Flipped birds, exposed breasts, crotch shots, and giant shadow-puppet guitar phalluses have all been critical ingredients of Super Bowl halftime shows of the past decade. Based on this track record, you'd think that the musical break that punctuates the most-watched sporting event — nay, most watched event, period — of any given year has always courted controversy. This has not been the case. In fact, not only has the halftime show been a non-controversial affair for most of its history, its organizers didn't even really start to lure A-List musical talent until Super Bowl XXV in 1991, when New Kids on the Block took the 50-yard line stage by storm. Up until then, the 15-20 minute breather had been a venue for college marching bands, maybe a jazz legend like Al Hirt, or a Broadway songstress like Carol Channing. (Who was the gehius who thought that there would be any overlap of football fans and Carol Channing fans?) And then there were the five Super Bowl halftime shows in the '80s and '90s in which Up with People performed. Sigh.
The idea of the halftime show as in any way being fodder for tongue-wagging is indeed a relatively new concept. So with that in mind, we present to you the history of controversial Super Bowl halftime show moments.
New Kids on the Block (1991)
Believe it or not, yes, the very first time the musical interlude courted controversy was also the very first time they hired major, chart-topping pop stars. Blame a jarring shift in tone for this. The Walt Disney Co. was producing the event that year, and they began their halftime show with Mickey Mouse and friends prancing onto the field arm-in-arm singing "It's a Small World." Winnie the Pooh was even presentm dressed, oddly enough, as a Canadian Mountie. "It's a Small World" quickly morphed into "We Are the World." All sunshine and togetherness. Then New Kids on the Block jumped out and pop-n-locked their way through an arena-anthem version of "Step by Step." The older football fans in the audience didn't know who these young whippersnappers were. Neither did broadcaster ABC, which actually decided to cut away from NKOTB to give an update on Operation Desert Storm, then in full swing.
Shania Twain Feels Like a Woman (2003)
You then have to jump ahead a full 12 years to find the next mid-game concert that was in any way shocking. Throughout the '90s, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Gloria Estefan, Smokey Robinson, and the Temptations killed it at each of their halftime shows. The only moderately embarrassing incident was the 1999 performance of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, but really only because that serves as a reminder of that odd late '90s swing music revival. Aerosmith, *NSYNC, and Britney Spears proved to be a lot of fun in 2001, and a year later U2 eulogized the victims of 9/11 to heartbreaking effect. But then in 2003, Shania Twain donned a diamond-studded bustier and choker and a black cape to sing "Man! I Feel Like a Woman," the most notable androgyny-courting song in country-music history. Manly football fans didn't know what hit them. How could they relate to feeling like a woman? They probably wished for a return to the more conservative country-music stylings of Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and the Judds at the 1994 halftime show.
No Super Bowl controversy before or since has set the nation atwitter like Justin Timberlake ending his duet of "Rock Your Body" with Janet Jackson by reaching across her chest to rip off part of the costume she was wearing over her right breast. Since a boob grab was involved from the get-go, what exactly was supposed to happen? The world may never know. Presumably only part of Jackson's black bodice was to have ripped off, leaving her red bra/corset intact underneath. Instead, the undergarment also ripped and Jackson ended up exposing a breast that was covered by some kind of glittery pasty or a really, really uncomfortable-looking Chinese star nipple piercing. America, transfixed by nudity as if for the first time, has never really recovered from this. Even as recently as last year, the FCC was still conducting an investigation into the matter.
With plans to record a fundraising song titled "What More Can I Give?" Michael Jackson has lined up support from today's hottest acts to aid survivors and families of victims of the recent terrorist attacks the United States suffered earlier this month.
The question is: Could Jackson recreate the success of his 1985 tribute tune "We Are the World"? Our answer: Definitely.
With support from Destiny's Child, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake of 'N Sync and Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys, Jackson is currently recording "What More Can I Give?" with the goal of raising $50 million for relief efforts, Jackson's spokesman, Howard Rubenstein, told ABCNews.com on Monday.
According to SonicNet.com, a Spanish-language version of the song is also in the works.
On Thursday, however, a spokeswoman for Jive Records told Hollywood.com that neither Spears nor Timberlake had confirmed their involvement in the upcoming Michael Jackson project.
"I believe in my heart that the music community will come together as one and rally to the aid of thousands of innocent victims," Jackson said on a press release. "There is a tremendous need for relief dollars right now and through this effort, each one of us can play an immediate role in helping comfort so many people."
