Super Bowl

There Was Only One Super Bowl Halftime Show That Lived Up to the Hype

Spoiler: It didn't have a "wardrobe malfunction."


This Super Bowl halftime show is the most talked-about

Dearly beloved…
Wikimedia Commons

yet least cared-about of all American media traditions. As I wrote in a new column at The Week:

For all the false hoopla generated by the announcement of each year's featured performer, the shows themselves are generally rote, passionless, and disposable. The 2004 halftime show — the one people remember best — only earned distinction after an otherwise sexless and robotic Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake karaoke session concluded with an FCC-horrifying "wardrobe malfunction." But without that obviously staged "malfunction," perfectly timed to the lyric "Gonna have you naked by the end of this song," this mid-game interlude would have ranked somewhere between Shania Twain and Tom Petty on a list of completely inessential greatest hits medleys by a long-past-their-prime artist.

How many more halftime shows could you even name, much less recall a memorable moment? There was Bruce Springsteen sliding crotch-first into a camera in 2009 and the hapless left shark flailing about beside Katy Perry last year, but don't even try to make Michael Jackson's 1993 one-man lip sync battle into a thing. Recall the king of pop through whatever rose-colored glasses you wish, but by the time MJ took his turn at the helm of halftime, he had been hawking the same album for a year and a half and had already descended into self-parody with his emaciated Benito Mussolini persona.

There was one, and only one, Super Bowl halftime show that lived up to the hype. This was one performance so exciting and authentic in its dramatic virtuosity that it stands alone among more undistinguished peers. I'm referring, of course, to Prince's 12-minute set at Super Bowl XLI in 2007.

Read the whole thing here, and check out the only surviving online clip (thanks to his well-documented aversion to internet piracy) of the Purple One's epic Super Bowl performance here.

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    1. You lie! Those weren’t cops!!!! They didn’t do a single mag dump!

      1. No dogs were shot during the making of this video.

    2. I was a member of a small private indoor range in Orange County, NY at one time years ago. For a few days each year, the range was off limits to members from 9-5 because the local police had a deal with the range to “train” there. The range had an angled metal backstop that deflected shots down into a sand trap. The range had rules printed on a large sign, including “do not go closer than 15 feet to the backstop when shooting because shots may come back at you” and “no magnum or +P ammo”. After one year’s “training”, we were notified that one of the cops was suing the range. Why? Because the dumb fucks were doing barrel roll shooting like that about 8-10 feet from the backstop with +P ammo and one of them got hit when their round came back. And of course they were suing, even though they had violated multiple range rules.

      1. Well, thank god no humans were hurt.

      2. Was there anything in the policy manual that said they had to follow that particular range’s rules? Can you put your finger on those words? No. No, you can’t. Therefore, whatever happened is not the officer’s fault. He followed policy and procedure. Someone else is to blame.

  1. Wouldn’t know – half time is used for bathroom break, take dirty dishes to kitchen, load up with another helping of snacks, open second wine or fourth beer bottle, take out trash, etc.

    1. No lines of coke?


  2. Yep pretty much awesome. He played Purple Rain during a Miami rainstorm

    1. Yeah. And it was really gracious of the NFL to let Janet Jackson perform again a couple years ago. Not sure that lesbian bouffant she was sporting was such a great NB idea, though.

  3. Yeah, and also wasn’t it actually “live” as opposed to a lip synched?

    I have a vague memory that everyone was shocked by the fact there was actually a real performance happening as opposed to some Disney-Kibuki that we’d grown accustomed to.

  4. …would have ranked somewhere between Shania Twain and Tom Petty on a list of completely inessential greatest hits medleys by a long-past-their-prime artist.

    Tom Petty is still in his prime. And Shania rules.

    1. “”Tom Petty is still in his prime””

      if you’re a casting agent for The Walking Dead, maybe

  5. Why even watch the Super Bowl halftime show anyway?

    (I prefer to listen to games on the radio, for what it’s worth.)


      (looks around hoping people noticed)

      1. I didn’t own a TV before it was cool, so there.

        1. Oh yeah, well I didn’t even own a TV before owning a computer meant that you didn’t need a TV, top that.


            (drops vintage old-timey megaphone)

            notice that like you didn’t mention TV, which is a nickname, and nicknames are for friends and television is no friend of mine.

            1. Interesting subject matter in that flip book.

              I always wonder if people who say things like ‘save the trees’ realize that paper comes from paper trees which are grown as a crop? It’s not like they are cutting down old-growth redwood forests to make notebook paper.

              As P.J. O’Rourke has written, trying to eliminate paper to ‘save the trees’ is sort of like saying “save the corn!”

              Also, there are apparently more trees on earth now than there were 100 years ago. And it’s due to those damned private industries planting many more trees than they harvest. But of course, we better not say anything about it, because greedy.

              1. Yes.

                hey, someone was asking if you had any thoughts re: the recent studies showing possible signs of the biological mechanism that causes schizophrenia.

                someone else suggested that Autism & Schizophrenia may also be linked in some way (one being caused by dearth of adolescent ‘synaptic-pruning’, the other being caused by unnaturally excessive amounts of it)

                anyway, your name came up as someone who might have some interesting thoughts about it.

