Ranking Super Bowl Halftime Shows: Usher vs. Prince, U2, Rihanna
The Super Bowl halftime show has become one of the most highly anticipated musical performances of the year. Each year, millions of viewers tune in to watch their favorite artists take the stage and put on a show like no other. But how do these performances compare to each other? Which ones stand out as the best of the best? Levi Weaver, an accomplished singer, songwriter, and musician, took on the challenge of ranking every Super Bowl halftime show from 1991 to the present. Using a rubric that weighed factors such as music, staging, set list, memorability, “vibes,” and geographic relevance, he assigned each performance a score out of 50 points. Let’s take a closer look at some of the standout shows that made it to the top of the list.
1. Prince (2007): 50 points
Prince’s iconic performance during Super Bowl XLI takes the top spot on Weaver’s list. Despite the heavy rain that poured down during his set, Prince delivered a transcendent rock and roll performance. His rendition of “Purple Rain” during the downpour became an unforgettable moment that nobody could have planned. It was a truly magical and all-time great halftime show.
2. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar (2022): 49 points
In Los Angeles, a star-studded lineup took the stage for what Weaver considers the greatest stage design in halftime show history. Dr. Dre kicked off the proceedings behind an all-white mixing board as a nod to his extensive production work. The stage featured a map of Los Angeles complete with vintage cars and houses. With a set list full of hits and memorable performances from Anderson .Paak and Kendrick Lamar, this show was a surreal spectacle.
3. U2 (2002): 48 points
Less than six months after the 9/11 attacks, U2 delivered an emotionally powerful tribute during Super Bowl XXXVI. Their performance struck the perfect balance between showmanship and solemnity. Opening with “Beautiful Day” and ending with “Where the Streets Have No Name,” U2 managed to pay homage to the tragedy without veering into jingoism. It was a halftime show that allowed viewers to feel and reflect.
4. Beyoncé featuring Destiny’s Child (2013): 47 points
Beyoncé’s halftime show during Super Bowl XLVII was a flawless performance from beginning to end. With her vocals on point and a beautiful stage setup, she delivered hit after hit. The reunion of Destiny’s Child after a seven-year hiatus added to the excitement. This show had it all – a megastar, a reunion, high energy, and a stunning stage.
5. Madonna featuring Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., CeeLo Green (2012): 45 points
Madonna’s halftime show during Super Bowl XLVI was a spectacle to behold. With hit after hit, Madonna brought her signature showmanship to the stage. The addition of Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., and CeeLo Green as guest stars added to the star power. The only hiccup came when M.I.A. flipped off the camera during her performance, causing controversy for the NFL.
6. Michael Jackson (1993): 44 points
Michael Jackson’s halftime show during Super Bowl XXVII changed the halftime show forever. It was a groundbreaking performance that showcased Jackson’s immense talent and showmanship. Although the decision to end the show with an overwrought rendition of “We Are The World” felt out of place, this performance remains one of the most iconic in Super Bowl history.
7. Bruno Mars featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers (2014): 43 points
Bruno Mars brought the party to Super Bowl XLVIII with his high-energy halftime show. From his drum solo to his infectious hits, Mars had the audience dancing from start to finish. The addition of the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a chaotic mash-up added another layer of excitement. It was a performance that made the audience feel like they were part of something special.
8. Lady Gaga (2017): 42 points
Lady Gaga’s halftime show during Super Bowl LI had its highs and lows. The choice to pair “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land” as an opener felt forced and ill-advised. However, once Gaga jumped off the stage and kicked into high gear, the performance became vintage Lady Gaga. With bold stage choices, massive hits, and good vocal performance, Gaga delivered an unforgettable show.
9. Rihanna (2023): 41 points
Rihanna’s halftime show during Super Bowl LVII marked her return to the stage after a five-year hiatus. Despite being pregnant with her second child, she delivered a solid performance that showcased her talent and creativity. While it may not have reached the heights of her earlier career, it was still a good halftime show with some memorable moments.
10. The Weeknd (2021): 39 points
The Weeknd’s halftime show during Super Bowl LV was a spectacle that launched a million memes. With a mix of modern hits and a surreal stage setup, The Weeknd delivered a performance that was visually stunning. While some vocal issues were present, the overall spectacle of the show made it a memorable experience.
These are just a few examples of the top-ranked Super Bowl halftime shows according to Levi Weaver’s rankings. Each performance brought its own unique style and energy to the biggest stage in music. Whether it was Prince’s legendary performance in the rain or Beyoncé’s flawless set, these shows will always be remembered as some of the greatest in Super Bowl history.