During Super Bowl LI, Lady Gaga was the first artist since The Who in 2010 to tackle their performance with no special guests.
Before the big game, she teased: “It will be special. . . . I’ve been planning this since I was 4, so I know exactly what I’m going to do,” Gaga told the NFL in a video statement. “For me, it’s all about giving to the fans and bringing people together that wouldn’t normally come together.”
Ultimately, Gaga delivered a feel-good moment, but not enough of one to rank among the greatest in halftime show history. Here are the 10 best halftimes ever.
10. BRUNO MARS (2014)
Before Mars took the stage, there were plenty of questions about whether the relative newcomer could handle such a huge platform. When he wrapped up his performance, every question was answered. Mars was more than ready, moving flawlessly from his opening drum solo to stylish rock, R&B and pop hits in impeccable style. The mid-set boost from the Red Hot Chili Peppers proved unnecessary, with its tempo change weighing down what was truly his solo star turn.
9. ROLLING STONES (2006)
The only real prop in this show was the giant wiggling fabric tongue that covered the crowd for the beginning of "Start Me Up." But who needs props when you have Mick Jagger's hips? "This one we could have done for Super Bowl I," Jagger says before "Satisfaction," which is true, but he and Keith Richards are as sprightly as ever when they deliver it.
8. DIANA ROSS (1996)
Miss Ross strung together basically one diva moment after another to celebrate the Super Bowl's 30th anniversary. Starting on a sparkler-spewing raised platform surrounded by hundreds of dancers on stage and on the field and ending when she is whisked away sitting on the floor of an open helicopter, she rolled through one hit after another in unforgettable, windblown superstar fashion.
7. MADONNA (2012)
Give Madonna 12 minutes and a huge audience and she'll give you a spectacle. That means being carted in on a golden throne by a phalanx of dancers to vogue, boogie-woogie and assorted acrobatics to "Music," one-armed push-ups and a cameo from LMFAO, a rollout of her cheerleader-themed single "Give Me All Your Lovin' " with Nicki Minaj and middle-finger-flipping M.I.A., and Cee Lo Green leading a gospel choir to back her on "Like a Prayer."
6. PAUL MCCARTNEY (2005)
Few musicians can hold the massive Super Bowl audience by simply playing a straightforward four-song mini-set of hits. However, Paul McCartney did with characteristic ease, probably since there aren't any musicians who have played more stadium concerts than he has. He barely seemed to break a sweat as he rolled through "Drive My Car," "Get Back," "Live and Let Die" and "Hey Jude," but that doesn't make it any less memorable.
5. MICHAEL JACKSON (1993)
The King of Pop ushered in the new era of the halftime show with this performance, turning it into a must-see event for the first time. (Sorry, Carol Channing.) What makes it even more stunning is that Jackson stands silent for nearly 2 minutes, while letting the crowd roar for him. He doesn't utter a word until nearly 3 minutes into his 12-minute show. Yet he still manages to offer a plea for racial harmony and worldwide unity in the name of children.
4. BEYONCÉ (2013)
There isn't an extraneous second in Beyoncé's dizzyingly complex halftime show, where she masterfully multitasks her way through a string of hits, even including a reunion with her Destiny's Child pals for parts of "Bootylicious," "Independent Women" and "Single Ladies." Yet she doesn't play it safe at all, introducing her themes of female empowerment while also delivering the dance steps she's best known for.
3. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND (2009)
"Ladies and gentlemen, for the next 12 minutes we are going to bring the righteous and mighty power of The E Street Band into your beautiful home," Springsteen said before "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out." He wasn't kidding. Springsteen packed the working-class rallying cry of "Born to Run," the contemplative "Working on a Dream" and the self-deprecating jokes of "Glory Days," reworked with football references, into his allotted time.
2. U2 (2002)
Coming less than six months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, U2 aimed for comfort, not celebration, with its halftime show. In three songs, Bono and the band showed their support for America, especially during the gigantic list of those killed in the attacks that rolled behind the band during "Where the Streets Have No Name" as Bono ran laps around the heart-shaped stage and tried to console a nation.
1. PRINCE (2007)
It had everything that makes a halftime show great. Prince delivered a stellar performance, both vocally and on guitar. He celebrated the enormity of the moment with "Let's Go Crazy," while offering never-before-seen surprises like his cover of the Foo Fighters' "Best of You." He made the most of the space by filling the field with marching bands in glow-in-the-dark uniforms. And he and his band did it all in the middle of a rainstorm that intensified, as if on cue, during the enormous singalong for "Purple Rain."