                1. The newly-published research in Nature that you refer to certainly has everyone talking. It’s definitely a big step in the right direction to be narrowing down the genetic/biologic origins of this horrendous disease. Perhaps it might quiet a lot of the ‘no such thing as mental illness’ or ‘it can’t be real because there’s no lab test for it’ crowd, but I doubt it (at this early stage, at least).

                  The researchers themselves feel it might be as much as 20 years before their findings might have any practical impact, but I’ll bet they are overestimating, based on the rate of increase of technology and medical discoveries. Any improvements in treatments, or, especially, prevention, would be most welcome. Our current armamentarium for schizophrenia is sadly lacking, provides only partial treatment at best, and can lead to a host of unpleasant side effects. (continued)

                  1. Regarding your other question, that’s an interesting postulate, autism to schizophrenia based on the synaptic-pruning hypothesis. A couple of points on that — for one, recognize that any issues in brain structure can be involved in multiple conditions, sometimes even being almost exact opposites of each other. For example, there’s the idea that many schizophrenia ‘positive symptoms’ such as hallucinations are caused by excessive dopaminergic activity, while Parkinson’s Disease/Parkinsonism is due to decreased dopaminergic activity (and indeed, treatments for one often cause side effects mimicking the other — antidopaminergic drugs for schizophrenia can lead to Parkinson’s-like tremors, and dopaminergic drugs for Parkinson’s can cause psychosis). So it may be that different ends of the spectrum of abnormalities of the same neuron structure and function can lead to completely different conditions.

                    But also, the symptoms of autism and schizophrenia have long overlapped. In fact, the classic “Bleuler’s five A’s” that were considered pathognomonic of schizophrenia around a hudred years ago, one of those A’s is autism-like behavior. Yet I think while one may show parts of the other, they are completely separate illnesses.

                    1. Thanks

                      Isnt Autism also something that emerges very very young, while schizophrenia takes until post-adolescence to emerge?

                      i’d think that would be an indication that there was something different going on – or that very different stages of brain-development are involved.

                    2. Correct — autism is typically diagnosed in preschool age kids, where schizophrenia most commonly has what is called a ‘first break’ sometime between ages 18-21. Schizophrenia patients can often have a completely normal childhood prior to that (which can make that ‘first break’ all the more surprising and devastating to families).

                    3. Autism seems to come in two flavours, in that regard. One shows signs at three months and neurodevelopment is probably abnormal from the beginning. The other strikes in childhood, and seems to involve some sort of aberrant pruning rather than being the product of systematic abnormal development from the first. While schizophrenia comes out only under certain cultural and situational conditions and in a certain age range, there’s fair evidence that for the most part only a certain category of variants are susceptible, and the signs of subclinical schizotypy can be noted in early childhood, suggesting that it is also the product of an abnormal developmental process. I’ve also known many persons diagnosed with autism, and there’s a majority that are very much of a type and then there’s the remainder who don’t fit the pattern nearly as well; I’m inclined to think the diagnostics are breaking down somewhere, causing less valid types to get lumped in with a more valid type. There’s also probably overdiagnosis in the simplest sense, which isn’t so commonplace with schizophrenia, thankfully, since once you get it you’ll never get rid of it. You may lose your wife, your dog, your job, your self-respect, but they can never take away your diagnosis.

                  2. If a brain disease is identified and a medical diagnosis determined, it will cease to be a “mental illness” and will become a brain disease. The moment one proves an underlying disease process, it no longer falls in the mental illness domain.

                    1. The moment one proves an underlying disease process, it no longer falls in the mental illness domain.

                      I’m not quite sure where you get your information. Schizophrenia has long had solid medical evidence for its disease state, and is essentially the core ‘psychiatric’ illness under treatment by psychiatric physicians, much like epilepsy is the bread-and-butter of neurology. Schizophrenia is not going to suddenly be reassigned to some other medical subspecialty just because there has been a gene breakthrough.

                      What I will give you is that there are a number of psychological conditions which are the realm of the psychotherapists world, which really don’t belong alongside schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression and other major psychiatric illnesses. It is unfortunate that these get lumped alongside endogenous mental illnesses in such joke books as the DSM (which is really just a billing code listing, the Chilton Manual for mental health professionals, and not much more).

                      What you will no doubt see in coming years is psychiatric physicians moving almost exclusively into treating the more medical mental illnesses, and leave the talk therapy to non-medical psychologists and masters’ level therapists. And perhaps when that becomes more fully the norm, we won’t see schizophrenia etc considered in the same arena as the neuroses.

          2. well I didn’t even own a TV before owning a computer meant that you didn’t need a TV

            How about this, when people mention cable I think they’re talking about the telegraph.

            1. “Telegraph?” ppppppttt. check out mr fancy-pants over here.

              (finishes penning poem with quill, seals parchment with wax, then ties to foot of passenger pigeon)

              1. “Quill, parchment, …Wax??”

                (pokes clay tablet with reed and then sets in sun to dry)

                  1. He smeared his poop on the wall of your allegorical cave.

      2. Gilmore

        Rent to own doesn’t count as being too cool for TV.

