Review: Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show

Super Bowl 50 Halftime Review
MediaPunch/REX Shutterstock

Perhaps it was inevitable, in an era of “Full House” reboots, nostalgia for the early Obama Era, and highly publicized reunions of bands not five years disbanded, that we would get a Super Bowl Halftime Show Tribute to Recent Super Bowl Halftime Shows. That’s certainly the easiest way to sum up Super Bowl 50’s hyperactive slurry of musical half-thoughts, busily choreographed kitsch, irreconcilable tonal shifts and, periodically, brief snippets of quality music best experienced as a series of GIFs. Despite Coldplay’s status as the nominal headliners, a mid-set invasion from Beyonce and Bruno Mars brought the only thing approximating heat, while a closing clip reel of recent halftime highlights — from Paul McCartney to Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jackson — only served to underscore the senselessness of the whole endeavor.

Coldplay, first announced as the halftime headliner back in early December, is not a popular band in certain cred-obsessed corners of the Internet. They are, however, arguably the only mass-appeal pop-rock act not yet eligible for Social Security that could make a reasonable claim to the sort of universality that has become the gig’s primary pre-requisite, so their booking certainly made sense. Yet with the far flashier Bey and Mars — both of whom turned in solid halftime slots in recent years — announced as secondary performers shortly thereafter, Coldplay seemed resigned to politely allowing themselves to be played right off their own stage.

The band’s quick, four-song medley opened the set mid-field, accompanied by some Up With People-style choreography, but with knowledge that the bigger guns were yet to come, they ultimately felt like an opening act. (Although, to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin’s credit, he at least made an effort to introduce some tiny glimmers of rawness into an inevitably canned performance, allowing several audience members to sing into his mic.) The quartet hardy had a moment to catch their breath, however, before the cameras swiveled over to the right, where Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson and a posse of leather-clad dancers slammed through a good 90 seconds of “Uptown Funk,” with a soupcon of James Brown and Morris Day thrown in for good measure.

Then, of course, it was over to Beyonce on the other side of the pitch. As evangelically, performatively worshiped on social media as Coldplay are snarkily dismissed, Bey gave an arresting, drill-squad-style rendition of her just-released single, “Formation.” Offering the show its only shiver of sex appeal, only shot of menace, and only ghost-note of political engagement, Beyonce was clearly inhabiting a different, far cooler planet than Martin, Mars & Co., but before even she could hit her groove, we were back to center stage. The motley crew then crooned an almost post-musical medley of “Fix You” with stray lines from halftime performances past, while the archival montage did all it could to make viewers forget they were supposed to be watching an actual live performance.

It was, in short, a mess, and all that was left at the end were the questions: Is it hopelessly old-fashioned to wonder if Coldplay wouldn’t have been better served simply playing a song or two in their entirety, rather than trying to cram as many orphaned choruses as possible into a short frame? (Kids these days may not have time for full LPs anymore, but surely they can handle a complete three-minute pop song without changing channels, no?) If Mars is one of the only truly old-school, razzle-dazzle song-and-dance men of his current generation, why not simply let him play every year? And as theoretically admirable as it was to see Beyonce bring a bit of meaning to her return to the Super Bowl spotlight — her dancers were outfitted in Black Panther chic, with “Formation’s” lyrics offering sly rebukes to race-based beauty standards — how much did the political subtleties of her performance really register amongst the portions of CBS’ viewership who didn’t already know to look for them?

Prior to the start of the game, Lady Gaga continued into year two of her mission to prove to everyone’s Midwestern aunt that she really can sing, delivering a strong, classy, brassy take on “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 97

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Tonya says:

    I am a huge Coldplay fan. I don’t think that they needed to have anyone else on stage because their songs are great. I was so excited to see them perform and was really disappointed to see that the other talents took over the stage. I wish it was just them performing. I think that it would have made a better show. Their songs are epic.

  2. Stacy says:

    Beyonces performance was hysterical. We all laughed. She’s disgusting. Her music has been failing she no longer can compete w talented musicians topping the charts. Her political racial messages show she’s damaged goods. Hypocrite to have police protection. Noone cares much about beyonce except maybe bitter hater people. Let’s focus on real singers w a positive message and leave sick agendas at home!

