The Super Bowl isn’t just about touchdowns and tackles; it’s also been the stage for some of the most unforgettable live performances in history. These sets are not just concerts, but cultural milestones — moments in which music and sport collide to create something truly spectacular. While the Super Bowl halftime show began in 1967, it wasn’t until the ’90s that superstar artists started taking the stage instead of marching bands. The tradition really took off in 1993 when it was announced that Michael Jackson would be headlining the festivities.
Ahead of Usher helming this year’s show, check out the best Super Bowl sets of all time, in no particular order, below.
1. Michael Jackson (Super Bowl XXVII, 1993)
Michael’s performance at the 1993 Super Bowl was a groundbreaking moment in live entertainment. His entrance alone was a spectacle — he stood still for nearly two minutes while fans screamed his name, commanding the stadium with his mere presence. When he launched into “Billie Jean,” the crowd went wild, and it was clear that this was no ordinary halftime show. He moved through his setlist, which included hits like “Black or White” and “Heal the World,” with a precision and passion that only Michael could deliver. The performance was a blend of his one-of-one catalog and his message of unity and peace.
The show was a cultural event that transcended music. Michael’s artistry and message resonated with millions of people, which left a lasting impact on the Super Bowl halftime show format. His performance set the bar for future sets, combining musical excellence with an overarching narrative that spoke to a global audience. The King of Pop didn’t just perform; he transformed the Super Bowl halftime show into what it is today.
2. Prince (Super Bowl XLI, 2007)
When Prince took the stage at Super Bowl XLI, the world witnessed a performance that was nothing short of otherworldly. As the Florida rain poured down, Prince, seemingly unfazed, launched into a set that seamlessly blended his many hits with rock classics. The silhouette of his figure against the sheets and his guitar wailing the iconic chords of “Purple Rain,” is etched in the history books of live performances. However, it wasn’t just the music that made his performance legendary; it was the way that Prince embraced the challenge of the weather. He turned what could have been a logistical nightmare into the focal point of his artistry.
The range of Prince’s musical mastery was on full display as he transitioned from a soulful Foo Fighters’ “Best of You” cover to the funky rhythms of “Let’s Go Crazy.” His performance was a testament to his incredible talent and profound understanding of what it means to entertain. In those 15 minutes, Prince owned the Super Bowl and left a legacy that future halftime shows will forever aspire to achieve.
3. Coldplay (Super Bowl 50, 2016)
Coldplay’s halftime show at Super Bowl 50 was a vibrant celebration of music and unity. The band transformed the stadium into a sea of color and sound, and opened with their energetic “Viva La Vida.” Chris Martin and his bandmates delivered an intimate yet grandiose performance — a feat only a few can achieve. The show was a journey through their hits, but the highlight was undoubtedly the surprise appearances by Beyoncé and Bruno Mars.
The performance was a message of love and togetherness, which was fitting for the Super Bowl’s golden anniversary. From the moment they began with the pulsating beats of “Yellow” to the climactic “Up&Up,” Coldplay created a harmonious celebration of past, present and future. Their set left an imprint of joy and unity on the hearts of millions.
4. Beyoncé (Super Bowl XLVII, 2013)
In 2013, the Houston-born superstar redefined what a Super Bowl halftime show could be. Beyoncé’s performance was a stunning display of talent, energy and production. Opening with “Love on Top” and “Crazy In Love,” she transitioned into a powerful medley of her hits, and each song outdid the last in spectacle and vocal prowess. The stage, a magnificent array of lights and effects, was simply a backdrop to her commanding presence. When Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams rose from underneath the stage for a Destiny’s Child reunion, the crowd erupted, which marked a moment of pure pop bliss.
More than a quick run-through of her hits, Beyoncé’s halftime show was a narrative of her evolution as an artist and a potent statement on female empowerment. Her flawless choreography and commanding vocals created a visually stunning and musically impeccable performance. She made the Super Bowl stage her own and set a precedent for future halftime shows. Her set was a celebration of her artistry and captured her journey from a member of Destiny’s Child to a solo icon.
