The men may dominate the field during the big game every Super Bowl, but over the last half-century many women have given them a run for their money during halftime. Although the show has changed and grown bigger since the early Super Bowls, strong women from Christina Aguilera to Patti LaBelle have taken over the field to perform for one of the largest audiences in the world.
2017’s Super Bowl LI (that's 51, for those of you don't speak Roman numeral) is no different, as another powerful woman, Lady Gaga, headlines the Pepsi Halftime Show at the showdown between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots in
Dallas Houston (oops — can you tell we don't watch a lot of football?) on Sunday, Feb. 5. To celebrate Mother Monster’s upcoming performance, we've ranked the top 10 female halftime performers from Super Bowls past.
10. Shania Twain (2003)
Shania Twain looked amazing in her thigh-high boots, diamond-encrusted brassiere and black wrap-around coat. Her performance, however, left a little to be desired. Like many artists, Twain chose to lip-sync as a precaution on a stage as big as the Super Bowl. Usually, some sort of grand spectacle makes up for the lack of live vocals, but this was not the case for Twain, who mostly just walked around the stage and into the crowd. Despite headlining, the country diva performed only two songs before No Doubt and Sting took over, not even re-emerging for a final bow at the end.
9. Carol Channing (1970 and 1972)
It would be unjust to make a list of female Super Bowl performers without including the legendary singer, actress, comedian and Broadway star Carol Channing. She was actually the first big-name act to appear in the halftime show at Super Bowl IV; the first three enlisted marching bands as the entertainment. Channing wasn’t even the headliner, but she killed “When the Saints Go Marching in.” Just two years later, she was invited back for a halftime show that included Ella Fitzgerald and Al Hirt.
8. Gloria Estefan (1992 and 1999)
Gloria Estefan closed out the 1992 Super Bowl halftime show with two songs saluting the Winter Olympics. Her 1999 appearance, however, was far more memorable. That year, the show sought to fuse soul, salsa and swing (courtesy of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy) in Estefan’s own backyard of Miami. Estefan followed Stevie Wonder with three of her signature upbeat songs, accompanied by dancers in glow-in-the-dark costumes. The finale found Estefan and Wonder mashing many of their greatest hits together for an impressive live duet.
7. Janet Jackson (2004)
For most viewers, Janet’s halftime show will mostly be remembered for Nipplegate, when the singer had a “wardrobe malfunction” at the end of the performance and Justin Timberlake exposed her breast (accidentally, according to both performers). It’s a shame, because her perfect dancing to “All for You” and the iconic “Rhythm Nation” were definite showstoppers. She may have even made it higher on the list had she not disappeared for a full five minutes when P. Diddy, Nelly and Kid Rock took over the stage.
6. Missy Elliott (2015)
Rap legend Missy Elliott added such incredible energy as Katy Perry’s special guest that she deserves her own spot on this list. The crowd at Super Bowl XLIX went ballistic as the opening beat of “Get Ur Freak On” played over Elliott’s silhouette. Missy and her dancers’ choreography was lively and dynamic, and their black and white outfits fit nicely with the vibrant LED screens surrounding them. Although none of the three songs Elliott sang — “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It” and “Lose Control” — was less than a decade old at the time, they’ve become timeless classics that still sounded fresh on one of the world’s biggest stages.
5. Gwen Stefani (with No Doubt, 2003)
Although No Doubt were not the headliner, they completely outshone Shania Twain, who was. After two songs, Twain disappeared and Gwen Stefani took over. Emerging from underneath the stage doing push-ups as the chords for “Just a Girl” began, it was clear that Stefani was not there to play. In fact, that very choice of song seems significant for the middle of a football game. Stefani definitely brought the energy and also sang completely live. The performance ended with her memorable duet of “Message in a Bottle” with Sting, as he and Stefani chanted “sending out an S.O.S.” while fireworks skyrocketed behind them.
4. Katy Perry (2015)
A giant lion puppet, a flying star and, of course, Left Shark: Katy Perry’s performance was as zany and unconventional as the singer herself. Perry’s vocals were spotty but completely live, and her costumes were cartoony but fun. Her choreography has never been her strongest asset but she gets an A for effort, minus the uncomfortable dancing she did next to her special guest, Missy Elliott — although that was still a far better fit than the odd “I Kissed a Girl” duet with Lenny Kravitz. Overall, if you find smiling palm trees and dancing beach balls entertaining, then Perry delivered a solid performance.
3. Diana Ross (1996)
Iconic diva Diana Ross was chosen to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Super Bowl, and she definitely pulled out all the stops. Opening the set with a bevy of her Supremes hits, she surrounded the entire stage and field with dancers. Ross sang live and had multiple costume changes midperformance. Perhaps the most memorable moment was her exit; she exclaimed, “Here comes my ride” as an actual helicopter landed on the stage and flew her out. She hung out the side of it singing “Take Me Higher” as she was literally taken high above the stadium.
2. Madonna (2012)
As the Queen of Pop, it was only fitting that Madonna emerged perched atop a throne. She began with “Vogue,” perhaps a purposeful choice to spotlight a dance style from the gay balls of the 1980s at a national sporting event. While Madonna displayed more energy than many younger pop stars, she had too many special guests, some of whom (ahem, LMFAO) seemed unworthy of sharing such a big stage with one of pop music's most iconic stars. Luckily, the “Like a Prayer” finale featuring Cee Lo Green, a gospel choir and a message of peace left viewers with a strong, lasting memory of a solid performance.
1. Beyoncé (2013 and 2016)
Beyoncé gets the top spot for two incredible Super Bowl halftime performances in just the past five years — both extremely memorable for different reasons. Her 2013 headlining performance had live vocals and precise choreography. While other artists rely on guest appearances, the only ones Queen Bey had were her Destiny’s Child sisters. In 2016, Beyoncé stole the show from ostensible headliners Coldplay with her live debut of “Formation.” The performance was quite controversial, featuring dancers in costumes that many thought referenced the Black Panther movement. As Bey herself sings in the song, “You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation.”