  3. Stacy says:

    Beyonces performance was hysterical. She’s disgusting.

  4. Carly Haydock says:

    I don’t know about the rest of it, but the Uptown Funk You Up with Bruno Mars exquisite Fred Astaire/ Michael Jackson dance routine, it’s the best I’ve seen in decades. I loved it, crazy about it, want to copy every choreographed piece of how he danced to that song.

  5. Susan says:

    Why didn’t Coldplay get to play the entire half-time show? Their songs are great and each of them were cut in half. Coldplay alone on stage at half-time would have much more entertaining than the idiotic Beyonce display!! Can’t see one good thing in her, including her voice. Her entire time on stage was terrible, including the dancing. Didn’t need to see Bruno Mars again either. They each had an entire half-time show in the past, so why did they get another one when it was Coldplays fiirst one? Coldplay was robbed! They are exceptionally more talented than those two put together on a good day.

  6. Lalo Schifrin says:

    beyonce should be seriously admonished for that ugly display at super bowl L. Irresponsible and incredible lack of responsibility and civic tact from a so-called public figure. Not the appropriate forum to insert political agendas of any kind. People should contact CBS and complain in the strongest way possible.

  7. Nightwing1 says:


    Why is it no one is talking about that? That first stage dance move was cool (same old Beyoncé moves though), but then Bruno Mars and his dancers pulled off some Hammer/Usher worthy moves and all I can say is Beyoncé’s comeback move was weak! And she almost fell! Then the music switches to Crazy in Love with Bruno being fanned by his back up dancers as he does this awesome Diva walk up to Beyoncé…..that was EPIC. Notice how everyone says either Beyoncé stole the show…..or both Beyoncé & Bruno stole the show (from Cold Play), but no one says who WON the Dance Off. Which Bruno clearly out shinned Beyoncé. And with less dancers backing him up. Half of Beyoncé’s performance was great (and I did enjoy her previous half time show more than Bruno’s original half time show), but every now and then during this performance her thighs became noticeable…not the dance moves. But no one….especially her fan boys & girls will say anything about that.

    I can’t say that I was a Bruno Mars fan before this, and I didn’t know that Uptown Funk was his song, but man….I’m a Fan Now. Queen B got out danced on the stage by BRUNO! DON’T BELIEVE ME (then go to youtube) JUST WATCH!

  8. Drea says:

    Beyonce was just terrible. She’s an overgrown child.

  9. jet1 says:

    Don’t get me wrong COLDPLAY is a musical giant and as a group they are so talented that I wonder if they are actually aliens, but the halftime show was …..well bad. The sound must have been dialed in to the playing field rather than to the broadcast and the other “guests” really didn’t need to be there. Beyonce — pass that other guy Bruno something or other — pass.
    Chris and the ‘boys’ — “not your best” only because of the sound quality but you still blow the others out of the game….thank you for sharing all of your VAST talents with the likes of me! It means the world right now…..
    P.S. I only watched the halftime, football, well one team wins one loses and then they do it all over again next year!

  10. Ana says:

    Beyonce needs to start letting her real hair grow if her message is for her race on her new video. Stop trying to look like a white girl if you are black!

  11. I thought the show was great!

  12. My name is Frank I’m an older guy along with a lot older people that I know did not like or appreciate the halftime show it was the worst I’ve ever seen and I am among a lot of other people that say the same thing it was terrible. I really do not know where you get all your statistics but I believe they are wrong.

  13. EM says:

    I rewatched the anthem and halftime show as my husband didn’t see it the first time. I had warned him that it was a well meaning hot mess, but the second time around I appreciated that it was delightfully subversive reflecting it’s Bay area locale and the current political environment. Honestly, I think the hot mess was more the game than anything else. Coldplay is always chasing Springsteen and U2 and this was one milestone I don’t think they needed to chase and couldn’t have done on their own, so I am glad that fact was acknowledged upfront.

    Lady Gaga gave a wonderfully kinda gay rendition of the anthem — there was a lot of Liza, some Barbra, and a smidge of Whitney Houston. Both times, I had the same reaction of ‘what was that?’ I loved it. I am still scared for the Bowie tribute at the Grammys but she was great at the Superbowl.

