How Halftime Games Totally Changed in the 90s

Until recently, Super Bowl half-times were just shows involving multiple acts, as opposed to the spectacles of superstar entertainment that we’ve come to expect. That all changed in the ’90s.

Ensemble – Super Bowl XXIV, Louisiana Superdome, January 28, 1990

An homage to the South with a “Salute to New Orleans & 40th Anniversary of Peanuts” theme opened the decade, with jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain; fiddler Doug Kershaw; Irma Thomas, “the Soul Queen of New Orleans”; and a trio of marching bands.

NKOTB and a Kid’s Theme – Super Bowl XXV, Tampa Stadium, January 27, 1991

The “Small World Tribute to 25 Years of the Super Bowl” was headlined by boy band New Kids on the Block (NKOTB), Disney characters, Warren Moon, thousands of kids, and an audience card stunt! The performance didn’t actually air during half-time, though. It had to wait until after the game because of coverage of Operation Desert Storm. 

Gloria Estefan – Super Bowl XXVI, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, January 26, 1992

The “Winter Olympics” show featured Gloria Estafan, Olympians Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill, the 1980 US Olympic hockey team, and the University of Minnesota marching band. But then Fox lured over 22 million viewers away from the Super Bowl telecast by airing a special live episode of In Living Color in a deliberate competitive move. 

Michael Jackson – Super Bowl XXVII, Rose Bowl, January 31, 1993

Everything changed when MJ’s half-time show became one of the most watched TV moments in American history! The Man in the Mirror performed an unforgettable set of “Jam,” “Billie Jean,” “Black or White,” “We Are the World” (sung with a children’s choir), and “Heal the World.” 

The Judds – Super Bowl XXVIII, Georgia Dome, January 30, 1994

With the huge success (and budget) from the year before, the organization brought back an ensemble of performers, but with much larger names. The “Rockin’ Country Sunday” theme was a perfect fit for Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, and The Judds.

Ensemble – Super Bowl XXIX, Joe Robbie Stadium, January 29, 1995

Disney promoted its newest ride with an “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” theme that transformed the field. Patti Labelle, Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood, Teddy Pendergrass, Tony Bennett, Arturo Sandoval, and Miami Sound Machine performed to crowds who went wild for their unexpected collabs!

Diana Ross – Super Bowl XXX, Sun Devil Stadium, January 28, 1996

It began with the diva being lowered onto the stage by a crane of sparklers. Then four costume changes, hundreds of dancers forming her name on the field, and one helicopter exit. Perfection.

The Blues Brothers – Super Bowl XXXI, Louisiana Superdome, January 26, 1997

Back in Louisiana, “The Blues Brothers Blast” theme took the party to another level including the eponymous headliners plus some of their favourites to party with – ZZ Top, James Brown, and Catherine Crier.

Ensemble – Super Bowl XXXII, Qualcomm Stadium, January 25, 1998

The NFL’s “Salute to Motown’s 40th Anniversary” theme celebrated Black contemporary music with stars across multiple genres like Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Temptations, Queen Latifah, and the Grambling State University marching band – which has played the Super Bowl FIVE times!

Ensemble – Super Bowl XXXIII, Pro Player Stadium, January 31, 1999

On Miami’s turf, the NFL rounded out the decade with a “Celebration of Soul, Salsa and Swing,” genres that get you moving on the dance floor so you can party like it’s 1999 – literally! Gloria Estefan came back for round 2, joining Stevie Wonder, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Savion Glover.