The Decade’s Super Bowl Halftime Performances

The football season might have just started, but whispers of halftime performers are already beginning. Sports Illustrated reports that this year The Who will take the stage. This makes sense: while the early part of the decade brought lot’s of Mickey Mouse Club alumni (Justin, Britney, Christina, more Justin), more recent years have favored the classics, with Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty and most recently Bruce Springsteen rounding out the last few years.

Football fans have an entire season to celebrate sportsmanship and toughness and whatever else they like. That leaves Superbowl Sunday as a day for the rest of us: you know, for the confetti salesmen, the talking animals, and the firework fanatics. You’ll have to wait for February for the Who’s first performance in North America since 2008; in the meantime we’ve rounded up and ranked each performance of the last decade.

2000: Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton

Based around Walt Disney World’s yearlong Millennium celebration, the show featured 125 drummers, a full orchestra, an army of huge puppets, aerial dancers, a choir, pyrotechnics, and Edward James Olmos narrating. Big, flashy, and multi-racial.

2001: Aerosmith, N Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Nelly

As a tween, this MTV-arranged performance pretty much stopped our world. Every second, from the boys of N*Sync rushing the stage to a Britney aided “Walk this Way” (Nelly stepped in for DMC) was pure ecstasy. At the height of pop, this was a meeting of gods and a medley from heaven.

2002: U2

Three years before Katrina, Bono and friends went down to New Orleans to honor the victims of 9/11 with a performance of “Where the Streets Have No Name” backed by a banner with the names of the 3,000 lost. Bono is a true showman, and this is touching. U2 went back four years later, and did it again.

2003: Shania Twain, No Doubt, Sting

Watching Gwen Stefani here is like taking a shot of red bull. Is it too late to put her in the game for the fourth quarter?

2004: Jessica Simpson, Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Nelly, P.Diddy, Kid Rock

This is the year that forever changed halftime performances. Call it a wardrobe malfunction, call it a scandal, call it what you will — when Justin ripped off a part of Janet Jackson’s top revealing a not-quite-bear breast, the FCC lost it. And forever after, “live” meant “live five seconds ago.”

2005: Paul McCartney

There was only one man whose performance could erase the memory of Nipplegate in the minds of Americans: Paul McCartney, arguably the most vanilla of the foursome. The living legend decided to end his set with “Hey Jude,” one of the definitive Beatles songs, and a natural choice for a closer.

2006: Rolling Stones

Because of all the previous years problems, stations aired the performance with a five second delay and producers briefly turned off Mick Jagger’s mic for lyrics deemed too sexually explicit. What broadcasters ended up with was a totally nice performance by a legendary bad-ass band.

2007: Prince, Florida A&M marching band

Prince truly showed off his musician ship this time around, with big improvisations on classics, his own and others. “1999” to “All Along the Watchtower,” there’s no competing with him. And, really, is there a better way to end it than with “Purple Rain”?

2008: Tom Petty & The Heart Breakers

Another safe, post scandal choice. Everybody loves “American Girl,” and knows all the words to “Free Falling.” You can’t go wrong with Tom Petty.

2009: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Like Disney, Bruce stands for all things American. Unlike Disney, he’s not creepy. Even when he ended up crotch-first in a camera, he seemed like he was having fun.