The Most Controversial Super Bowl Halftime Shows In History
Each year, American families and friends gather around the television in anticipation of the most watched broadcast of the year, the Super Bowl.
Initially, the spectacle began solely as a championship competition between the two best NFL teams of the season. However, as viewership numbers grew, the show quickly escalated to include numerous heart-warming and laughter-inducing commercials and spectacular halftime performances in a successful attempt to keep even those who don't enjoy the sport interested.
Now, the concerts showcased during the highly publicized game have become a crucial component of the Super Bowl experience. And while the publicity drawn from this yearly event is often met with enthusiastic approval, sometimes the show ends in a controversial disaster. Below are some of the most cringe-worthy halftime performances in Super Bowl history.
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In 1989, The Show Featured An Elvis Impersonator Doing Magic And A Failed Attempt At Using 3D Technology
1989 marked a turning point for Super Bowl halftime entertainment, as executives chose to forego the traditional Disney-themed floats and marching bands to put on a revolutionary show. Though expectations were high, the end result wasn't the overwhelming crowd-pleaser that the NFL had hoped for.
The memorable show featured 2,000 dancers in 1950s-era clothing performing to Broadway tunes, along with an extraordinary guest: an Elvis impersonating magician nicknamed Elvis Presto, who performed gigantic tricks on the field for audiences and home viewers. The elaborate display was also the first attempt at broadcasting in 3-D through the use of 3-D glasses, an endeavor that proved the technology wasn't quite ready for prime time.
It was later revealed that the actor who played Elvis Presto, Alex Cole, was chosen three days before the Super Bowl after the original impersonator left the production to star in a Lee Jeans commercial. The ordeal obviously had a less-than-desirable impact on Cole because he never performed on stage again.
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In 1995, Disney Used The Entire Performance To Advertise Their New Indiana Jones Ride
Hoping to draw in viewers and keep them engaged no matter their interest in football or the score between the two teams on the field, NFL executives knew that they needed a big production for the 1995 Super Bowl halftime show. Only a few companies were capable of funding such a grand performance - one of them being Disney. Since Disneyland was building a new Indiana Jones-themed roller coaster at the time, the two corporations joined forces to create a spectacle worthy of the big screen… or so they thought.
The spectacle included crooners Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett, skydivers, live pythons, lasers, an assortment of instruments that ranged from tribal drums to a keytar, and a man who was lit on fire. The performance followed an intriguing narrative, consisting of an evil witch stealing the Lombardi trophy. At the same time, Indiana Jones, who is at a Moroccan nightclub, attempts to retrieve the coveted Super Bowl prize.
The inevitable Indiana Jones-themed fighting scenes were seen live in front of up-close cameras, giving television viewers a clear picture of the punches and strikes that were not even close to hitting the karate school volunteers who played the villains on stage. Though LaBelle understood the possible negative consequences of trying to perform live in such a setting, Bennett refused to lip sync his numbers and botched the opening of his song.
Also, the trophy was too heavy a prop to be tossed around from stuntman to stuntman, and the camera also caught the visible struggle participants had to pretend to hit people over the head with the stolen prize.
Finally, the show bizarrely ended with The Lion King's “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” and a pyrotechnic spectacle that took minutes for the smoke to clear.
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In 2000, The Show Featured A-List Artists Who Didn't Perform Any Of Their Own Songs
With a stellar line-up consisting of Christina Aguilera, Tina Turner, Enrique Iglesias, Tony Braxton, and Phil Collins, the 2000 halftime show should've been the concert of the millennium. Instead, it proved to be one massive disappointment.
As the last Super Bowl performance ever sponsored by Disney, the group took the stage not to perform their obvious, crowd-pleasing hits but songs that no one knew or recognized. In an attempt to harness the spirit of global unity, the stage was filled with massive props and dancers who supposedly represented different cultures with their inauthentic wardrobes. Songs were written specifically for the performance - including "Celebrate the Future Hand in Hand."
Instead of an epic performance that got the live and television audiences singing and dancing, viewers were presented with a dull and somewhat confusing show. To bring the production to a close, actor Edward James Olmos delivered a serious speech urging global peace and ending with:
Go now and celebrate your dreams as the magic of the millennium continues to bring us together.
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The 1990 Show Was A Mix Of New Orleans Flare - And Snoopy
As an ode to the New Orleans venue, the 1990 Super Bowl halftime show featured a Mardi Gras-themed musical line-up - with a birthday tribute to Snoopy and Charlie Brown. Even the name of the performance suggested the odd pairing, as those responsible for the show simply called it: “Salute to New Orleans and 40th Anniversary of Peanuts.”
Instead of a stage, Irma Thomas, Doug Kershaw, and trumpeter Pete Fountain performed on a massive steamboat that measured 120 feet long and five stories high. The colossal prop was so large that crew members had to remove one of the goalposts in order to fit the boat on the field, then hastily replace it before the beginning of the third quarter. The show ended with Snoopy dancing on the boat while Fountain played “When the Saints Go Marching In,” followed by “Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown.”
To make matters worse, the lackluster, odd performance came in the middle of a game that was one of the largest landslide wins in Super Bowl history. As the 49ers won the championship over the Denver Broncos, 55-10, the crowd had already grown disengaged before the halftime show even started. Instead of keeping viewers entertained, the show was an utter disappointment.
The Black Eyed Peas halftime show displayed a promising start as the group descended onto the stage from zip lines tethered above in flashy costumes and immediately launched into "I Gotta Feeling." Unfortunately for the group and fans watching the show, the performance quickly lost its appeal as audio malfunctions disrupted the song.
Will. i.am's voice greatly overshadowed the other three performers, creating a disconnected sound that made the mix of The Black Eyed Peas hit songs sound out of tune and off balance. The concert took an unexpected and somewhat confusing turn when the instrumentals moved from the group's regular hip-hop sound to "Sweet Child O'Mine" with Will.iam. still rapping about beats.
As Slash rose to the stage playing his guitar, Fergie made her best attempt at an Axl Rose impression by forcing her voice to hit the pitch, depth, and tone of the Guns N' Roses lead singer. After an awkward performance, Slash descended from the stage, leaving the group to transition into a few more of their hit songs before another surprise guest, Usher, appeared.
Except Usher made no genuine attempt at singing, only repeating the chorus of "OMG" multiple times while an audiotrack took care of the vocals as he performed a dance routine. Though the Black Eyed Peas did attract a younger audience to the show, the performance left a lot of viewers and fans confused as to why the elaborate style of the show didn't transfer to the lackluster musicality of otherwise talented artists.
Despite being one of the biggest pop groups of the era, the New Kids on the Block put on such a terrible performance at the 1991 Super Bowl that ABC chose to air news coverage of the Gulf War during the halftime broadcast. Fans and curious viewers couldn't witness the mediocre concert until after the Super Bowl game had ended.
Instead of keeping the crowd exhilarated and loud through the game's intermission, the boy band chose to play a number of slow songs followed by a rendition of “It's A Small World.” (To be fair, the performance was done in collaboration with Disney; this wasn't a spontaneous decision by the group.)
While those who attended the game witnessed the boring show, those watching from home were instead met with a statement by President George H.W. Bush concerning the ongoing war.
While the less-than-stellar performance didn't earn itself the traditional halftime air time, it did set the premise for modern Superbowl performances. Before the New Kids on the Block, halftime was reserved for more traditional marching bands and commentary of the game.