    Coldplay was not nearly not as bad as I had recalled. I loved the use of the queer colors on the screens, the youth, and the interaction with the audience. It felt optimistic . Perhaps the first time I thought it was too similar to the Beijing Olympics but even if it was, so what!

    There probably should have been some transition to Uptown Funk. But, Bruno Mars did a nice shot out to Oakland ‘s Mc Hammer. The transition there to Beyoncé was good with a homage to the Bay area Panthers and a still relevant message (just as some of white America is frustrated about the ‘loss of America’s greatness’ black Americans are frustrated because the American experience is a mixed bag to say the least ). Loved the Michael Jackson esque dance off. The Fix you montage would probably have been better if they hadn’t focused so much on the Pepsi era (as if they could contractually do that ha) and it felt a little too much like an In Memoriam but I am 38 so they were more or less the big acts I remembered.

    I liked the lyric change and I was still quite emotional at the end with all three chanting a message of peace and love arms around each other and the rainbow flagged Believe in Love.

    Honestly I wish the reviews would address the well meaning optimism of such performances.

  14. BostonBrian says:

    The half time show was hideous…Beyonce is played out looks old hag in a leotard…time to grow up…Bruno mars looks like a poor man’s Michael Jackson…Coldplay’s performance was ruined as they are a really good band…at least the halftime show was on par with the game…

  15. Will says:

    Wasted 15 minutes of my life on the halftime show. Beyonce is to heavy to wear that outfit.

    • Sandy says:

      Post a picture of yourself, Will, so we can all decide if you’re too (not to) heavy.

      • B. Real says:

        Come on Sandy, stop “defending” Beyonce from internet comments. (eyeroll)

        People are entitled to their opinions and one of the reasons many people don’t like her is because her PR team is overbearing and has to constantly argue with regular people online about their “brand” Beyonce Inc. Her brand astroturfing online is really thick and has been since around 2008. I know it’s “reputation management” because they always overdo it. Whoever she contracts out to defend the brand is about as subtle as a brick to the head. It works to get interest upfront, but you cannot build brand loyalty by harassing people online when they don’t talk nice about your precious BRAND (ie: $$$$). Sorry if I don’t have enough sympathy for millionaires and their very sensitive (cough, greedy, narcissistic, cough) feelings.

        Go make a slightly unflattering comment about Beyonce and see how long it takes her PR socks to find your comment and throw a big hissy fit about it. They accuse people of being mean and “racist” over the most minor comments like the one above. So funny that capitalists are trying the shaming method of forcing people to engage with their product – it will backfire. It makes her and her family look very immature and controlling that she thinks she can shame and control what people say about her on the internet. Thanks to Elevatorgate, we all know what her PR people desperately tried to hide: she’s a woman who stays with a self-described pimp who cheats on her. That’s pretty pathetic and not real feminist, sorry not sorry, to say.

        I’m sick of Bey wearing leotards, too. She looks bad in them. She would look awesome in a well-cut pantsuit like Gaga wore (to be fair, Gaga is really the one that started the irritating “no pants” trend). I don’t think it looks horrible, she has just worn the leotard for YEARS now and it would be great if she would put on some pants. Now watch some PR troll come call me a racist because I said she would look better in pants. (eyeroll)

        I don’t dislike Beyonce and I have all the music from the DC era, but not as much of a fan these days because I think Jay Z is a sleazy misogynist and you don’t make fans by having your “rep management” constantly harassing people on the internet for saying really mild things like “she looks heavy”.

  16. Moshe says:

    Racial agitprop from Mrs. Combs. She’s looked ridiculously old as well. The black Madonna.

    • mythreepence says:

      Now I am convinced that this comment section is full of trolls, who really don’t know what they are talking about.

      Maybe you’d prefer Beyonce’s outfit on a pubescent girl? Also she isn’t Mrs Combs (that’s PDiddy), she’s Mrs.Carter.

  17. Tw says:

    Pathetic.. . All lives matter.I am ashamed of the half- time sucked.. NFL for supporting racism in all forms..I bet you in the first line of defense for Beyonce’s safety she would expect police officers to help, but yet she puts them down. Hurricane Katrina ..again…Have we forgotten the other tornadoes and hurricanes where citizens band together to help themselves and not blame everyone else. Shame on the NFL for allowing this. I am offended.

