The 5 Most Offensive Things to Happen at a Super Bowl Halftime Performance

The guy in the middle is all of us as we watched the Black Eyed Peas.EXPAND
The guy in the middle is all of us as we watched the Black Eyed Peas.
Mike Brooks
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The Iowa caucus, impeachment and the State of the Union address have dominated this week’s news, but some discussion is still bouncing around about Sunday’s Super Bowl and its halftime show with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. Pundits such as Piers Morgan decried how the two pop superstars were dressed. Other people are outraged at the Miami Herald’s report that President Donald Trump supposedly goofed around at a watch party as Demi Lovato sang the national anthem.

These controversies are unique, but every Super Bowl and its halftime show has a good chance of offending somebody. Here are five examples.

The Black Eyed Peas and Slash christen Arlington’s AT&T Stadium
Back in May, we revisited this especially tacky performance, and the only reason we were able to do it so thoroughly was because we repeatedly watched the video for the sake of being more detailed. You can use UPS Ground to ship my Pulitzer Prize, thanks for asking.

The Blues Brothers perform, but not really
For the most part, people look back fondly at the 1997 halftime show with The Blues Brothers and with legends such as ZZ Top and James Brown performing alongside them.

That seems reasonable until you consider the fact this happened 15 years after Saturday Night Live alumnus and original Blues Brother John Belushi died in 1982, prompting organizers to have his brother, Jim Belushi, assume his role in the legendary soul revival duo.

We know Jim gets crapped on as inferior to his brother, yet for no other reason but good ol’ fashioned Hollywood nepotism, Jim was left on stage to sing poorly within the vicinity of the Godfather of Soul and arguably the most significant blues rock band from Texas.

It was disgraceful, but then again, people used to riot at Brown’s shows back in the ’60s, so maybe seeing another disaster unfold at one of his performances made him feel young again.

An Elvis impersonator performs
In Jim Belushi’s defense, he did perform for an occasion centered on commemorating the loss of his brother. His singing chops may have been minimal/nonexistent, but his presence was justified.

In 1989, the powers that be at the Super Bowl decided to show us what an unjustified presence at the halftime show looked like: They had an Elvis Presley impersonator perform. First off, Presley died in 1977, so unless 12-year anniversary extravaganzas are somehow a thing, they could have waited three years. Secondly, being a headliner at the Super Bowl halftime show is an opportunity so coveted that many performers actually pay to be on it. The honor of appearing is shared by the likes of Prince, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, Madonna, U2, Stevie Wonder and Ella Fitzgerald, and on the final year of one of the most eventful decades of the past century, they got some dude named Elvis Presto to perform.

It's’s not like they were having trouble booking acts. You know who sang the national anthem at that same event? Billy Joel.

The aftermath of Nipplegate
Nipples: the human feature so important that God put them on males just in case they were needed. We’ve all seen nipples, and as long as your mother’s postpartum nurse wasn’t secretly on Nestle’s payroll, it’s safe to hazard that you have even had nipples in your mouth a time or two. Maybe even at this exact moment.

Despite the essential biological function of nipples, we as a country decided in 2004 that seeing Janet Jackson’s nipple for 9/16ths of a second would make our faces melt just like in that Raiders of the Lost Ark scene with the Gestapo agent.

Anyway, speaking as someone who was 10 years old when this controversy unfolded, I vividly remember suburban women with names like Karen, Deborah and Susan saying things like, “Children were watching!” Even though I was, in fact, watching, I didn’t exactly pay it any mind. However, now that I think about it, this did happen right as I stopped listening to *NSYNC, and Justin Timberlake’s role in the scandal may have something to do with that.

Maroon 5 performs music by Maroon 5
While some are clutching their pearls at the sight of J.Lo and Shakira dressing provocatively on Sunday night, Adam Levine performed shirtless in what should have been the real Nipplegate, but the real offense were the sounds coming out of his mouth, because there's nothing more offensive than Maroon 5's music.

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