You’d figure that a performer for the Super Bowl halftime show gets paid an insane amount of money for that short 12-minute set. However, performers only get reimbursed for their lodging, travel, production, and backup staff expenses. Which, if you think about it, means that what they make after all is said and done, is basically nothing.
The Super Bowl organizers justify this by stating that simply going on stage at the event is enough exposure to skyrocket any artist’s career. While this is true, artists still must spend a small fortune for their shows, such as Beyonce’s 2013 $600,000 production cost.
Worst: ZZ Top Got a Bad Deal, 1997
The 1997 halftime show is mostly remembered for the Blues Brothers’ cringing performance. Few people remember that one of rock’s greatest bands performed too. ZZ Top played some of their greatest hits, including “Legs” and “Tush,” and the long-bearded members rocked out on stage like there was no tomorrow.
Too bad they came after the Blues Brothers, and so many viewers had turned off the TV or just stopped paying attention by then. Luckily enough, ZZ Top continued to have a stellar career, selling over 30 million albums worldwide and getting a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
Worst: Too Much Up With People, 1971, 1976, 1980, 1982, 1986
To this day, the organization Up With People holds the record for the most performances in a halftime show ever. The strange part is that it is an organization that was started in 1965 by the Moral Re-Armament spiritual movement. Labeling itself as an education and entertainment organization, Up With People started appearing in Super Bowl halftime shows and fans were not crazy about them.
The shows were dramatic, often over-the-top sing-alongs that, for better or worse, started the tradition of booking big entertainment for halftime shows.
Average: Smokey Robinson, Boyz II Men, The Temptations, 1998
The halftime show of 1998 was a tribute to 40 years of Motown, so they brought in legends like Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Four Tops, and The Temptations. But the main attraction was one of the hottest boy bands of the time, Boyz II Men.
It wasn’t a bad show, but it wasn’t amazing either, with most critics rating it fairly average. Boyz II Men made the mistake of not playing their hit “End of the Road,” which audiences didn’t like. And then, the Motown legends took the stage and delivered a solid performance.
Average: Tanya Tucker, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and The Judds, 1994
The halftime show at the 1994 Super Bowl was confusing because nobody knew who the performers were. Sure, they were as American as you can get, all from Nashville, all playing wholesome country music, but they weren’t really chart-toppers.
The set featured The Judds, Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, and Travis Tritt, and the show was as underwhelming as the musicians. It seems the Super Bowl producers just wanted a quiet year with a bland but ultimately traditional halftime show.