NFL

Super Stinkers: The Worst Super Bowl Halftime Shows of All Time

Darren - February 5, 2024
NFL

Super Stinkers: The Worst Super Bowl Halftime Shows of All Time

Darren - February 5, 2024

With the Super Bowl set to go down from Las Vegas this Sunday evening, let’s be real for a moment. Many people who watch the Super Bowl don’t care about football. They care about the commercials and the halftime shows. Millions of casuals around the world tune in on a day where they pretend to know about the NFL.

Today, the halftime shows are one of the most iconic moments of this showpiece event. However, for every Diana Ross and Lady Gaga, there’s Janet Jackson and Christina Aguilera. Let’s look at some of the most notorious Super Bowl Halftime Shows and their worst moments.

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Us Weekly

The Left Shark

This was simultaneously one of the best and worst moments in the history of Super Bowl Halftime Shows. Bryan Gaw didn’t know that he was about to become a cultural icon in the U.S. Katy Perry was the lead act in 2016 and she delivered a decent performance. But Gaw inadvertently stole her thunder through his awful dancing.

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Yahoo Sports

He was one of two men wearing shark costumes dancing behind her. The other shark was perfectly on point but Gaw danced like a maniac with zero sense of choreography. Fans couldn’t believe what they were watching because this was one of the highest points of Perry’s career. An uncoordinated shark upstaged her with hilarious results (via People).

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Rolling Stone

Paul McCartney

Everybody knows that the NFL is one of the most conservative institutions in the U.S. That’s why they often book the safest possible choices when they’re choosing halftime show artists. McCartney is undoubtedly a musical legend but nobody thought he was the best option for the Super Bowl (via CBS Sports).

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ABC News

This came in the aftermath of racier performances by the likes of Madonna and Janet Jackson. So they went in the complete other direction by selecting the former Beatle. The problem was that his performance style didn’t lend itself to this football festival. In the end, it was one of the worst Super Bowl halftime shows ever.

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AP

The Weeknd

Abel Tesfaye AKA The Weeknd was up against it in 2021 when he performed at the Super Bowl. The Canadian superstar accepted the gig in difficult circumstances. The event was during the height of the global health crisis and it restricted his capacity to bring in more dancers and supporting acts (via NFL.com).

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GQ

He was fine on the day but there’s no denying that this show lacked the pomp and drama we expect. Yes, he has some amazing songs but that didn’t change the reality that this was a weak show. Fans aren’t tuning in for one singer to perform by himself. That’s why this was one of the weakest Super Bowl Halftime Shows of recent years.

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NFL

Elvis Presto

Before we complain about Maroon 5 and Justin Timberlake, it’s important to look back at the past’s horrors. First, let’s caveat this by saying that the Super Bowl show as we know it didn’t come about until 1993. That’s when Michael Jackson changed the game forever. But this drivel was what people sat through in the ’80s.

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49ers.com

1989 saw an Elvis impersonator perform magic badly as the NFL tried to attract a younger demographic. Elvis Presto remains one of the most cringeworthy figures to ever step onto a football field. Imagine the social media reaction if something like this happened in the modern world (via Cincinnati Enquirer).

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Pollstar News

Up With People

The most noteworthy aspect of Up With People’s halftime performance was that they weren’t a marching band. They became the first group to play at a Super Bowl as they paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. in 1976. This sounds great on paper so it was too bad that it was one of the worst Super Bowl Halftime Shows ever.

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Steelers.com

We understand that tastes change and cultural values evolve over the years. But this one doesn’t look good by contemporary standards. It’s fun to look back at some of these shows over the past few decades and see how far this prestigious event has come. Let’s just say that this wasn’t in the same class as Diana Ross (via CBS Sports).

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Taste of Country

Shania Twain

This was probably one of the most disappointing Super Bowl Halftime Shows because everybody expected more. Twain was one of the biggest stars of her day but she didn’t deliver in 2003. Sting and No Doubt saved her blushes by trying to do something entertaining but it felt like Twain didn’t care.

