The Best Super Bowl Half Time Show Of All Time

This year’s Super Bowl was fine, I guess.

I don’t really care for football, (or rather, my relationship with football is complicated. I seem to write about it more often than not in this blog. But suffice it to say I am not a football aficionado) but even if I did care about football and were to pick two teams I would completely not care to see in the Super Bowl, it would be the two teams that played this year.

That said, there I was in my pajama pants, sipping a Coors Light and parked in front of my television devouring and analyzing every aspect of Super Bowl XLIX. I have done this every year since adulthood. We all have.

I love the cultural zeitgeist that is Super Bowl Sunday. It is quite honestly the most American event I can think of in the history of American events. Think about it.  The Super Bowl takes America’s most popular sport and blends it with extreme commercialism and pop culture and displays it all on one gluttonous Sunday afternoon. (You know, God’s day.) What is more wholly American than that? Nothing. Nope, not even pie.  Pies exist in London, yo. So there.

I like looking at the Super Bowl as one of those status markers on our life timeline. It’s an annual yearbook page where we can gauge where America is at in its development. We can really see a lot in the four hour spectacle. On any given Super Bowl, what did we like? What did we dislike? What was our sense of humor? Where was our sense of pride? Where were our allegiances? Political stances? Were we angry? Poor? Happy? Rich?

Who performed in the Super Bowl halftime show?

There is a Super Bowl halftime performance that has stood the test the time for me and in my eyes remains to be the greatest Super Bowl Halftime show ever. I keep waiting year after year for a topper to this particular performance. And though I enjoyed Katy Perry’s lion and even last year’s Bruno Mars/Red Hot Chili Peppers mash-up (though to be honest I am still sore from that Super Bowl and would rather pretend it didn’t happen. Go Broncos), and yes I did think that in Super Bowl’s past  Prince was pretty tits and Janet Jackson’s tits were also pretty tits, but alas, my heart still belongs to this particular, singular favorite:

The Super Bowl Halftime Show of 2001.

And that show is what I want to write about today.

Let’s take it back now ya’ll…

January 28th 2001. Ravens vs. The Giants. This year’s 2001 halftime line-up? NSYNC and Aerosmith.


Here’s the link: Watch and be amazed.

The Breakdown

We begin with a reminder that this show is in fact sponsored by MTV and E*Trade but before we watch the live show we cut to a pre-taped video starring Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, and Chris Rock training our performers in the art of half time show-ness. Puns include “That N-SUCKED” and “You’re NSYNC-A-Smith.” Sandler does his grandma voice and is called DJ Stanley Steemer. Chris Rock enters to acknowledge the lack of racial diversity in the show and then, boom, we were off! Both bands exit the fake locker room pre-tape, leaving the strong yet confusing slogan on the fake locker room wall: “Half Time = Our Time.”

Whose time? Our time. Ours.   Who are we? I DON’T KNOW.

Cut to NSYNC bolting to the stage, being chased by their legions on fans. (These girls are simply called fans because this was before the time of Little Monsters, Bee-hive, or whatever else fans are called these days because back then there was no need to have any other sort of other title than just straight up “fans of NSYNC.”)

Justin, JC, Chris, Joey and Lance start the show strong with a rendition of their greatest hit “Bye, Bye, Bye” complete with trademark dance and a futuristic (?) wardrobe. Lights. Glitter. Smoke. Backing vocals. The show has begun.

And after that perfect beginning, Aerosmith takes it down a notch with a passionate and sunglass-clad “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,” the very power ballad that accompanied Ben Affleck starring Armageddon back in 1998. It’s the exactly correct song for them to sing at that moment in time. Aerosmith is unstopabble.

Soon they pass it back to NSYNC, who have been charged with the task to bring the energy back up to an 11, and they successfully get with the song “It’s Gonna Be Me.” And what’s that? Do they all have fire projectors attached to their hands? Yep. You saw right.  Fire is being blown from Justin Timberlake’s finger tips.     And now they are dancing in a line. And now they “break it down.” JT’s vocals are on fucking par. They’ve stacked the harmonies, are ready for the song climax and wha-whaaaat?

Steven Tyler snatches the final line and proclaims “IT’S GONNA BE MAYYYYYYYY” before transitioning to the just, (God, this show is unbelievable,) he transitions to “Jaded”, people. Aerosmith is singing “Jaded” at the Super Bowl in 2001 because of course they are. NO ONE HATES THIS SONG. Tyler has a scarf around his mic. The rest of the band is dressed in late 90’s bohemian chic. It all works.

NSYNC walks over to Aerosmith’s side of the stage to join them on the chorus. Then (OHHH SNAP) it’s JT’s turn to take the final line: “I’m the one that Jaded you!” just to show both NSYNC and Aerosmith dead even at the stealing-lines-from-each-others’ songs thing.

Beat. Applause.


After a quick dance-off between Tyler and the boys, Aerosmith and crew jump into the ultimate sing-along “Walk This Way” (originally recorded with Run DMC) and it’s catchy as ALLLLLLL HECK.

Steven Tyler sings the first verse. Then we got a celebrity pile-on.

Whose got the second verse? Oh I don’t know, how about BRITNEY SPEARS? IN HER PRIME. He stomach is so flat, her hair is so blonde, her voice is so nasally. She is on top of the world. But wait…

Whose got the first chorus? Let’s go ahead and add Mary J. Blige because IT’S 2001 AND THIS IS THE SUPER BOWL. Her hair is red. She is wearing fur and bootleg jeans.  She’s standing a little too awkwardly close to Steven Tyler but I don’t care because my face it too busy melting.