  18. Sharon Daley says:

    Agree with the review but found some typos in your article. The 50th Super Bowl was not memorable that includes the game, halftime and awful post game staging and presentation. Utterly boring!!

  19. Joan says:

    Probably the worst halftime show I have ever seen. If they are going to be selected to entertain then try to do that not push their agenda on America.

  20. Mike says:

    Ok, there are idiots who put racism in every event, and promote this disease. For them all is about black on white or vice versa… and one of those morons is, without no doubt, Beyonce. That pathetic human want to send a social message being she one of the worst racist. But ok, a racist will be a person asking: why in all their dancers there was not a single white woman?

  21. Keith says:

    The halftime show at least by Beyonce was clearly a racist political statementstatement. Next year can the back up dancers wear white sheets?

  22. Jim says:

    How does CBS condone the racist performance of Beyonce? Tribute to malcolm x, and the black panthers?
    Shame on CBS and the NFL

  23. Bobby Briggstone says:

    Kudo’s to Coldplay for bringing in child musicians…too bad they had to look at Beyonce and her strippers be totally inappropriate…

  24. Bobby Briggstone says:

    …and regarding Coldplay, one of the highest quality musical presentations at a Super Bowl half-time since Paul McCartney…

    • radio gaga lady says:

      well, at least you’re in first place for the most humoring post of the thread, so far

      • Bob says:

        If you honestly don’t see how Coldplay was the real musical talent on stage, then I don’t really know what to say to you. As a music teacher, I don’t see how people raunchily dancing and lip-synching with some fireworks and bright lights in the background trumps musicians performing real music. People who don’t see this are a true example of how skewed and warped this country’s/generation’s view of what talent is has become. Beyonce and Bruno lip syncing because they’re more worried about their dance moves pales in comparison to the band performing live on the stage. The only one not lip-synching the entire performance was Martin, a rare testament these days to a talented contemporary live performer. Everyone, due to incredible amounts of “stimuli, such as fireworks and overly-bright lights in the background, subconsciously think “ooh, that was was such a great performance” because thats what those things are there for: to mask the sub-par talent of a Beyonce or Mars who cannot sustain themselves on their music alone. Coldplay, the most successful contemporary band of the last 20 years in terms of album sales and popularity, has filled stadiums for years without the need of choreographed dancing, backup dancers and singers, or lip-synching. They fill those stadiums on their talent and chemistry as a performing group. This is something that has been lacking from contemporary “musical talents” more and more as time goes on.

  25. Patrick says:

    While you reference the kitsch and the acts, you fail to realize the humanity of close to 1,000 people who rehearsed for this show for over 3 weeks, often in frigid Bay Area nightly temps. The field team of 500 had to push heavy LED laden stage pieces, 38 in all plus pyro and lighting carts, on to the field in under 7 minutes…we did it in 6 minutes and if that weren’t enough we broke it apart in the same amount of time. I thought the show was fine. Most people rarely pay attention to the marching bands in high school or college unless your kid is in the band so the fact that we make such ado, even reviewing, a halftime show seems like overkill. 12.5 minutes is very little time to do much. The super bowl halftime doubles the usual length of a regular NFL game and the players despise that because they want to play. You can bash the Celebs all you want but there are names and faces to the people who performed and their lives matter.

  26. Bobby Briggstone says:

    Coldplay were great and visuals were fantastic! In contrast, had to switch the channel when Beyonce and her half-clad booty-shakers came on since my 7-year old daughter was watching..this was prime time and Beyonce’s act was highly inappropriate! Thank you Coldplay!

  27. Donna says:

    Coldplay was always a poor choice to headline halftime.

  28. Rita says:

    Bruno Mars was the star of the show. Coldplay was not ready to perform in such a big event. All I can think of is they must have paid a big amount of money in order to be part of it. Many people had no idea who they are and still are confused. The lead singer looked like an ape the way he was moving around. Beyonce was good but could not understand her. Next time year get a well known lead.

