From an NSFW act to making a political statement, these things have landed previous performers like Prince and Beyonce in controversy.
Performing at the Super Bowl halftime show, which is one of the most-watched shows in the U.S. TV history, always comes with the plus side and the downside. While all eyes would be on the headlining acts during the biggest football event of the year, the pressure would also be high on them, leaving no space for the slightest mistake. Unfortunately, more often than not, their carefully planned sets would still be plagued by unexpected glitches or controversial moves that subsequently drew the ire of viewers and fans.
This year, Maroon 5 already sparked backlash even before their performance. The Adam Levine-fronted was accused of not showing sympathy to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who led a social injustice protest by kneeling during the national anthem in 2017 and has since been unhired.
But the show must go on and so the “This Love” singers decided to still perform halfway through Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, February 3. Learning from past mistakes, here are the things that Maroon 5 should avoid at their upcoming gig to avoid more negative reactions from viewers.
Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias and Toni Braxton sang original songs at Super Bowl XXXIV.
Every year, A-list singers are chosen for Super Bowl halftime show for an obvious reason, so that as many as people can connect to them through their popular songs. When Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias and Toni Braxton were chosen in 2000, they seemed to be the perfect choice, until they all sang original songs especially written for the show, which viewers couldn’t sing along to. The event, which was intended to be a spectacular display of global unity, was further ruined by ugly set pieces.
Red Hot Chili Peppers went unplugged in 2014.
When one is booked for a big show at Super Bowl scale, viewers demand perfection. Thus, people were disappointed when they noticed that Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ instruments were unplugged, leading to speculation that the whole performance was a lip sync. While lead singer Anthony Kiedis actually sang live, the bass, drums and guitar were precorded as requested by the NFL to avoid technical glitch. The band’s bassist Flea explained in their defense, “There was not any room for argument on this, the NFL does not want to risk their show being botched by bad sound, period.”
Beyonce showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement at Super Bowl.
Not even Beyonce Knowles could escape chastisement from public when she made a controversial move during Super Bowl 50. The “Crazy in Love” hitmaker surprised everyone when she performed with a bandolier of bullets strung across her chest to show her support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Her political statement drew backlash largely from from law enforcement groups and right-wing pundits, distracting attention from the main headliner, Coldplay.
M.I.A. flipped the bird during Super Bowl halftime show.
Behave is one of the keys for a successful performance at Super Bowl, but apparently M.I.A. didn’t know this, at least until she made a big blunder at the halftime show in 2012. Perhaps being carried away by the performance, the guest performer who joined Madonna onstage flipped the bird in front of thousands of audience at the stadium and millions of viewers at home. Over 200 complaints flooded in to the Federal Communications Commission, and the NFL sued her for $16.6 million. The British rapper eventually settled the case with the league, while future performers are reminded to restrain themselves from making such rude gesture.
Tony Bennett and Patti LaBelle performed at Super Bowl XXIX.
A Disney production, the 1995 mid-game performance left everyone puzzled with its “Indiana Jones” theme. A Harrison Ford impersonator appeared at the centerfield along with a group of shirtless guys dancing while seemingly worshiped a trophy like a god. While it was a clear promotion of Disneyland then-new “Temple of the Forbidden Eye” attraction, many were left wondered as to how this theme related to Super Bowl. It was such a shame that this bizarre theme outshone singing legends Tony Bennett and Patti LaBelle, who were hired as the performers that year.
Prince’s guitar was too risque for TV broadcast.
Prince‘s solo performance at the 2007 halftime show was going to be remembered as an iconic one, had it not because of his guitar. While it was really a functional guitar, the unusual shape drew comparisons to phallic imagery when the flamboyant singer had his silhouette displayed on a large, blank sheet during his rendition of “Purple Rain”. His longtime fans, however, might understand better of his choice for the guitar’s design, as the shape actually represented the musician’s logo, known as the Love Symbol.
Fergie and Slash performed at Super Bowl XLV.
If there’s anything that other artists can learn from the 2011 performance, it is to stick to what they’re doing best. Stacy Ferguson a.k.a. Fergie learned this the hard way after her failed attempt at impersonating Guns ‘N Roses‘ frontman Axl Rose‘s voice when singing the rock band’s hit “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. Despite their mainstream popularity with a bunch of hits, Black Eyed Peas who was tapped to perform along with Usher and Guns ‘N’ Roses’ guitarist Slash was apparently a no match to the live show, as their vocals sounded more like barks.
Janet Jackson covered her chest after Justin Timberlake ripped her costume.
What happens when a supposedly PG-13 show turns into an R-rated one? That was the case with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake‘s joint performance in 2004. When his song “Rock Your Body” reached its final lyric, “I bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song,” the former NSYNC member ripped part of Janet’s costume, accidentally revealing her bare breast. CBS was fined $550,000 for the indecent exposure, while Justin was blamed for sending the “All for You” songstress’ career into the downfall. The two stars were rumored feuding for years, until the “SexyBack” hitmaker said in 2018 that he had made peace with Janet for the incident.