Twelve of the most glorious and nerve-racking minutes in music each year take place on a football field. This year, Katy Perry steps to the 50-yard line as the Super Bowl halftime headliner, facing a sellout crowd in Arizona and a much-larger TV audience of more than 100 million people. Backed by the marketing machines of Pepsi and the National Football League, Perry’s show, with an anticipated duet with Lenny Kravitz, has been hyped for weeks.
“We try to stay aware of what’s going on in music, so we’re kind of always looking to see who would be a great fit for the Super Bowl halftime show,” says Sarah Moll, NFL director of media events. Since Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 – the halftime show booked by MTV with Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson that contributed “wardrobe malfunction” to the national lexicon – the NFL has chosen the halftime acts itself.
Until Michael Jackson headlined the halftime show at the Rose Bowl during Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, marching bands, themed salutes, and Carol Channing were standard fare for Super Sunday. Rolling Stone ranked Michael Jackson’s performance as the greatest halftime show ever. In the 22 years since, A-listers have become the norm. Among them: Paul McCartney, U2, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Beyoncé, The Black Eyed Peas, and Bruce Springsteen.
The NFL keeps up a constant conversation with performers and agents. The Super Bowl exposure is so precious that most singers will time an album launch or tour to their performance. This year, rumors surfaced of artists paying the NFL to perform. Ms. Moll says that isn’t true; Perry and others who perform do so free of charge.
Moll, who has handled halftime bookings for nine years, says it’s hard to pick a favorite. Standout moments include Prince playing “Purple Rain” in the rain in Miami and Springsteen sliding across the stage in Tampa two years later.
And this year? “I would just say to buckle up because it’s exciting from start to finish,” Moll says. Oh, and there will be a football game played, too.