    • Doug says:

      Not ready to perform? Do you know how much they do in an average nightly performance? They have more songs on their greatest hits than your Bruno has in his entire library. Just because you don’t know a band, doesn’t mean their not well known, it just means you don’t know them.

    • Beronimo says:

      Rita, I think it’s wonderful that you found Bruno Mars to be the highlight of the evening. I must admit however that the rest of your comment made me chuckle. Coldplay wasn’t ready to perform? They were the only performers to sing live vocals. So musically speaking, they were the only artists who did perform (ready or not). Many people have no idea who they are? Check it out on Google. They are quite literally the top selling band of the 21st century. No joke. And if you really thought Chris Martin danced like an ape… All I can say is, check out their new music video for “adventure of a lifetime”. You’ll have a good laugh or at least a strong smile. Take my word for it.


      • Jude says:

        I am almost 70 years old and love Coldplay! I realize they were promoting their newest music but wish they had done Sky Full of Stars, along with the blast of confetti stars. That would have been perfect for the Superbowl. I also like Bruno Mars and the great choreography done to Uptown Funk. However, Beyonce is too fat, too old and too racist to perform as she did at half-time. Shame on whoever allowed this to happen at a world-wide televised USA event.

      • Bob says:

        If you honestly don’t see how Coldplay was the real musical talent on stage, then I don’t really know what to say to you. As a music teacher, I don’t see how people raunchily dancing and lip-synching with some fireworks and bright lights in the background trumps musicians performing real music. People who don’t see this are a true example of how skewed and warped this country’s/generation’s view of what talent is has become. Beyonce and Bruno lip syncing because they’re more worried about their dance moves pales in comparison to the band performing live on the stage. The only one not lip-synching the entire performance was Martin, a rare testament these days to a talented contemporary live performer. Everyone, due to incredible amounts of “stimuli, such as fireworks and overly-bright lights in the background, subconsciously think “ooh, that was was such a great performance” because thats what those things are there for: to mask the sub-par talent of a Beyonce or Mars who cannot sustain themselves on their music alone. Coldplay, the most successful contemporary band of the last 20 years in terms of album sales and popularity, has filled stadiums for years without the need of choreographed dancing, backup dancers and singers, or lip-synching. They fill those stadiums on their talent and chemistry as a performing group. This is something that has been lacking from contemporary “musical talents” more and more as time goes on.

  29. Brian Chet says:

    Lady Gaga sang America The Beautiful.

  30. Jeanette J says:

    Cannot stand Beyonce all she is good for is shaking her behind. No talent did not like her before Jay Zzzzzzzz and now just pure ghetto trash.

  31. 82576650 says:

    I love it Beyonce gets a Police escort speeding her to the stadium and protecting her allowing her to make her halftime show and how does she thank the officers and police? To denigrate and blast Police as being racist and low life’s. Maybe they should try less and allow her to see how she does without all the police protection.

  32. kwc57 says:

    Next year, let The Donald plan it. He will hire the BEST people and it will be GREAT!!! Everyone will WIN so much, they will get tired of WINNING!!!

  33. Chan says:

    Gayest half time show ever!

  34. Doug says:

    The last thing this world needs is for a political agenda to seep over into our sports entertainment. There’s no need for an already highly publicized social issue, and $$$ opportunity for Bey Bey, to polarize something that is supposed to be 100% entertainment. Irresponsible media strikes again. Anything for the hash tag. However, Coldplay and the beautiful art direction made me smile.

    • My God, this is a just fun half time show. It is being watched by people of all ages, in the group of 80 I was with they were from ages 6 to 82. Every one in the group enjoyed the performance. It was a quick
      entertainment gig. Each artist brought something of their genres to the stage, that was the point, and
      at the end it “Believe in Love” was something most people nowadays can identify with. Why trash
      something like this. All three singers were together with their arms around each other sharing their
      feelings. Who needs the media trashing this performance, there are all kinds of artists that bring
      something different, it was something different for everyone in the audience to like, stop trashing it !!!

      • Doug says:

        That was my point. It didn’t end up being fun. They turned something fun into something political by including the controversial song, which isn’t even a good song. The producers and performers warped the show, not the audience. Fire, black panthers, racists, fun, fun, fun.

