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Evolving halftime traditions represent culture

By Brendon Field
On January 31, 2013

The Super Bowl carries with it many traditions, few more notable than the halftime show, which has featured a wide variety of musical styles and is seen as a reflection of American popular culture. Here is a brief history of the halftime shows and how they have evolved from 1967 to the present.
For the first nineteen Super Bowls, marching bands, many of which were affiliated with universities, performed at the shows. But certain years saw performances from another group, "Up With People," which is an international group that promotes multiculturalism through music and service. The songs they performed were a combination of traditional marching music and arrangements of songs from other genres including "That's Entertainment" and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." It wasn't until 1988 a figure from American pop music took the stage. Chubby Checker, a prominent figure in the early years of rock and roll, performed with the combined marching bands of the University of Southern California and San Diego State University.
Until 2004, each year had a specific theme, often celebrating cultural trademarks and milestones such as America's bicentennial in 1976 and Motown's 40th Anniversary in 1998. The last theme was titled "Rock the Vote" and saw performances from Justin Timberlake, Kid Rock, Nelly and Janet Jackson, whose notorious wardrobe malfunction resulted in the institution of a five second tape delay for all live television.
Throughout the 1990s, many of the performers were iconic figures in pop music; including Michael Jackson in 1993, New Kids on the Block in 1991 and Diana Ross in 1996. While rock bands were featured throughout the decade, it was not until the latter half of the 2000s where the shows become exclusively rock oriented, with little to no collaborators. Acts included The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band and Paul McCartney.
2011 saw a return to contemporary music with a performance by the Black Eyed Peas. The departure from rock was met with mixed reactions; and the Black Eyed Peas received many negative reviews. Last year's show stuck to a pop orientation but was headlined by Madonna, who like many of the rock performers, is best known for her work in previous decades. Madonna's show featured the largest number of collaborators to date, with appearances by Cee Lo Green, Nicki Minaj, LMFAO and Drumlines from four different high schools and a 200 person choir. Rolling Stone named it the greatest halftime show of all time.
Set to perform this year is Beyonce, who has been the center of recent controversy regarding her lip-synching of the national anthem at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. It has been speculated whether or not she will sing live during her show, Madonna elected not to last year. Collaborators at this point are unknown, but suspected figures include Beyonce's husband Jay-Z and her former R&B group, Destiny's Child, according to the Associated Press.
 


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