In all fairness, Super Bowl halftime shows are supposed to be strange, tacky spectacles that don't ever stand the test of time. That's how it is, and how (I assume) it always will be. Even so, the combined forces of football, network sponsors, and the pressure of trying to appease the taste of every single person in America tend to make for pretty odd bedfellows. More specifically, combinations of musicians who should never be sharing a stage together under any circumstances at all. Because watching old YouTube clips is generally better than "reading news" or "doing work," let's think about the times it's gone the most wrong.
Granted, this was the first time Super Bowl halftime entertainment was anything other than a marching band, so it was, technically, a big step forward. But still, using a marching band and just adding (football fan favorite?) Carol Channing into the mix for a "Mardi Gras tribute" isn't really that big of a step forward. Video of this is "coincidentally" not on the internet, but this is still remembered as one of least enjoyed or appropriate halftime shows in a history that's full of them.
1989: Elvis Presto and 3D
Not technically an artistic collaboration, per se, but it had to be included, because, for lack of a better way to put it, this whole thing — technically titled "Be Bop Bamboozled in 3-D" — is weird as shit. From the early 3D visuals to the magician-slash-elvis-impersonator singing his way through some kind of large-scale card trick, it is... a thing to behold.
1991: New Kids on the Block and "2,000 Local Children"
It's totally possible that I'm terrible and cynical for finding this as off-putting as I do. I'm sure this was a really great, exciting day for the kids performing, and they did a good job and all that. It's just that when I think of early-90s Mark Wahlberg (and "Give It To You"-era Jordan Knight), I don't think of the angelic voices of children or "It's a Small World." At all.
1997: The Blues Brothers, Jim Belushi, and James Brown
It would have been bad no matter who they actually paired the Blues Brothers with. An SNL sketch about people who aren't real musicians doesn't really translate into, say, what's supposed to be one of the broadest-reaching musical events in America. It especially doesn't translate when they try to add in Jim Belushi.
2000: Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Phil Collins, Toni Braxton
To be fair, it's not like this combination makes no sense, and the brief sing-off between Toni Braxton and Christina Aguilera is as great as it is out of place. The issue, I think, is mainly theme, which, technically, is "Tapestry of Nations." After hours of watching halftime show clips, this was by far the dreariest one to sit through.
2001: Britney Spears, 'N Sync, Aerosmith, Mary J. Blige... and Nelly
I mean, to me, everything about this is perfect. From Justin Timberlake's dance at the beginning to the moment at 2:10 when Nelly scurries onto the stage out of nowhere, it's the platonic ideal of a garish, inexplicable halftime show. It also should never have happened.
2011: The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, and Slash
After Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson's collaboration in 2004 (which was fine other than that one thing that happened, and also included special guest Nelly), things got pretty tame. Everyone knows Paul McCartney's never gonna do anything that's in any way in poor taste. Then, Fergie sang "Sweet Child O' Mine" With Slash. What is there to even say about this? Well, I remember my terrible then-boss calling it "fresh and hip." So. Draw your own conclusions.
I'm sure it'll all work out fine, but if after all this secrecy, it turns out Beyonce really isn't playing with Destiny's Child on Sunday, well, that would be a travesty. It just has to happen. If Nelly wanted to stop by for a quick "Dilemma" interlude with Kelly Rowland, too, that would be even better. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's focus on what's really important about this "sports event." A full-blown Destiny's Child reunion.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.