The Super Bowl halftime show is one of the most-watched global TV moments of the year, even though it has had some controversies. Around 120 million people tune in from around the world to watch the show with thrilling performances from some of the big names in music. The show can even be wilder than the actual game, fans say.
But the Super Bowl halftime show back then wasn’t as massive as we know it to be today. In fact, the show at the time lacked star power, featuring college marching bands, musical entertainment touring group Up With People and fading acts like Mickey Rooney (XXI) until 1993 when Michael Jackson entered.
The King of Pop took to the stage at the Rose Bowl for Super Bowl XXVII on January 31, 1993, where the Dallas Cowboys would beat the Buffalo Bills, 52-17. Undoubtedly the biggest star in the world at the time, Jackson revolutionized the game forever.
The year prior to his legendary performance, Fox had lured 22 percent of the halftime show audience from NBC by counterprogramming a special episode of the comedy show “In Living Color” during halftime. That was when the NFL realized it had to improve its show. It realized that it needed a star performer; someone who could mesmerize the audience both in a stadium and at home; someone who could turn the show attendees into active participants.
The NFL asked Radio City Productions to turn things around quickly. Radio City Productions turned to Jackson.
“We wanted to go as big as we could go and at that time he was as big as it got,” Jim Steeg, then the NFL’s vice president for special events, told Yahoo Sports recently.
Steeg said he and then-Radio City Music Hall CEO Arlen Kantarian went to Jackson’s manager’s office in Los Angeles. Jackson didn’t even know much about the Super Bowl or how big it was. He finally accepted to perform after learning that the game would be broadcast to 120 countries and that included developing nations. The music icon loved the fact that people who would never have the opportunity to attend one of his concerts could now watch him perform live, according to Yahoo Sports.
Per The Hollywood Reporter, Jackson asked for $1 million, however, the NFL did not pay its halftime performers, and it’s the same today. At the end of the day, “the league partnered with Frito-Lay to offer a $100,000 donation plus a 30-second TV spot to Jackson’s Heal the World Foundation,” The Hollywood Reporter adds.
During his epic 1993 performance at the Super Bowl in Pasadena, California, Jackson quickly grabbed the attention of the audience after he was ejected onto the stage and stood completely still in silence on stage in his blue-and-gold military jacket and shades for nearly two minutes. He then performed a mashup of his hits, including “Billie Jean” (with moonwalk), and ended the show with “Heal the World” surrounded by thousands of children.
Drawing a TV audience of 133 million, more people tuned in to watch Jackson’s 12-minute set than the entire first half of the game, according to The Mirror.
“He absolutely killed it,” Kantarian told Yahoo Sports. “When people saw the success of that show and how it helped to promote the album ‘Dangerous,’ we had countless other big-time performers say yes.”
Indeed, it remains one of the most-watched halftime shows. And in the years since, Super Bowl has seen iconic performances from music greats like Prince, Beyoncé, The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Diana Ross, U2, and Justin Timberlake.
This year, the stage included a legendary lineup of artists including Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre, and Kendrick Lamar. The five artists, with a combined total of over 40 Grammy awards, did not disappoint as they set the stage ablaze performing their classic hits and delivering the most entertaining Super Bowl half-time show in years at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, California.
In the end, the Los Angeles Rams became Super Bowl LVI champions after a 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.