The Super Bowl is more than just an American sporting event, it’s an annual cultural experience that draws hundreds of millions of viewers. Not just because it features two NFL teams, who made it through the gauntlet of the football season to battle it out to be crowned champions. But also because of the star-studded halftime show that sometimes draws even more viewers than the game itself. The Super Bowl halftime show is the single-largest performing stage in the world, which artists get to perform on for free. 

In 2023, Rihanna performed at Super Bowl LVII, her first live show in five years. She performed medleys of her biggest hits, from “We Found Love” to “Diamonds,” all while concealing her pregnancy and making sure to powder her face using a product for her Fenty beauty line. Within minutes of her leaving the stage, not only was she trending worldwide but Google search traffic for Fenty skyrocketed compared to previous weeks. AdWeek later reported the performance earned Fenty $5.6m in media value over the following 12 hours. In addition, following the 13-minute performance, tweeting increased exponentially after her big performance, with viewers taking to social media to partake in social commentary. 113 million viewers tuned in to watch Super Bowl LVII, 121 million viewers tuned in to watch the halftime show. The Super Bowl halftime show is a widely watched cultural event, domestically and internationally.

The Super Bowl halftime show, a stage where the greatest artists in music history have stood, one performance can rock pop culture. From the 1960s to the early 1990s, the Super Bowl halftime show was mainly just a band performance with a handful of local or up-and-coming celebrities. However, for millions of viewers, the halftime show was when they would opt to go to the bathroom. It wasn’t until 1993 that the NFL changed to recruit a megastar. That performer was Michael Jackson, who the league had to convince to perform for free. 

He eventually did, boasting that the performance would be televised in 180 countries, giving the King of Pop an opportunity to connect with fans who would never see him on tour. Michael Jackson put on one of the greatest shows in music history and catapulted the Super Bowl Halftime show into pop culture and as a destination for every superstar musician on the planet. The NFL struck gold again in 1996 with Diana Ross, as she sang “Take Me Higher” while a helicopter swooped in to bring her into the skies. But at the end of the 20th century, every artist on the planet was rushing to do the Super Bowl halftime show because of its impact on pop culture. 

Because the halftime show became must-watch TV, the after-effects of the performance were monumental. After Jackson’s halftime show, his album Dangerous jumped from barely in the Billboard Top 100 into the Top 10, two years after its release. U2, who performed in 2002, saw three albums double in sales after their show, according to Billboard. After Dr. Dre and Eminem performed in 2022, they entered the top 10 for the first time in over a decade. Conversely, the infamous 2004 Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake performance took a major turn after a planned “costume reveal” went awry during the Super Bowl halftime show. Janet Jackson faced immense, unfair backlash while Timberlake’s career took off. He would publicly, apologize to Jackson in February 2021. The performance accident is still discussed today in pop culture.

Where were you in 2007 when Prince performed “Purple Rain” on a stage tage shaped in the “Artist Formerly Known As Prince” symbol? Who will ever forget Madonna in 2012 performing as a Greek goddess or when Beyoncé reunited with Destiny’s Child the year after? How can you ever forget in 2015 watching Katy Perry arrive on the back of a giant lion puppet while singing “Roar” and performing with Left Shark while the world made meme after meme of everything (Left Shark became a celebrity of its own!). 

The game and the show are such a massive watched event, anything and everything that happens reverberates everywhere, for an extended amount of time. The Super Bowl Halftime Show has become not only one of the most highly anticipated traditions, it’s a cultural moment that commands the world’s attention each year and a marker within pop culture. What is unquestionably a massive platform combining sports, music, and showcasing creative (and expensive) advertisements, is one of pop culture’s favorite nights on TV — and it’s not even close. 

4 months ago