Super Bowl Halftime Show 2013: The Best and Worst Performances Ever

The Super Bowl halftime show is often more unpredictable and brutal than the game itself, and is never half as enjoyable as the commercials. The halftime show is intended mainly to provide entertainment for the half of Americans who don’t enjoy football but are watching the game anyway as some sort of social obligation.

It’s funny that when the halftime sponsors try to come up with this 15-minute segment to compliment the other four slow-moving hours of raw masculinity and bloodsport, what they create is a hyper-speed, cheese-filled, outrageous mess of a spectacle that most closely resembles a Broadway show.

The venn diagram is arranged as follows:



Judging by the amount of missteps that have occurred during Super Bowl Halftime Shows, it makes sense why music isn't on television anymore.

I’ve picked out four of the worst halftime shows, and three of the best. There are less of the best because there are less good halftime shows than there are bad, and seven because this upcoming Super Bowl is number 47. I’m looking forward to Beyoncé’s performance very much. The recent lip sync uproar has not fazed me. If you demand symmetry from your best of/worst of lists, consider Beyoncé’s upcoming performance my my number four best. Let the countdown begin.

The Best

3) Diana Ross; 1996


I’m a sucker for the Supremes. Diana Ross’ performance is simple, soulful, and uplifting. It’s still got plenty of pageantry, but it’s less gaudy than most of the other Super Bowl performances. The most complicated stunt is a legion of yellow-robed gospel singers splitting their march into two and forming curving into a circle. It looks nice from the stands.

2) Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan; 1999 


The performance opens with Stevie Wonder dressed in a ballin’ top hat driving across the field in a small convertible. He pulls up to the stage and is led to his piano by two beautiful showgirls. He kills his songs, and ends his show tap dancing alongside a world class tap dancer.

Stevie Wonder driving! And tap dancing! My mind was blown.

I can only imagine Stevie was elated. He was up there in front of the entire nation doing three things few people thought he’d ever be able to do — driving, playing the piano like a boss, and tap dancing. That’s power.

1) Michael Jackson; 1993


Michael Jackson ‘93. He’s got the creepy nose job, but he’s still dancing incredibly, and the weirdo controversy is just a pinprick on the horizon. He owns the show. He spends the first five minutes of his performance in total silence — posing in his famous golden bandoleer military-glam outfit — and the crowd loves it.

MJ’s moonwalk is no gimmick. That move is real! He brought the moon’s physics to earth when he did that.

The ending number with all the children of the world gathered around him harmonizing together feels a little odd knowing about the lawsuits to come. But that aside, it’s really a touching and heartfelt moment. It’s awesome to see Michael on top because he was the best. R.I.P.

The Worst

4) Elvis Presto; 1989


I don’t even know who, what, why, how the hell someone thought this was a good idea to put on television ever, let alone the most watched television event of the year. Elvis Presto is an Elvis Presley impersonator that does card tricks with the crowd.

“Which card it’s gonna be my friends, depends how hard you clap your hands.”

Awful. Just embarrassing for everyone involved.

3) New Kids On the Block/ Disney's "It's a Small World After All"; 1991

Every part of this performance is unsettling. A pink castle vomits up a disorganized mass of Disney memorabilia; the boys of New Kids On The Block take bad vocal solos, and cuddle small children. (Somehow, watching the New Kids On The Block cuddling small children is way creepier than seeing Michael Jackson do it.) And, at the very end Mickey Mouse squeaks: “Thanks to our armed forces everywhere!” after singing a song about global unity. It’s just all sorts of weird, and the sooner I can forget about it the better.

2) The Rolling Stones; 2006


You see that screenshot? That arm flab? Unacceptable. 

It’s been quoted a hundred times before, but here it is again: Mick Jagger, 1975:

“I’d rather be dead than sing Satisfaction when I’m 45.”

Poor Mick will never live those words down.

I blame our #1 worst for forcing us to endure hoarse lifeless old men rock stars for six years after her stunt. I loved the music they made in their prime. I’ll listen to those recordings if I want to hear it. I don’t care anymore.


1) Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake; 2004


Yeah you already knew it was coming. Talk about an anti-climax. The only time a nipple has stood in the way of a satisfying climax.

I’m still not sure what happened here, what Janet and JT’s intentions were. I feel like it must have been purposeful. Whatever their intentions were, the sensationalist media that followed was unbearable. Why give the FCC the opportunity to stroke its ego and flex its muscles like that? 

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Tom Barnes

Tom Barnes is a senior staff writer at Mic focused on music, activism and the intersection between the two. He's based in New York and can be reached at tom@mic.com.

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