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Whisky Riff

It was even worse because it came after one of the most legendary Super Bowl shows ever. U2 did a perfect job the prior year as a grieving U.S. recovered from the trauma of 9/11. Twain didn’t get the memo and had shocking timing as she lip-synced many of her greatest hits (via CBS News).

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Glamour

Justin Timberlake

Pepsi picked Timberlake to be the main act in 2018. This was his third appearance at Super Bowl halftime shows but his first time to be the headliner. Most people think that this was one of the most average performances of the decade. Timberlake is a great artist but he has never delivered an amazing Super Bowl performance.

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The New York Times

The only positive thing we can say is that there are worse shows on this list. His harshest critics said that it was a poor imitation of Prince’s iconic display in 2007. The late legend demonstrated incredible dance moves as well as his vocal range while Timberlake lacked the latter (via NFL.com).

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Pop Sugar

The 2001 Show

The NFL had a bad habit of going overboard when it came to booking star performers for Super Bowl halftime shows. They took this to the extreme in 2001 when they assembled a festival-worthy lineup of superstars. We’re talking about Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly amongst others.

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Us Weekly

Any of the first three names could easily have done the job by themselves. Instead, what we got was an incoherent mess because these artists came from different styles and genres. None of them stood out because it was impossible, resulting in one of the worst Super Bowl halftime shows ever (via Billboard).

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NFL

Winter Magic

1992 saw one of the weirdest halftime shows ever. Here’s another example of when the production went overboard. Gloria Esteban was at the center of this ‘Winter Magic’ theme but it was a chaotic mess. Few of the ’90s halftime shows aged well and they’re not what fans expect to see today.

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Sports Illustrated

Minnesota hosted the event at the Hubert H. Humphrey Superdome. The NFL took a risk by putting it there because of the snow risk. In the end, this wasn’t a problem but it’s too bad that their luck didn’t extend to one of the worst Super Bowl Halftime Shows in history (via NBC Sports).

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ET

The 2000 Show

On paper, this should have been one of the greatest Super Bowl Halftime Shows ever but it was a disaster. The NFL booked a clutch of musical legends including Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, and Tina Turner. There was more star power than a NASA mission but it couldn’t save this performance because it was a Disney advertisement.

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YouTube

The problem was that they booked some of the biggest artists of their respective generations. But they inexplicably didn’t allow them to perform their best hits because of commercial dealings on ABC. Instead, they sang songs nobody knew and left fans shaking their heads (via Sporting News).

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Sports Illustrated

New Kids On The Block

Most people probably don’t remember or know New Kids On The Block. They were one of the biggest boy bands of the early nineties when everybody loved this stuff. But that didn’t mean that the NFL should have booked the Boston group to perform during their biggest game (via Sports Illustrated).

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Parade

This was in 1991 when the Bills played the Giants in a huge rivalry. Bizarrely, the NFL allowed a wacky Disney production at halftime and shoved the band to the end of the game. It was so bad that ABC broadcasted the start of the Gulf War instead. Many remember this as one of the worst Super Bowl Halftime Shows ever.

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The New York Times

Indiana Jones

Here’s one of the trippiest Halftime shows ever. We don’t know what the producers were thinking when they put this one together. They followed an Indiana Jones theme in 1995 but failed to convince Harrison Ford to participate. Perhaps he saw this disaster coming because it was hot garbage.

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AP

There was so much going on in one of the least coherent halftime shows of all time. It’s difficult to describe it because there were so many people doing different things but it was all horrible. This was before the NFL picked a standout artist instead of following an over-the-top theme (via Deadspin).

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Rolling Stone

The Blues Brothers

Everybody loves The Blues Brothers because it’s a memorable movie with some great songs. But no one thought that it would make an outstanding live performance. It didn’t help that half of the original cast was no longer alive because John Belushi sadly passed away (via Rolling Stone).

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News Blue

The NFL decided that this was an excellent idea for Super Bowl XXXI. John Goodman sang alongside Dan Akroyd and Belushi’s brother, Jim. Goodman and Akroyd are top actors but they didn’t have the chops to pull this off. It went down as one of the worst Super Bowl Halftime Shows ever.