        1. yeah renting your mom is much easier

          1. Good luck with that.

            My mom has been dead for 30 years.

            So anyway, I was just making a joke.

            It seems as though I must have touched a nerve.

            My bad.

            1. yeah your mom touched a nerve too

              (jk 🙂

              1. This must be some of that “juvenile bluster” I’ve been hearing about.

    2. Yeah, there’s nothing like listening to Odell Beckham Jr. make the greatest one handed catch in football history.

      1. In Ted’s day, they played real footbaw!

  6. Bruno Mars was surprisingly good too.

    1. One time U2 did the Super Bowl halftime show and really nailed it, I’m surprised that one doesn’t get discussed much. And I’ve never been much of a U2 fan, they just really did a stadium-quality rocking show that day.

      1. Right after 9/11. It was good. Better than most. Prince was best, though.

  7. Oh, that’s right…that Super Thingy is on soon, isn’t it? Who’s pitching?

        1. It’s not so bad. Playa is so small you hardly notice.

            1. Yeah, that’s what he’ll be saying tomorrow.

  8. The bands at Super Bowl I was probably only properly done one.

    1. GET OFF MY LAWN !!11!!

  9. Yeah, that stands out as the best I can recall as well.

  10. Every time I put on a halftime show the neighbors call the police.

  11. Best until they finally get “Weird Al” to play. Tell me you wouldn’t want to see him parody every shitty Halftime Show ever.

    1. That was fucken beautiful.

      How does someone with zero talent get gigs like that?

      1. Spandex

        Hip thrusts

        Camel Toe

        My best guest

  12. “with the exception of one verse of another band’s song, his entire set was comprised of tunes more than two decades old”

    Which is another reason it kicked ass. Prince is smart enough to know that nobody cares what he might be doing lately.

    But sheesh – Coldplay? What the hell are they thinking?!

    1. I’ve been saying this for years over my wife’s objections:

      I’d rather listen to a pillowcase full of baby goats get run over by a steamroller. Slowly.

      1. They really are the worst.

        1. MADTV agrees with you. They really don’t like Coldplay. Such as here and here.

          1. I bet SNL never spoke truth to power like that.

            1. MADtv was really good about going after everyone, pretty harshly at times. Not having “guest stars” helps with that, as you don’t need to kiss anyone’s ass. They were far more brutal, even in their first seasons, than SNL has ever been.

              1. I always liked Mad TV 10 times better than SNL

                1. SNL had some good moments every 10 years or so but yeah MadTV was consistently way better.

                  1. SNL was ground breaking and keep many a stoner home on Saturday nights when SNL was new.

                    1. Guilty. The first three years the show was on (which were just amazing and have never been matched) were my sophomore through senior years in high school. Actually, having that show on was a good reason to stay home and get stoned to watch it.

                      They also used to be on every Saturday night. Not this nine times a year thing they do now. It was incredible the amount of talent and killer writing they had. And they weren’t just standing in place obviously reading cue cards like they’ve done the past several years (do they even have rehearsals anymore? How can no one know their lines or even act like they know what’s coming next?)

        2. Worse than nickelback?

          1. I hate Coldplay so much that yes, I would rather listen to Nickelback.

  13. This is maybe worth citing =

    Kevin Smith’s ‘Prince Story

    its @#*($& hilarious.

  14. OT: John McCain goes full-on authoritarian. Bring your shocked faces.

    1. Am I the only one who fears John McCain more than the terrorists?

    2. “Old man yells at First Amendment cloud”

    3. Apparently he thinks only large software companies can write encryption code.

      1. McCain seems to think that if the US passes a law making backdoors compulsory that everyone in the rest of the world will abide by it.

        1. And our government won’t hand out warrants to snoop through your emails like candies.

  15. Am I the only one that misses “Up With People”? The thing that keeps ruining the halftime show at the superbowl is that the keep trying to be cool. But halftime shows aren’t cool. They’re cheesy camp, but things that embrace their cheesy campness can still be fun.

    1. Somehow I misremembered that as a Simpsons parody or something. Hard to believe it was real.

      1. Yes there was a parody of them that has appeared on the Simpsons several times called “Hooray for Everything”

        1. Yes there was a parody of them that has appeared on the Simpsons several times called “Hooray for Everything”

          In one episode, they did “a tribute to everyone’s favorite hemisphere, the Western Hemisphere!”.

          I actually had a friend from high school who ended up dropping out of college and joined “Up With People”. The last I heard of him he was doing their halftime shows. That was many years ago, I wonder whatever happened to him.

          1. Probably got AIDS

  16. So I’m driving around today and I turn on the radio and hear a real live libertarian woman.

    1. I had a pulled groin muscle! Let’s see you do that well under pressure!

      1. Can you recommend a good orthodontist though ?

  17. I consider the U2 halftime show in 2002 (the SB of the 2001 season) to be the best to date. Though the show Prince put on was definitely among the best.

  18. i saw prince at madison square garden in 2011 or 12. my life has only been worse since. (not that it made my life worse, it just hasnt gotten any better than that yet. and i dont expect it to)

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