Top ten Super Bowl halftime shows: where Rihanna, Beyonce and Prince rank in best performances at NFL game

Usher set to come after iconic acts such as Rihanna revealing her second pregnancy and Prince's 'Purple rain' performance
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It's only a few days to go until Super Bowl LVIII arrives with the Kansas City Chiefs set to take on the San Francisco 49ers in what is sure to be an epic showdown at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.

All eyes will be on Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce to see if they can once again replicate the magic that was seen against the Philadelphia Eagles last year and with the highly publicised relationship between Kelce and American superstar Taylor Swift, this year's event is set to be bigger than ever.

Aside from the hotly contested football, there is one other factor that makes the Super Bowl such a grand affair: the half-time show which will this year be performed by Usher. The 45-year-old R&B icon will follow in the steps of legends such as Madonna, Beyonce and Prince.

But whose is the best half-time show of all time? Here are ten of the best half-time performances since its creation in the 1960s...

10. Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson and Justin TimberlakeJanet Jackson and Justin Timberlake
Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake

Now, while this may not be remembered as one of the most awe-inspiring and dazzling shows, it has become memorable for another reason. Jackson performed with Justin Timberlake, who had recently come out of his spell with NSYNC, and during a racy rendition of Rock Your Body, Janet Jackson revealed much more of herself than she had wished upon the American audience.

The incident was soon after referred to by the sister of the late Michael Jackson as a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ and this term has become infamous within the English language ever since.

It nearly saw the end of both Jackson and Timberlake’s career. Despite mostly great music, the repercussions of such a sight was too much for an American audience to handle and it has since become one of the most infamous shows of all time.

9. Madonna

2012 saw Madonna arrive on a stage as a Greek Goddess and she ruled the stage singing her timeless pop classics. Performing hits such as Vogue, how could Madonna not be in the top 10?

The artist was carried onto stage by Spartan soldiers and was also joined by Nicki Minaj during Gimme Your Luvin and Cee Lo Green for one of her most famous songs, Like a Prayer. The Indianapolis show was certainly one to remember, with the Queen of Pop impressing her audience.

8. Lady Gaga

Much like her fellow female performers, Lady Gaga is never one to shy away from a performance and does anything but disappoint. Thousands tuned in to see what surprises and eclectic designs Lady Gaga had planned for the show, but instead she chose to go for a more classic and ‘uncontroversial’ show.

Starting with an arrangement of the Star Bangled Banner, Lady Gaga then went on to perform her all time hits such as Poker Face and her queer-positive anthem Born This Way. With a voice and show such as Lady Gaga’s, there could be no way she wouldn’t feature on a top 10 list.

7. Bruno Mars

In 2014, the Super Bowl was treated to a fairly fresh-faced Bruno Mars. Many fans and producers of the show were worried that the Hawaiian born singer didn’t have enough behind him for the honour of such a show: New York City were hosting their first-ever Super Bowl at the MetLife Stadium.

However, Mars’ performances has become one of his most famous and spectacular shows ever. The show started with young children beautifully singing a section of Mars’ hit ‘Billionaire’ in front of American flags and after singing his own songs, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers were invited onto stage.

Bruno Mars’ final song of the performance ‘Just the Way You Are’ featured clips of American soldiers dedicating the hit to their families. With such an emotive performance, Bruno Mars easily made his way into the top 10 halftime Super Bowl shows.

6. Shakira and Jennifer Lopez

In 2020, two Latina Goddesses graced the stage with their presence and showed the audience who the real stars of the night were.

Following the racism scandal of the Colin Kaepernick ban, the NFL struggled to find performers until a Colombian star and a New York-Puerto Rican star hit the stage.

Their phenomenal show seemed more of an athletic feat than the Football itself as Shakira played guitar hero and J.Lo riding on to the stage on a stripper pole. The show also included a small cameo from Lopez’s daughter, Emme, who sang Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’.

5. Rihanna

The 2023 half-time show saw Barbadian superstar return to the stage after a four-year haitus. Not only did she zip through 13 of her chart-topping anthems in 13 minutes.

If flying through her hits weren't enough, there was also the big reveal of her second pregnancy which had the internet bursting. Similarly, her back-up dancers also quickly became a sensation with fans rushing afterwards to attempt to try out the dance for 'Rude Boy'.

Rihanna announced her second pregancy at the 2023 half-time showRihanna announced her second pregancy at the 2023 half-time show
Rihanna announced her second pregancy at the 2023 half-time show

Unlike many others, Rihanna's half-time show started with just vocals and a close-up on her and she needed no features, stealing the limelight as a solo artist, and reminding any who were beginning to question where she was that she has justifiably solidified herself as pop royalty.

4. Rolling Stones

How could such rock legends as the Rolling Stones not feature in this top 10? In 2006 the iconic band only sang three of their songs and somehow managed to leave out You Got Me Rockin.

Mick Jagger and his crew performed Start Me Up, Rough Justice as well as the iconic Satisfaction in their 15 minute show and the then 63-year-old showed off to all the pro athletes just how fit he was.

Shaking his hips all over the stage, Jagger appeared in a better state than the footballers and proved that age had no matter when it comes to a banging performance.

3. U2

2002 saw one of the most emotional and memorable performances at the Super Bowl halftime. U2 came on the stage just a few months after the 9/11 attacks and dedicated their performances to those lives lost.

Starting their show with ‘Beautiful Day’, they then went on to sing ‘MLK’ as the names of the dead appeared on a big screen behind. The tribute to the event was so grand yet poignant and felt fittingly anti-war and anti-violence whilst also profoundly deep. U2 will forever be known for the way they were able to mark such a tragic occasion in such a beautiful and fitting fashion.

2. Beyonce

Female superstars have rocked the Super Bowl stage and Beyonce Knowles’ 2013 performance was no different. One of the Queens of her generation of music proved once and for all why she well and truly runs the world.

It would arguably have been enough to perform just herself. But no. Beyonce reunited with her former bandmates Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland as Destiny’s Child came back together. The three performed their own song Bootylicious as well as Beyonce’s hits before Queen Bey blew out the lights with her rendition of Halo.

Performing 'Purple Rain' in a Miami Gardens thunderstorms in 2007Performing 'Purple Rain' in a Miami Gardens thunderstorms in 2007
Performing 'Purple Rain' in a Miami Gardens thunderstorms in 2007

1. Prince

I mean, it’s literally in his name. How could Prince not top them all? In 2007, and in the middle of a Miami thunderstorm, Prince came out and gave a performance no-one could ever forget. Sadly, Prince kept fighting to prevent anyone from posting his performance online but since his tragic death in 2016, the show has blown up to become one of his most legendary moments.

He performed a Foo Fighters cover, ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ as well as ending the show with his iconic anthem ‘Purple Rain’ that included an epic guitar solo in the rain.

Only Prince would have been able to turn a meteorological disaster into a special effect that looked as if it had been meant to happen just for him.

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