Katy Perry will enter America’s pop-cultural pantheon when she headlines the Super Bowl halftime show, which has featured a wide variety of pop stars either in or adjacent to the zeitgeist — not to mention marching bands, stridently cheerful youth groups, and a “Solid Gold” dancer-turned-Elvis impersonator.
The chameleonic Perry, with her technicolor hair and strident-yet-flirtatious catalog, represents the halftime show organizers’ continued comfort with borrowing headliners from modern times; during the 2000s, a slew of classic-rock staples like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty ruled the roost. But that’s changed in recent years: Beyoncé headlined a gloriously energetic halftime show in 2013, while last year’s musical break in the action was led by the undeniable showmanship of Bruno Mars.
Here’s a look back at some of the Super Bowl’s more notable halftime offerings.
Super Bowl I: The Marching Band
The first Super Bowl halftime show was a much more staid affair than the glitzy, cameo-and-sponsor-filled extravaganzas that dominate today: It opened with the Arizona State University and Grambling State University bands playing the theme from “The Sound Of Music,” and featured a solo from trumpeter Al Hirt during its Dixieland segment.
Super Bowls X, XIV, XVI, and XX: Up With People
From 1976 to 1986 the halftime show was largely the provenance of Up With People, a group founded during the chaos of the ’60s to show that young people weren’t all dope-smoking hippies. Three of the four halftime shows in which members of the group performed paid tribute to the past — and almost poignantly, their final appearance had them looking toward the future.
Super Bowl XXIII: Card Tricks and 3-D Glasses
This halftime show was anchored by “world’s largest card trick,” as performed by an Elvis Presley imitator (“Elvis Presto,” portrayed by former “Solid Gold” dancer Alex Cole) — no wonder Bob Costas looked confused when he introduced “Be Bop Bamboozled,” the halftime show in 1989. But it had a second hook: It was the first network telecast to be broadcast in 3-D, a development that resulted in plastic glasses being that year’s de rigeur Super Bowl accessory.
Super Bowl XXV: NKOTB
The halftime show’s first foray into current pop came in 1991, when New Kids on the Block headlined an all-child cast. (Get it?) The much-beloved quintet was just entering its adult phase. But for the halftime show the Kids kept it clean, singing the title track from their 1990 album “Step by Step” and the winsome “This One’s for the Children” before ceding the stage to a gaggle of real kids from around Tampa.
SUPER BOWL XXVII: Jackson’s Jams
Michael Jackson’s turn on the halftime stage was notable for many reasons, but especially because he didn’t bring along any guests. The show did, however, manage to incorporate a card trick. That’s entertainment!
Super Bowl XXXIII: Bienvenido A Miami
Gloria Estefan made her second halftime-show appearance of the ’90s during the 1999 tribute to her hometown of Miami, which also brought soul king Stevie Wonder and swing revivalists Big Bad Voodoo Daddy into the fold.
Super Bowl XXXV: Aerosmith Walks Britney’s Way
CBS and sibling network MTV engaged in a little bit of synergy for the 2001 halftime show, which was mostly pitched toward the “TRL” demographic. Aerosmith played the elder statesmen role, but they were surrounded by the brightest stars of that moment in pop: ’N Sync (who faced off with the Toxic Twins in a medley that made more sense live than it did on paper), Nelly, Mary J. Blige, and Britney Spears.
Super Bowl XXXVIII: Janet Exposed
Without a doubt the most controversial of all Super Bowl halftime shows, the 2004 midgame fest included quite the cast of people who weren’t on the nation’s lips the next morning: Jessica Simpson, Diddy (then P. Diddy), Nelly, and Kid Rock all popped onstage to promote new material. But Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s duet on the throwbacky “Rock Your Body,” which ended not just with Timberlake ripping off a part of Jackson’s shirt but with hoopla and TiVo rewinding and FCC fines, overshadowed even the Patriots’ 32-29 victory over Carolina.
Super Bowl XLI: Prince Dances in the Rain
After the Jackson/Timberlake fiasco, the Super Bowl played it relatively safe, selecting classic-rock staples Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones for the 2005 and ’06 shows. But the master class in Super Bowl halftime shows belongs to Prince, whose cover-heavy set showed off his guitar prowess and included callbacks to Queen and Foo Fighters. He also, no joke, actually made it rain for “Purple Rain.” Even without the downpour, his set would have been legend.
SUPER BOWL XLVI: Madonna’s Spirit Team
The halftime show’s organizers eased their way back into the pop charts in 2011 with the Black Eyed Peas, who played a medley of their wedding-reception floor-fillers. The next year they invited Madonna, the most controversial pop star of the early MTV era, and neither her set nor her guests disappointed: “Express Yourself” and “Like a Prayer” provided the barnburners, while M.I.A., who appeared on Madge’s then-current single “Give Me All Your Luvin,” courted the FCC’s ire when she raised a particular finger toward the camera.
Maura Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @maura.