There is no event in the world quite like the Super Bowl. Nowhere else can one find so much brutality and pageantry crammed into a single event. It is, perhaps, the most American of events, fulfilling both our love of athletics and violence and an unquenchable obsession with celebrity. The mixture of these two themes is best shown when, halfway through the game, a new spectacle starts. The players clear, a new stage is brought out, and some of the most famous artists in the world perform the halftime show. This part of the event is, to many people, the most important of the whole night (writing this sentence pains the sports writer in me). The artists are given the opportunity to perform on one of the world’s biggest stages, and, for better or worse, they are scrutinized by just about every member of the country. In honor of all of these performances, this edition of the Weekly List celebrates the best songs performed at a Super Bowl halftime show.
- “You Can’t Hurry Love” – The Supremes
Diana Ross and the Supremes completely changed the pop music game. A catchy drum beat provides the background for some of the best vocals of the ‘60s. Oh, and the song’s advice is pretty good too.
- “Sir Duke” – Stevie Wonder
There are few openings in all of music more recognizable than the first 15 seconds of this song. There are definitely none more groovy. The song is an ode to music itself, its title a reference to the great Duke Ellington. Aside from providing a history of jazz, Wonder performs an incredibly catchy track that features a mix of his instrumental and vocal genius.
- “Beautiful Day” – U2
It’s really hard not to feel good listening to this song. Aside from the lyrics, which leave everyone in a positive mood, it offers everything needed for a stadium performance. Dramatic hooks. Booming (and easy to chant) choruses. Intense drum beats. This song was written for the halftime show.
- “Rock Your Body” – Justin Timberlake with Janet Jackson
This song has been defined by its halftime performance. It was while performing this song in 2004 that Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake were involved in what is certainly the most famous wardrobe malfunction in history. It’s also a pretty solid early 2000s club jam.
- “Live and Let Die” – Paul McCartney and Wings
McCartney’s halftime show performance in 2005 featured some of the best songs ever written: “Hey Jude” and “Let it Be.” Why, then, did I choose it? Anyone who has ever heard it live will tell you why. Its booming chorus and subsequent instrumental are virtually guaranteed to get a crowd excited. The frantic and excited pitch is perfect for the venue.
- “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” – Rolling Stones
Keith Richards leads with one of the of the most recognizable guitar riffs in music, and Mick Jagger complains about everything around him. The end product is one of the greatest songs ever written, one that leaves the listener in a state of cynicism and gratitude. Cynical to the cruel world that Jagger describes, grateful that the song was made.
- “Born to Run” – Bruce Springsteen
If you ever need to feel excited, just listen to this song. If the song had nothing more than just its drums, it could go down as an all time great. When the saxophone of the famous E Street Band is mixed in, it creates some of the most passionate music of the last 50 years. Springsteen’s lyrics speak to all listeners and touch on some of the core concepts of Americana, making it probably the most quotable on the list.
- “Baba O’Riley” – The Who
If there is a song here that could challenge the claim I made directly above, it is this one. The chorus is poetic and beautiful. Pete Townshend’s words are the boiling point for the listener’s emotions, which have been building up since the first, famous notes on the keyboard that opens up the song. These emotions are finally released with Keith Moon’s drumming, only to be stirred back up with the chaos that ends the track.
- “Crazy in Love” – Beyoncé
America was never meant to have royalty, and yet there is no doubt that Jay Z and Beyonce are our nation’s royal couple. Before there was Solange, before Blue Ivy, there was this. The two collaborated on one of the catchiest songs of the decade. The neo-funk beat makes sure that no one can sit still, Beyonce’s voice leaves the audience in hysteria, and HOVA’s verse makes comes just at the perfect time. If 2013’s Beyonce was the honeymoon, this is a pretty good first date.
That’s it for this edition of the Weekly List. Come back to Halftime next week for another great playlist.