The 7 Most Irritating Superbowl Halftime Performers of All Time
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The first year the halftime show was booked with anything other than local college marching bands, drill teams, military choirs or Up With People was a tribute to the 100th anniversary of Hollywood, as staged by the Walt Disney Company. Even though its total domination of kid culture was still budding compared to now, its interpretation of “honoring Hollywood” was actually a shrewd example of contextualizing its important developments with holdings it owned, performing songs it had a stake in and letting Goofy narrate it. “When You Wish Upon a Star” was the outro. Hey, whomever writes history owns it, and it was Disney’s goal to make its company the only player in town.
One of the Disney-owned songs performed in 1987 was the theme song to Indiana Jones, and nearly 10 years later, they were still at it. In anticipation of the then-forthcoming Disneyland ride, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye," the corporation took over halftime yet again, creating an elaborate stage set meant to look like a lost temple in “India” with some sort of fake Hindu godhead, populated by men dressed to look like “Brahmins.” Mmm-hmm. There were also women wearing belly-dancing ensembles, and other women dressed up in “Native American” headdresses, proving that whomever costume-designed is really confused about where India is, and who lives there. Aside from the cultural exoticism inherent in this, and all Indiana Jones films, the set also required its featured performer, the great Patti LaBelle, to dress in some kind of faux Nefertiti costume. Fortunately, even that glitzy disaster couldn’t keep her from being great. (She did “New Attitude”!)
4. Justin Timberlake, Superbowl XXXVIII, 2004
Who can forget the great nip slip scandal of 2004? (Certainly not the United Court of Appeals, which finally ruled on the FCC complaint seven years later, in November 2011.) In case you need your memory refreshed: Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson were performing a medley of their songs, when he grabbed a part of her costume and exposed her breast, which was adorned by body-mod-style nipple jewelry. From the ashen looks on their faces, it was clearly not planned, and the incident was described as a wardrobe malfunction. So why is Timberlake the worst if it was an accident? Because of the way he acted after the fact, essentially abnegating responsibility, letting Jackson take all the heat, and abandoning her to deal with the fact that she involuntarily showed her nude boob to basically every single person in the entire world. An embarrassing development that was also racially loaded—why did she become the pariah, and her white, male collaborator get to go on and win some Grammys? Oh, because no one placed the blame on him, even though it was more his fault. Right. Timberlake’s still in the doghouse for never speaking up for her.
Yeah yeah yeah, everyone loves the Blues Brothers, who were represented here by Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman and James Belushi. But their presence here just underscores the gross and gimmicky nature of every Superbowl halftime show, which has to appeal to all demographics and as a result just ends up sucking. The Blues Brothers opened for JAMES BROWN by singing “Soul Man,” which felt vaguely offensive, and also his presence reminded us how crappy and milquetoast the Blues Brothers are, as musicians. Not to bang on them too hard, because they’re entertainers above all, but man, that was some misguided booking.
6. Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, The Judds, Superbowl XXVIII, 1994