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Taking a look at the evolution of the Super Bowl half time show, from Elvis Presto to the political statements on the largest stage we see today!

Fireworks over the stadium by Ameer Basheer

When we think of the half time show of the Super Bowl now, we think of glitz, glamour, memorable moments, and political statements. But it was not always the moment that dominated the watercooler for weeks on end once it was seen. Even somewhat overshadowing the game taking place itself, the half time show has evolved to be a cultural phenomenon and I am going to look at the moments that propelled the half time show into the stratosphere of worldwide culture. 

Until the 1991 Super Bowl, the half time show wasn’t dedicated to popstars singing melodies of their greatest hits, as when New Kids On The Block took to the stage that year it ushered in the beginning of what we see today, as prior to 1991 the half time platform was dedicated to marching bands, dance troops or other entertainment personalities performing to keep the crowd interested whilst the teams re-strategized in order to win the biggest game in football, they laid the groundwork for what would become the high production value performances we see today. 

Take for instance the 1989 Super Bowl half time show, which featured an Elvis Presley themed magician aptly named Elvis Presto to the largest stage in entertainment to perform tricks and dominate the field with colour and wow the crowd both live and at home with illusions flanked by Elvis themed extras riding Harley Davidsons or riding in Pink Cadillacs. Though not far off what we see today in terms of production value the political messages and shock value we see today were missing from Presto’s enchanting events.

Not to discredit the half time shows between 1991 and my next example, they all featured performances that entertained the audience, but the 2004 half time show is where the next evolution of the event happened.

Now on paper, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson don’t sound like a pair who would cause controversy on the grandest stage of sports and entertainment. But when Justin Timberlake tore off a part of Jackson’s outfit exposing her breast to the large audience watching in the stadium and at home, it led to that moment dominating the conversations at work, home and on television after it happened. The sheer shock value propelled that moment to be larger than the game that was being played that day, once again rocketing the half time show from stand-in event between halves to a must-watch part of Super Bowl Sunday as audiences didn’t want to miss any shocking moments that may happen during the half time festivities.

As the half time show kept rising in popularity on the mainstream level, performers took it upon themselves to insert political messages into their performances because they knew that the eyes of the world would be on them that night. Beyonce’s performance took cues from the Black Panther movement with attire, dance choreography and choice of song to highlight her message of racial instability in America.

elvis presto super bowl

Whilst this year Shakira and J-Lo’s act which featured children in cages which was a response to the immigration laws in America that allegedly held children in cages away from their parents. 

As time progresses the Super Bowl has become the place to make statements, entertain and dazzle audiences from all around the globe and with the year that we are currently having and a Super Bowl in jeopardy of looking not at all like the Super Bowl. Twinned with how desperate the world is for snippets of normality, this year’s Super Bowl may be the most viewed ever.

But we have to consider with all the manpower that goes into constructing the half time show will there even be one for the 2021 Super Bowl and if so who is in it and what message will they promote to the worldwide audience. Why not Pit Bull, everyone loves Pit Bull? 

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