      • Keith says:

        Believe in love? While wearing mock Black Panther outfits holding up their fists. Yeah right.

  35. America says:

    Not worth waiting for the Superbowl!

  36. Pat says:

    My complaint is that the sound quality was horrible. All I could really hear was the roar of the crowd drowning out both the music and the singer’s voices.

  37. racingphan says:

    Chris Martin needs to practice his lip-syncing skills. One time his voice came out with a line, but his mic was still down by his crotch. I understand Pepsi is selling to twelve year olds, but you’re in the Bay area and you don’t tap into the amazing musical history of that area?
    And maybe that Beyonce girl should switch to Diet Pepsi?

  38. lauren says:

    could have done with just bruno’s fantastic performance. beyonce was same old big hair, black stockings & booty shakes…coldplay snooze.

  39. SprechenSieDouche says:

    Looks more like a Catman than a Black Panther

  40. Miguel says:

    Just glad a riot didn’t break out! The performers looked very angry! Is that what they were going for? Disgusting culture.

  41. Garry says:

    The worst in NFL history!

  42. RSS16 says:

    Completely disagree!!. Most people I spoke with and everyone on FB thought it was one of the best half time shows in awhile! It went perfectly with the location of San Fran and on what we need right now in this world with all the crap going on. It was full of color and love and I don’t know what you watched but was well loved by the rest of the world!

  43. smitty711 says:

    It was hard to watch because it didn’t look live on my TV.

  44. Mark79 says:

    This review mirrors every opinion poll I’ve seen so far; 80-90% saying it was awful. And that Bruno Mars should have done the entire show like a few yrs back.
    And the same number of people loved Gaga’s National Anthem. She showed her talent as well as a lot of class
    Anyone who thinks halftime was great must not have any experience with actual great performances

  45. D. McClung says:

    Well, Mr. Barker, you certainly took your snarky pill today. Here’s the point you missed – the halftime show was FUN! Remember that concept? This is not a performance at the symphony to be reviewed; the purpose of the show is to give people a chance to smile, maybe sing along, and have a good time! FUN!!!

    • Doug says:

      It was fun. Until all of a sudden a group of angry women in black panther uniforms started spitting fire at the audience. and then turns around and says we need to fix the world with love and peace. However, I agree, Coldplay made me bounce on my couch.

  46. Maj says:

    Thank goodness. Bruno Mars saved it. Beyoncé is a racist behind gates…jumbled up mess. No place for that in the superb owl or in this modern world.

  47. Dave says:

    Apparently those with no talent write about those who do have talent to raise their self-esteem.

  48. staggheart says:

    That’s a proper review. The author saw the same halftime show we all did. The strong part is his review isn’t very long. He covered it was a mess. Why prattle on about it? He laid claim to the projection that the NFL knew it was in trouble at the announcement level and brought out the glue and patch kit and forgot the air pump. This was a horrible homologation of epic Super Bowl performances we’ve come to expect and (sometimes) enjoy.

    This calamity is a further reminder that it is, indeed, time for the NFL to significantly scale back the halftime show. The multiple performer platform was a serious mistake. Why? Every major event is now (unfortunately) a racial scorecard. The NFL has set precedence for their very own unlimited future hashtag bait: #whitehalftime or #oneblacktwowhites or #wheredawhitepeopleat and on and on. We haven’t even scratched the surface of politicization.

    The show is too long. We’re here for the game. Get on with it. Super Bowl Sunday is a long preparatory day. Working people can always appreciate a shorter program. Sitting in the locker room all that extra time is disruptive to the players and the game. People at home do a lot of other things during halftime, too.

    Is the Super Bowl and the talent in the NFL so inferior that it needs stage star power to entertain a global audience? The risk versus reward is no longer favorably beneficial for the NFL to keep raising the bar for their halftime show. It’s time to rethink this and make some necessary changes


  49. John says:

    Arguably one of the worst half-time shows in SB history. ColdPlay is bad, which does not show all that well in studio albums, but clearly super mediocre in a life event, Bruno Mars I think was actually best, but THE best were the clips of some old time stars with MJ at the front. Just too bad their sound was muted.

  50. Jojo says:


More TV News from Variety