5. Bruno Mars (Super Bowl XLVIII, 2014)
Mars’ 2014 halftime set was a testament to his artistry and showmanship. The young singer with a flair for the retro took to the stage with an infectious energy that channeled the greats while still maintaining his unique style. His set was a blend of soul, funk and pop featuring hits like “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Treasure” that got the audience on their feet. His charisma was undeniable, his dance moves were impeccable, and when he broke into a drum solo, it was clear that he was made for this moment.
One of the highlights was the unexpected but seamless transition to “Give It Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, adding a rock edge to an already electric set. 2014’s halftime show solidified Mars as a talented musician and true entertainer who is capable of captivating millions with his charm, talent and stage presence.
6. Janet Jackson (Super Bowl XXXVIII, 2004)
By 2004, Janet Jackson had over 30 years of experience in entertainment but had yet to grace the Super Bowl halftime stage like her brother did just 11 years prior. Her performance was such an engaging display of her artistry and stage presence. Opening with “All for You,” Janet immediately set the tone for a high-energy, dance-heavy show before effortlessly moving through a medley of her decades full of hits — each song showcasing a different part of her vast catalog. Her ability to combine her iconic, sharp choreography with live singing made the performance a standout. The stage was her playground, and she commanded it with the confidence and flair of a seasoned performer.
The show took an unexpected turn at the end with the infamous wardrobe malfunction while sharing the stage with Justin Timberlake. While this moment dominated headlines and completely overshadowed the overall performance, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that Janet delivered an electrifying set. The halftime show was a reminder of her unparalleled talents as a performer, overall influence on the music industry, and status as a trailblazer who has continuously pushed the boundaries of music and performance.
7. Shakira & Jennifer Lopez (Super Bowl LIV, 2020)
Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s joint performance at the 2020 Super Bowl was a fiery celebration of Latin American culture and female empowerment. Shakira set the stage ablaze with her vibrant energy as she kicked off the show with electrifying dance moves and hit songs like “Whenever, Wherever.” Lopez continued the high-energy performance with her own set of hits, including “Jenny from the Block,” and a fun pole dance sequence. Their show — which also featured appearances by Bad Bunny and J Balvin — was a dynamic display of their individual musical and dance talents, combined with a powerful visual narrative that celebrated their heritages.
With nods to Puerto Rico and a powerful segment featuring Lopez’s daughter, the set highlighted important issues like immigration and women’s rights. Shakira and J. Lo’s performance was a culturally significant statement, bringing awareness of representation and identity to the forefront.
8. Hip Hop 50 celebration (Super Bowl LVI, 2022)
The Hip Hop 50 performance at Super Bowl LVI was a cultural odyssey and monumental homage to the genre. It celebrated half a century of Hip Hop’s influential journey and the evolution from its gritty New York roots to its current status as a global powerhouse. The performance was a constellation of Hip Hop royalty with icons like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliott and Eminem who shared the stage with modern-day titans such as Kendrick Lamar. Each artist brought their signature style, performing a medley of hits that shaped the genre. The setlist was a who’s who of Hip Hop anthems, featuring classics like “California Love,” “Lose Yourself” and “Alright,” each track a reminder of the genre’s rich history.
One highlight was the tribute to West Coast Hip Hop, which nodded to the genre’s geographical journey and the unique sound that emerged from California. The performance of “California Love” turned the stage into a West Coast block party, with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg leading the crowd in a celebration of the G-funk sound that defined a generation. This segment was a journey back to the sunny streets of Los Angeles, where beats and rhymes painted vivid stories of life in the City of Angels. The show seamlessly blended eras and coasts, and each artist contributed to a narrative that was as much about honoring the past as it was about embracing the future of Hip Hop.