Best of You,” “We Will Rock You” and “All Along the Watchtower.” The climax was “Purple Rain” in a Miami thunderstorm wearing eight-inch platform heels. When officials asked how to handle the rain, Prince replied, “Can you make it rain harder?”

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes Super Bowl Halftime Shows (Part 2)

Below is a full chronological list of Super Bowl halftime performances:

1967 — University of Arizona and Grambling State University Marching Bands, Al Hirt

1968 — Grambling State University Marching Band

1969 — Florida A&M University and Miami-area high school bands

1970 — Carol Channing, Southern University Marching Band

1971 — Southeast Missouri State Marching Band, Up with People

1972 — Ella Fitzgerald, Carol Channing, Al Hirt, U.S. Marine Corps Drill Team

1973 — University of Michigan Marching Band, Woody Herman, Andy Williams

1974 — University of Texas Marching Band, Miss Texas Judy Mallett

1975 — Mercer Ellington, Grambling State University Marching Band

1976 — Up with People

1977 — Los Angeles Unified All-City Band

1978 — Tyler Apache Belles Drill Team, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt

1979 — Ken Hamilton, Various Bands from the Caribbean

1980 — Up with People, Grambling State University Marching Band

1981 — Southern University Marching Band, Helen O’Connell

1982 — Up with People (Tribute to Motown)

1983 — Los Angeles Super Drill Team

1984 — University of Florida Marching Band and Florida State University Marching Bands

1985 — Tops in Blue

1986 — Up with People

1987 — George Burns, Mickey Rooney, Grambling State University and USC Marching Bands

1988 — Chubby Checker, The Rockettes, San Diego State Marching Band, USC Marching Band

1989 — Elvis Presto

1990 — Pete Fountain, Doug Kershaw, Irma Thomas, Nicholls State University, Southern University and USL Marching Bands

1991 — New Kids on the Block

1992 — Gloria Estefan with Olympic figure skaters Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill

1993 — Michael Jackson

1994 — Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, The Judds

1995 — Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass, Tony Bennett, Arturo Sandoval, Miami Sound Machine

1996 — Diana Ross

1997 — The Blues Brothers, James Brown, ZZ Top

1998 — Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Temptations, Queen Latifah, Grambling State University Band

1999 — Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Savion Glover

2000 — Tina Turner, Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton

2001 — Aerosmith, *NSYNC, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Nelly

2002 — U2 (9/11 Tribute)

2003 — Shania Twain, No Doubt, Sting

2004 — Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock

2005 — Paul McCartney

2006 — The Rolling Stones

2007 — Prince

2008 — Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

2009 — Bruce Springsteen

2010 — The Who

2011 — The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Slash

2012 — Madonna, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Cee Lo Green

2013 — Beyoncé with Destiny’s Child

2014 — Bruno Mars, The Red Hot Chili Peppers

2015 — Katy Perry, Missy Elliot

2016 — Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Beyoncé

2017 — Lady Gaga

2018 — Justin Timberlake

2019 — Maroon 5

2020 — Jennifer Lopez, Shakira

2021 — The Weeknd

2022 — Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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