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Simple Most

Snoopy & The Steamboat

1990 was the 40th anniversary of the beloved Peanuts cartoon strip. But we don’t know why they don’t that the Super Bowl was the place to celebrate this. This saw the end of an era where halftime shows followed themes instead of throwing big artists into the spotlight (via Offbeat).

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AP

Dancers wore Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and other related costumes because that’s what people did back then. Meanwhile, there was a steamboat because the Super Bowl was in New Orleans. We can only assume that the people who came up with these were somewhat loopy because it was just crazy.

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IMDb

The Rolling Stones

There were plenty of worse Super Bowl Halftime Shows than this one but it was very average. Mick Jagger had problems with the NFL from the very beginning over creative differences. The legendary frontman resented that they tried to force the iconic British rockers to censor their lyrics.

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Bleacher Report

They took to the stage in 2006 and delivered an average performance but didn’t change their songs. The network censored them live because they’re a three-second delay on Super Bowl games. This didn’t stop MIA from getting into hot water a few years later but maybe the Stones were too big (via Ultimate Classic Rock).

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Bleacher Report

The Who

One of the NFL’s biggest mistakes is booking classic bands that nobody under 50 cares about. The Who had some great hits in their heyday but now we associate them with CSI. They’re not the most relevant rock band in the world but this didn’t stop the NFL from platforming them in 2010.

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Las Vegas Review-Journal

We’re not being ageist because Bruce Springsteen was phenomenal the previous year. Maybe the organizers thought that The Who was a safe option with similar charisma. But it didn’t work because it was dull which is unforgivable for one of the biggest events of the year (via The Guardian).

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Kerrang!

Slash and Fergie

Fergie and The Black Eyed Peas are a decent recording band but never ask them to do anything live. The NFL decided to book the popular group for Super Bowl XLV in 2011. However, it was one of the biggest mistakes ever because they were hot garbage. They lip-synced most of their performance while they awkwardly self-censored themselves.

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Sports Illustrated

But the worst moment was still to come. Slash from Guns ‘N’ Roses made a guest appearance for some inexplicable reason. Fans around the world watched as Fergie decided to grind against him. He was old enough to be her father and it didn’t come across well. The less said about this the better (via Kerrang!).

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Business Insider

The Double Standard

Everybody agrees that this was a garbage halftime show. Nobody loves Maroon 5. They’re a solid band at a festival or as a support act for someone else. But the reality is that they’re like a weaker rip-off of Coldplay without as many hits. Anyway, the NFL, in their infinite wisdom, booked them in 2019 (via USA Today Sports).

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Billboard

Fans witnessed a terrible game of football and a terrible show. The dumbest moment saw Adam Levine rip off his shirt to bare his chest and tattoos. We don’t know why he did this but it showed a gross double-standard. Remember, when poor Janet Jackson experienced the wrath of the nation after an inadvertent wardrobe malfunction?

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The Guardian

M.I.A’s Mistake

Madonna played the halftime Super Bowl in 2012 but one moment overshadowed the Queen of Pop. She invited M.I.A. to perform with her as a guest artist. Maybe the British pop star underestimated American puritanism because she made a terrible error of judgment (via Billboard).

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Glamour

The singer flipped the bird as she rapped explicit lyrics in front of the world. There was instant outrage in the U.S. as the network tried but failed to censor the moment. The NFL tried to sue her for $16 million and the case rolled on for two years as she ridiculed them. Ultimately, they settled for a lower figure yet it was still over the top.

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AP

Janet Jackson

This remains notorious as one of the biggest disasters in Super Bowl history. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake performed during the halftime show in 2004. Fans in Texas didn’t know that they would witness one of the showpiece event’s most infamous moments (via USA Today Sports).

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L.A. Times

Timberlake inexplicably grabbed Jackson’s outfit and accidentally bared her bosom to the world. However, America reacted with outrage and it damaged her career. They ridiculously blamed her for the incident when it wasn’t her fault. It was immature but that’s where the country was.

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