The Halftime Show
February 14, 2023
Whether you are tuning in for one of the biggest sporting events of the year, to watch the extravagant ads, or to see the iconic halftime show, the Super Bowl has something for everyone to enjoy. If you’re anything like me, the most exciting part of the Super Bowl is the blockbuster concert sandwiched between two halves of the game. The original half time show in 1967 was nothing like the spectacle we see now. There were no flashing lights, fireworks, or costume changes but rather the University of Arizona’s Symphonic Marching Band. Marching bands performances were an integral part of the Super Bowl halftime show until the early 90s when popular music acts started to appear during the show. The defining moment in Super Bowl halftime shows came in 1993, when Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, shot up from below the stage and posed for nearly 90 seconds before cuing the musicians and breaking into his signature dance moves. He captivated viewers around the world and the halftime show became a marquis event for musicians. From this point forward the halftime show performer has been “the” superstar of the year and the halftime show has become a blockbuster event independent of the actual Super Bowl football game. In 2015, 118.5 million viewers tuned in to watch Katy Perry’s halftime show, while only 114.5 million watched the game itself.
The halftime show now garners international attention. The NFL identifies performers who are popular and have high performance value around the globe. The host city then selects a performer from a list curated by the NFL. It is very rare that an artist will be given the opportunity to perform at the halftime show more than once, but there are some exceptions, including Bruno Mars who performed in 2014 and then appeared as a guest during Coldplay’s performance in 2016, as well as Mary J. Blige, Stevie Wonder, Nelly, and Beyoncé, who have each performed twice. Justin Timberlake and Gloria Estefan have performed at the halftime show three times.
Headliners and guest acts are not compensated by the NFL for their Super Bowl performances. Under NFL rules, the league covers costs related to the production of the halftime show but does not pay the artists for their performances. But this does not mean that they don’t receive financial benefits for their Super Bowl appearances. The halftime show provides an international audience to the artists and they often see album and ticket sales skyrocket following the show. For example, in 2017 Lady Gaga’s digital music sales increased 1000% in a single day, and in 2018, Justin Timberlake saw his music sales increase 534% in the day following his performance.
2023 was not the first time Rihanna had been offered the opportunity to perform at the halftime show. Rihanna was previously asked to perform in 2019, but turned down the offer to show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. When Rihanna was asked during an interview with the Associated Press why she chose to accept the offer this year, she said hat she felt that it was now or never and that, “the Super Bowl is one of the biggest stages in the world, it’s an entertainer’s dream to be on a stage like that.”
Rihanna’s Super Bowl performance marked her return to music and performance after nearly six years. Rihanna recently released her first single since 2017, “Lift Me Up,” for the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which has earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. The halftime show was a wonderful opportunity for Rihanna to reconnect with her musical roots and reconnect with her fans after her time away from performing. In just thirteen minutes, Rihanna ran through some of her greatest hits. The set list kicked off with “B**** Better Have My Money”, (which was a surprise for many), and then 11 of Rihanna’s most iconic songs, including “Where Have You Been”, “Only Girl (In The World)”, “We Found Love”, “Rude Boy”, “Work”, “Wild Thoughts”, “Pour It Up”, “All The Lights”, “Run This Town”, “Umbrella”, concluding with “Diamonds” as the stadium lit up in a sea of light. There were no surprise guests or costume changes but Rihanna didn’t need those. It was just Rihanna, her setlist of huge hits, a flying stage, and great backup dancers. Her energy was divine as she floated on the stage while performing her most well-known songs.
And of course who could forget the moment Rihanna gave an obvious shout-out to Fenty Beauty as she touched up her makeup between songs. Fenty Beauty, the beauty empire Rihanna launched in 2017, has experienced a huge jump in traffic on its website following the halftime show.