Super Bowl halftime's awkward superstars
January, 31, 2013
By Rob Clark | Special to ESPN.com
Kevin Mazur/Getty ImagesBruce Springsteen's 2009 Super Bowl halftime performance was remarkably corny.Halftime at the Super Bowl requires a spectacle, and music’s heavy hitters have joined in over the years. Some shows are breathtaking (U2’s post 9/11 performance) and some we’d like to forget (that which created the phrase “wardrobe malfunction”).
No matter how talented the artist, these shows are often littered with awkward moments. Even the weather can contribute. Prince’s 2007 show -- which ranks with U2’s as the gold standard -- endured a steady Miami rain. But he played right through it, making his rendition of “Purple Rain” even more powerful.
Other exceptions to the cringeworthy element: Tom Petty (2008), The Rolling Stones (2006) and Paul McCartney (2005). Quibble with their music all you want, but those were strong performances.
Before Beyonce takes the Super Bowl stage in New Orleans, here’s a look at five shows loaded with awkward moments in the past 30 years.
1. Michael Jackson (1993): Watching MJ’s entrance was a remarkable exercise in wasting time. After an impressive leap onto the stage, he stood there, motionless, staring at the crowd behind aviator sunglasses. Dramatic effect, sure, but it lasted a whopping 1 minute, 13 seconds. Then he shifted his gaze to the opposite side for 17 more seconds, removed the sunglasses and finally started dancing at the 1 minute, 46 second mark. Think about all the things the typical football fan can do in 1:46 -- take a bathroom break, let the dog out, grab another beer, recite seven quotes from "Airplane!," let the dog back in and return to the couch, saying, “What, he’s still standing there?”
2. Bruce Springsteen (2009): There’s no questioning The Boss’ effort and passion, but this show was loaded with corny moments. He went from oddly demanding (“Put the chicken fingers down!”) to oddly existential (“Is there anybody alive out there?”). He changed the lyrics of “Glory Days” to reflect football instead of baseball (“He could throw that Hail Mary/Make you look like a fool, boy”). But nothing quite tops the ending: A fake referee jumped in front of Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt and threw a flag for playing too long. Delay of game and all. Groan.
3. Shania Twain (2003): The country-pop star employed a comical number of guitarists (and even a keytarist). Every time she turned around, there was another one, like a perky version of "Walking Dead" zombies. All this, on a song (“Man! I Feel Like a Woman”) that can never be described as “guitar-heavy.” Someone give her Reggie Watts’ phone number. She could save a ton on headcount expenses.
4. Madonna (2012): Good call to get the last remaining '80s superstar onstage. Too bad she looked at the pop charts and dragged a slew of kids up there with her. LMFAO at the Super Bowl? Pete Rozelle would be so proud. Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. (who, like Ricky Bobby, didn’t know what to do with her hands) joined Madonna for the cheerleading-themed “Give Me All Your Luvin.” Because there’s nothing America likes more than a 53-year-old cheerleader. Except a 53-year-old lip-syncing cheerleader.
5. Black Eyed Peas (2011): Will.i.am and the Peas got all "Tron" on us, which made for interesting visuals. But Fergie seemed out of sorts in spots, especially her throaty Axl Rose impression -- complete with the shoulder-shimmy dance -- on the cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” (To her credit, at least she was actually singing.) Usher showed up for a forgettable interlude, stealing more time from the poor forgotten Peas, apl.de.ap and Taboo. The latter donned a Lite-Brite costume, which made it easier to keep track of the guy that never gets to rap.