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Super Bowl Halftime Show 2021: 10 Biggest Shockers Ever, Ahead Of The Weeknd's Performance

Political statements, surprise guests and international scandals.

You know you’ve made it as an A-list music star when the NFL invites you to perform during the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

In the past few years alone, massive names including Bruno Mars, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry have all wowed with their performances, but there have been a fair few shocking moments along the way.

This year, the honour falls to The Weeknd, and the world is sure to be watching, not just because he’s taking to the stage in a year like no other, but also because of his headline-grabbing appearances and performances at awards shows in the last 12 months.

The Weeknd
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images
The Weeknd

See what we mean?

As we get ready for what’s sure to be an unmissable performance, here are 10 more of the biggest Super Bowl shockers from years gone by...

10. Blackout Bowl (2013)

Jamie Squire via Getty Images

This shocking moment didn’t come during Beyoncé’s Halftime Show but shortly after it, with the football game that followed (snooze…) having to suspend play for a full 34 minutes due to a power outage.

Obviously, the power of the Queen Bey is so strong, it can even plunge an entire stadium into darkness. Bow down, bitches indeed.

Watch the full performance here.

9. #LeftShark Bowl

Not the first person you think of when it comes to great live performers, but Katy Perry proved a massive point when she really brought it at the Super Bowl.

Over the course of her Halftime Show, Katy entered atop a giant lion, floated through the air while singing Firework, introduced Missy Elliott and convincingly rocked out to I Kissed A Girl with Lenny Kravitz.

And yet… the next day all anyone seemed to want to talk about was the “Left Shark” incident, when one of her dancers lost their way in the middle of a routine, while dressed as a shark.

It’s a pity, really, because Katy’s was one of the most impressive and elaborate Super Bowl shows of the 2010s.

But also… what was that shark doing?!

Watch the full performance here.

8. Prince Bowl (2008)

Frank Micelotta/REX/Shutterstock

Nobody would question that Prince is one of the greatest live performers of the modern era, but he really proved this at the 2007 Super Bowl. As well as covering tracks by Queen, Foo Fighters and Bob Dylan, he effortlessly performed his own songs Let’s Go Crazy and Baby I’m A Star.

He closed the show with a version of his signature hit, Purple Rain, made all the more literal by the downpour that accompanied it, the shocker being that Prince still managed to retain his cool throughout. What a man.

Watch the full performance here.

7. Gaga Bowl (2017)

Known for making a statement in some way or another whenever she performs live, we were curious to see how Lady Gaga would kick things off when given the massive platform of the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

And really, what better way is there to make an entrance than a pre-recorded patriotic tune sung from the top of a stadium, before leaping off it to perform your hits on the field below?

Watch the full performance here.

6. Madonna Bowl (2012)


There were plenty of shockers during Madonna’s Super Bowl show (one of which we’ll get to a bit later on in this list).

Her entrance? Iconic. Her guest performers? Alarming. Her choreo? Near perfect, even if she did trip just a little bit while shuffling with LMFAO.

Luckily, this would be the last time Madonna ever had to worry about a slip-up on live television. Apart from this, of course. Oh, and this.

Watch the full performance here.

5. Timberlake Bowl (2018)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a great run of successive mega-stars performing at the Super Bowl , beginning with Madonna and ending with Lady Gaga, the stakes were high when it was announced that Justin Timberlake would be taking the stage for the first time since 2004.

Regrettably, his performance didn’t quite live up to expectations, with many criticising his bizarre fashion choices, as well as the decision to reference his ill-fated performance with Janet Jackson more than a decade earlier (more on that later, unsurprisingly).

Watch the full performance here.

4. Destiny’s Reunion Bowl (2013)

It had been one of the worst kept secrets in music, but we still did a little squeal when the other two members of Destiny’s Child popped up during Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance (and what a pop up it was, we could happily watch Michelle Williams finding her feet after shooting up from the floor for a good two hours without getting bored).

The trio whizzed through Bootylicious and Independent Women before joining Beyoncé for Single Ladies, complete with the video’s original choreo.

Watch the full performance here.

3. Middle Finger Bowl (2012)

Madonna was the main event during the 2012 Halftime Show, but it was M.I.A. who wound up generating the most headlines.

Upon finding out that her pre-recorded vocals would be cutting out the word “shit” as she appeared during Give Me All Your Luvin’, the British rapper decided to take matters into her own hands, or rather fingers, by flipping off the camera at the end of her part of the performance.

Although the incident only lasted a split second, it had big repercussions for M.I.A., who wound up facing a lawsuit for millions of dollars from the NFL over the unplanned incident.

Watch the full performance here.

2. Formation Bowl (2016)

Thearon W. Henderson via Getty Images

Beyoncé had already begun addressing social issues, specifically feminism, on her self-titled album at the end of 2013, but she cranked things up a good few notches when she kicked off the Lemonade era.

This stage of her career began with a guest spot during Coldplay’s Super Bowl show, where her first ever live performance of Formation wound up creating a buzz thanks to its allusions to Malcolm X, the Black Panthers and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Beyoncé’s fans lapped it up, and her empowering Super Bowl built anticipation for when Lemonade arrived a few months later, following similar themes.

Watch the full performance here.

1. Hey Jude Bowl (2005)

Brian Bahr via Getty Images

Just kidding...

1. Wardrobe Malfunction Bowl (2004)

KMazur via Getty Images

“Play at the Super Bowl,” they told Janet Jackson. “Invite Justin Timberlake along,” they told Janet Jackson. “This will give your career a massive boost,” they told Janet Jackson.

The story goes that Justin went to tear off the front of Janet’s outfit at the end of their performance, but also wound up ripping her lace bra too, exposing her breast, which was covered by a nipple shield.

Although the so-called “wardrobe malfunction” didn’t even last a full second, it had the power to bring Janet’s career to a temporary halt, and while she’s certainly enjoyed success since, we can’t help but wonder how far the talented and unique star could have gone had this scandal not defined her for so many years.

In more recent years, Janet and Justin’s Super Bowl performance has been used as an example of gender double standards in the entertainment industry.

Janet had her performance at the 2004 Grammys – which took place just seven days after the Super Bowl – unceremoniously dropped in the fallout. Justin, meanwhile, not only performed during the show but took home Album Of The Year, even cracking a joke about the Super Bowl during his acceptance speech.

In early 2018, Justin disclosed that he and Janet were on good terms despite the scandal, but sadly those “good terms” didn’t extend to an invitation to join him on stage, which is unfortunate, because that would certainly have livened up what was ultimately a fairly poorly-received performance...

Watch the full performance here.

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