Britney, Justin and Chris “Third Wheel” Kirkpatrick are the focus for yet another verse, and for a brief moment we recall that time that Britney and Justin were the Prince and Princess of pop. It was such an innocent time. Watching the two simply standing next to each other, you completely understand why they were boning.

And now it’s on to the rap solo. Traditionally done by Run DMC, but Super Bowl 2001 had other plans.

Nelly. Nelly was the plan.

His jersey is half New York have Baltimore, because Nelly doesn’t choose sides. After all, it’s “Our Time” (whatever that means). We’ll all let it slide that Nelly is missing his cheek band-aid because we are all totally forgiving like that.

One more chorus for good measure and we are out.

Super Bowl 2001: The best halftime show ever.


There are many factors and components surrounding the 2001 Super Bowl Half Time Show that labels it as, to me, the best half time show of all time. It’s almost a beautifully constructed puzzle; all the pieces fell perfectly into place. The stars truly aligned that night and have never aligned quite the same way again. Not even the 2004 infamous “wardrobe malfunction” takes the cake, and here are all the reasons why:

The Game – The football game itself that year was a bit of a bust.  It was a low scoring first half (the Giants didn’t even score in the first two periods) and the Baltimore Ravens ended up beating the Giants 34 to 7 (woo-dee-do), making the half time show all the more important for why folks continued watching the Super Bowl in the first place. It was the only interesting part of the ho-hum game. It was heightened before it even began.

MTV – In 2001, MTV was still a completely relevant music channel. Since the development of youtube and internet music explosion, (hurting the music industry in more ways that one. As Prince said this year at the Grammys, “Albums still matter.” In 2015 we now have to be reminded that.) Today, MTV has ceased to be the channel that it was developed to be, which was originally solely devoted to music videos. In 2001, while there probably a ton of criticism in the direction of MTV programming, it still was host to one of the most popular music shows ever, Total Request Live. TRL became Generation X’s American Bandstand, and it still made mainstream music matter on a daily basis.

Shit, I remember watching TRL daily in the summertime. I would partake in the voting, making sure “Bye, Bye, Bye” would beat “Freak On A Leash” for the number one slot. Shit, I also remember when Carson Daly was a dreamboat.

The fact that MTV was at all affiliated with the half time show, under the slogan “Half Time = Our Time,” heightened the coolness, the “it” factor, of the show. Football was for our dad, this halftime show was for us who voted on TRL.

Wait, is that what it meant by “Our Time”? I FIGURED IT OUT!

Today, I am unaware of the channel or show that all “the kids” are watching these days. Because, more likely, there isn’t one. Perhaps the closest thing would be if Vine was the half time sponsor. It would be 7 seconds long and on a loop.

But in 2001, MTV was where it was at, yo.

Nostalgia –When I showed this half time clip to my boyfriend, he looked at me point blank and said, “Oh my God. This is like my entire childhood rolled into ten minutes.” My boyfriend wasn’t a fan of NSYNC or Nelly, (he was sixteen at the time so yeah, boy bands were probably not his bag), but he knew who they were and remember their sound. The songs sung here and the people performing were all part of the great soundtrack to our lives. Remember how I said the Super Bowl was like a yearbook page in the great American timeline? I can’t think of a better example than this particular half time show and the millennial generation.  I know what you are thinking: perhaps that is only a good enough reason for the millennial generation, and not as a grand generalization that 2001 is the best half time show EVER, but I counter that thought with my next point…

Prime Time – So many of these guests were at the height of their career at the time of the 2001 Super Bowl. Many are still surprisingly part of the pop culture zeitgeist, but now have taken on different roles with their age. Remember when Ben Stiller always played intense and funny characters? Now he’s a “serious” “director.” Remember when Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake dated? Now she’s in Vegas and he’s married to the chick from 7th Heaven with a kid on the way. Remember Nelly? How 2001 was he??? Remember Steven Tyler before he was the crazy American Idol judge? How is it that Mary J. Blige and Chris Rock haven’t aged, like, at all?

Hey, remember when Adam Sandler was funny?

So yeah, I get that not everyone is part of my generation and maybe they don’t “get it” like I do, but every generation certainly can watch this show today and get a good sense of change that has happened over time. We are all apart of it people. We all helped shape Britney Spears into the woman she is today. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Pre – Terrorist Attack –  Finally, and I think most importantly, I would like to point out that this was the final Super Bowl before 9/11. Everything in America changed after that tragic event. Absolutely everything. In a sense, this silly show that I have been stupidly gushing about for paragraphs and paragraphs was one of the final celebrations America had before the country, in essence, lost its innocence.  Before I lost my innocence as well. (Ew, I mean morally, you idiot!) On January 28th 2001, when I was obsessing over Armageddon and Lance Bass, I was unaware that world was such a scary place. By the February 2nd 2002, the next year’s Super Bowl I was more than aware.

I am not only part of the millennial generation, but also the post-9/11 generation. The status quo of everything: politics, the economy, culture, pop culture, shifted. Events were taken more seriously, more solemnly, with less trust. Bubble gum pop with hand fire projectors no longer belonged. The following Super Bowl XXXVI had U2 as the performers, and it was an incredibly somber and beautiful tribute to those who lost their lives and family members in the attacks.  According to Wikipedia, it was also the first major event that was designated as a National Special Security Event by the Office of Homeland Security. Things were never ever going to be the same.

Talk about your yearbook page.

Pop culture has slowly become happier over time, but we still have a long ways to go if we ever want to match the tacky, happy, prime time, MTV, soundtrack of our life goodness that was Super Bowl 2001. I also have to accept that it may never happen. Our timeline has shifted.

What mind blowing thing did we get this year? A dancing shark.

Hey, it’s a start.

  • One L

“I’m the one that jaded you…”


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