Who would know better than to come up with a project like this than Jackson, who in 1985 co-wrote the tune "We Are the World" with Lionel Richie, a song that would raise $65 million for USA for Africa, a fund that helps victims of starvation in Africa.
The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 on March 23, 1985 at No. 21 and won a Grammy for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.
While some may think that Jackson's effort to record a new song is only intended to increase interest in his comeback efforts, the King of Pop has always been involved in charitable organizations.
In October 1998, tenor Luciano Pavarotti and Jackson's close friend Elizabeth Taylor joined the superstar in a series of concerts Jackson organized and headlined to benefit the World Peace Foundation for Children (WPFC), in hopes of providing aid to needy children and families around the world.
In Jackson's opinion, music is capable of touching people's souls, and it's "time we use that power to help us begin the process of healing immediately," he told ABCNews.com.
Jackson is not alone. Other musicians are doing their part to pay tribute to the victims by donating to different relief funds.
Music producer Phil Ramone and television producer Merv Griffin assembled several of the artists in Los Angeles to attend a fund raising event at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sept. 16.
Stacey Wolf, publicist for actor Kevin Spacey, said that the event benefited the American Red Cross and featured a performance of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" sung by Spacey.
Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, are some of the confirmed participants at the America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon being put together by the CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC networks. The event will be broadcast live from Los Angeles and New York Friday at 9 p.m. Eastern and Central. The show will be tape-delayed in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.
Singer Whitney Houston is taking a similar approach by planning to re-release her rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which she originally performed before the Super Bowl XXV in 1991, when the nation had ended the Persian Gulf War. Houston's label, Arista Records, told SonicNet the singer will split the proceeds between the New York Firefighters Disaster Relief Fun and the New York Fraternal Order of Police Fund.
Janet Jackson, James Taylor and R&B singer Maxwell have joined the band Earth, Wind & Fire, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Backstreet Boys, and Sade with $10,000 each in donations to the ClearChannel.com Relief Fund.
Rebecca Allmon, director of public relations for Clear Channel World Wide, told Hollywood.com on Friday that the fund has raised $5.4 million through artist contributions, patron donations, and individuals around the country who can donate money over the phone or online through Clear Channel's official Web site.
"We are so overwhelmed with the generosity of Americans everywhere who are financially participating to express their outrage," Allmon said. "We are deeply fortunate to be in a position to make that happen."
Proceeds from the Clear Channel Relief Fund will benefit organizations including the New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania police, firefighters and emergency workers, the U.S. Military and National Guard personnel, and the national and local chapters of The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
By having access to media resources, such as radio stations and public service campaigns, Allmon said, billboards have been created across the nation with messages that read, "In God We Trust. United We Stand."
On Sept. 14 in Birmingham, Ala., Governor Don Siegelman, spoke and led an audience of 7,000 for a candle light vigil, where civil and religious entities had an opportunity to express their feelings on the tragedy, Allmon said.
Britney Spears, along with boyfriend Justin Timberlake of 'N Sync, have created The Giving Back Fund, a charity foundation to aid the families of victims of the attacks, Launch.com reports. The fund is gathering entertainers and athletes for a special event in the near future that will benefit victims.
Spears also plans to give $1 from each ticket sold for her upcoming fall tour, and hopes plans to raise $2 million in merchandise sales and by auctioning front-row seats at her shows, The Associated Press reported.
Janes Addiction's guitarist Dave Navarro had mobile units for blood for his Sept. 12 show in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Charlotte, N.C. show on Sept. 15. "Dave didn't feel comfortable with playing shows without doing something about it," Navarro's publicist, Bobbi Gale, told Hollywood.com on Friday.
Rock band Incubus donated the proceeds from their Sept. 15 and 16 shows in New York to relief efforts. Godsmack also donated their proceeds from the sale of their merchandise to the New York City Public and Private Initiative, a fund benefiting the families of police officers and firefighters.
After canceling her show on Sept. 11, the day of the attack, Madonna led a prayer for peace at her Staples Center performance in Los Angeles on Sept. 14. Other artists such as Aerosmith, Stevie Nicks, Janet Jackson and Cake have canceled shows in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Live coverage of football's Super Bowl XXV from Tampa, Florida. The half-time show includes Walt Disney World's presentation of "Small World Salute to 25 years of the Super Bowl," with performances by New Kids on the Block and a cast of over 2,000 children. The pre-game show airs for two hours.