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Top 10 Super Bowl halftimes with '80s acts




Today's guest blogger is Paul Schultz of Albion, Wis. He frequently argues the quality of Beta over VHS, and became music editor at The Trades before his boss discovered he played Simon LeBon of Duran Duran in a high school air band contest.

Bruce Springsteen is a "dream" catch to perform at this Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show, but it took a good quarter-century of NFL championships for big-name musicians to be the main attraction. Perhaps the over-hyped debacle of 1989 was the turning point, as a gaudy extravaganza called Be Bop Bamboozled in 3-D was introduced by announcer Bob Costas, who sarcastically quipped, "This is the single proudest moment of my life."

Since then, stars of the '80s have constituted the bulk of the entertainment showcased for, as any devotee stuck in that decade of excess knows, the personalities don't get any larger-than-life -- a perfect fit for the intermission pageantry beamed across the globe. Now, there's no time to refill the snack bowl or take a potty break or you're likely to miss all-star collaborations or another potential "wardrobe malfunction seen around the world."

So, without further ado, here are the top performances by artists who peaked in popularity during the '80s. The Rolling Stones are really the only act grandfathered (no pun intended) in for this criteria, but they did sing Start Me Up from 1981, so there.


10. PHIL COLLINS (2000) - The sappy Disney balladeer version of the Genesis frontman shows up to sing You'll Be in My Heart from the Tarzan soundtrack during a goofy salute to the new millennium featuring giant lumbering puppets and voice-over narration by Edward James Olmos. [Watch it again]

9. GLORIA ESTEFAN (1992) - The featured singer in Miami Sound Machine would attempt to Turn the Beat Around at 1999's half-time Celebration of Soul, Salsa and Swing, but this first appearance with Olympic figure skaters Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill had trouble holding its audience. More than 20 million viewers defected to alternate programming in the form of a special episode of Fox's In Living Color featuring live skits by Damon Wayans, David Alan Grier and a young Jim Carrey.

8. NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK (1991) - When drill teams, dancers and marching bands were the pinnacle of halftime entertainment, NKOTB had the distinction of being the first contemporary pop act featured at the mid-game break. Unfortunately, they were never seen live, as preemption by Operation Desert Storm coverage relegated their performance to an edited after-game postscript. [Watch it again]

7. STING (2003) - An odd mix of performers include Shania Twain and Gwen Stefani, with the latter joining Sting to duet on Message in a Bottle. [Watch it again]

6. JANET JACKSON (2004) - Nobody remembers the infamous show opened with Jessica Simpson, or that Kid Rock, Nelly and P. Diddy also performed. Rhythm Nation also is forgotten from this all-over-the-place production that ends with Justin Timberlake singing "gonna have you naked by the end of this song," popping Janet's top, and "Nipple-gate" being born. [Watch it again]

5. THE ROLLING STONES (2006) - Halftime shows are often choreographed to within an inch of their lives, with musicians often lip-synching to keep things running smoothly. Not the Rolling Stones, with their rip-roaring, unpolished trio of tunes that had twitchy censor overlords turning down Mick Jagger's microphone during suggestive lyrics. [Watch it again]

4. TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS (2008) - A solid performance, as Petty & Co. roll through Full Moon Fever's greatest hits, I Won't Back Down, Free Fallin' and Runnin' Down a Dream, while injecting a little politics into the proceedings with Hillary Clinton’s campaign song, American Girl. Sometimes great music is enough amid the spectacle. [Watch it again]

3. MICHAEL JACKSON (1993) - In retrospect, the Gloved One singing in the midst of thousands of schoolchildren is more than a bit creepy, but the guy can put on a show. Stopping in dead silence for more than a minute during the bombastic production left us in agonizing anticipation, and Heal the World highlighted social justice concerns to a worldwide audience. [Watch it again]

2. PRINCE (2007) - The Artist Formerly Known as an Unpronounceable Symbol turns in an absolutely mesmerizing and eclectic set featuring a medley of hits and covers ranging from We Will Rock You to All Along the Watchtower to Proud Mary to the Foo Fighters' Best of You. The lighting and weather combine to douse the stage in actual purple rain, and Prince ends a fiery guitar performance silhouetted behind a sheet invoking decidedly phallic imagery.

1. U2 (2002) - It wasn't quite the top musical performance (see No. 2), but four months after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the Irishmen engage emotionally with the somber crowd and viewing audience with Where the Streets Have No Name, as a huge backdrop scrolls the names of the victims. Bono opening his jacket toward the end to reveal its American flag lining cements this as an indelibly memorable moment. [Watch it again]

[AP photo]

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:42pm]


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