It’s been nearly two years since Tampa was announced as the host city for Super Bowl LV in 2021.
At the time, we hazarded a few far-off guesses as to who might headline halftime of that year’s game. Since then, two of our candidates, Justin Timberlake and Maroon 5, have gone on to land halftime shows of their own.
We whiffed on this year’s out-of-nowhere pairing of Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. But it’s still possible to make an educated, slightly clarified guess about who might touch down in Tampa next February.
Barring an unlikely reunion (Led Zeppelin?) or hologram show (Whitney Houston?), here are the most likely contenders.
Taylor Swift: The gig is hers the second she says yes. But it’s unclear if she ever will. Swift lately seems empowered to march to her own drumbeat, and given her relatively newfound sense of political awareness, a gig this high-profile and ripe for controversy might be too much of a risk.
Adele: Another name that’s been rumored to be high on the NFL’s list. If she has new music in the works, this would be the ultimate place to debut it.
Rihanna: Reportedly, Rihanna has already turned the gig down as a form of protest over the NFL’s handling of Colin Kaepernick. If she ever changes her mind, she, too, is guaranteed a slot.
Ariana Grande: A Florida Woman who’s unafraid to court controversy or the spotlight, she’s evolved into an A-list household name, and is more likely to say yes than Swift, Adele or Rihanna.
Jay Z: When asked last year which regional artist might headline Tampa’s halftime show, Jay Z, an official consultant to the league on entertainment and social matters, said: “I have no idea who’s from there.” Hmm. Well, if anyone could step in and pick up the slack, it would be him — especially if it puts a Beyonce cameo in play.
Drake: He’s more of a basketball guy, but he has the set list and Rolodex to put together a show filled with huge hits. It’s hard not to see this happening someday.
Foo Fighters: The Super Bowl never likes to stray too far from rock (Maroon 5, Coldplay, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Who all played in the 2010s). The Foos are eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this winter, and a Super Bowl halftime show feels like a good, career-capping achievement for their resume.
Elton John: Not your typical halftime-show headliner, that’s for sure, but he’s one of the few remaining classic rock icons who’s never played at the game. With his never-ending farewell tour in full swing, this might be the year the NFL takes a chance.
Justin Bieber: He’s still one of the world’s biggest pop stars, but there are a lot of unknowns about where he’s at right now, mentally, physically and musically. A summer stadium tour, which stops in Tampa in July, may give us a taste.
Ed Sheeran: He, too, is about as big a male pop star as there is, but his music doesn’t exactly scream “Are you ready for some football?!?” Still, if he’s interested, expect the NFL to listen.
The Weeknd: A notch below Bieber and Sheeran in terms of overall popularity, and maybe a touch too weird for the NFL, but he’s a killer performer with plenty of hits.
Post Malone: He’s got a golden touch in the pop world, that’s for sure. It might still be early for him to make this leap.
Metallica: Rock 'n' roll’s other big possibility, although it’s hard to see the NFL blasting Master of Puppets on their grandest stage.
Kendrick Lamar: One of the most important artists of his generation, sure, but is social awareness really what the NFL really cares about right now? Kendrick’s always had a thirst for the mainstream spotlight, though, so he might not turn it down if asked.
Billie Eilish: After sweeping the Grammys at age 18, anything’s possible. It’s probably too soon, but it all depends on how desperate the NFL is for those young-demo eyeballs.
Lizzo: A stellar, crowd-pleasing performer, she’d surely put on a memorable show. As with Eilish and Posty, she’s probably a better candidate down the line.
Bon Jovi: The world is running out of vintage stadium rockers to step up to this sort of plate, but Bon Jovi’s time may have passed. A better candidate might be...
Imagine Dragons: Such a populist choice is totally up the NFL’s alley, even if they’d instantly get killed for it on Twitter.
Queen and Adam Lambert: Can’t you just hear We Will Rock You, Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are the Champions blaring from the RayJay speakers?