2020 Grammys

6 Super Bowl Halftime Show Performances That Went Wrong

Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake perform during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVIII between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers at Reliant Stadium on Feb. 1, 2004 in Houston, Texas.

Justin Timberlake is set to take the stage at the Super Bowl LII halftime show on Sunday, 13 years after the infamous "Nipplegate" controversy. He promises that his upcoming performance will be nothing like that, but he's not the only person who has been a part of a halftime show that has gone horribly wrong.

Below, some Super Bowl halftime blunders from years past:

6. Rogue "Left Shark" distracts from Katy Perry's performance, 2015

Katy Perry's flashy and meticulously choreographed medley, which featured her entrance to the stadium on the back of an animatronic tiger and four different outfit changes, was overshadowed by a backup dancer in a 7-foot shark costume executing some bizarre dance moves. Bryan Gaw, the man behind the "Left Shark" meme, recently admitted to NPR that going rogue was always a part of his plan, calling it "freestyle choreography." His laughable motions cemented Left Shark as a popular meme and Halloween costume for years to come.

5. Red Hot Chili Peppers perform with guitars unplugged, 2014

When the Red Hot Chili Peppers joined Bruno Mars onstage during the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show, vigilant fans noticed that the band's guitars were unplugged the whole time. Days after the incident, bassist Flea confirmed that the entirety of their musical performance, aside from the vocals, was pre-recorded at the NFL's request. "There were a zillion things that could go wrong and ruin the sound for the folks watching in the stadium and the TV viewers," Flea wrote on the band's website. "There was not any room for argument on this."

4. Prince's controversial guitar solo, 2007

Though Prince's Super Bowl performance is undoubtedly one of the greatest of all time, a few critics accused the singer of staging a crude moment. As Prince dove into an impressive guitar solo in pouring rain, he leaned back -- and the silhouette cast by his figure and his symbol-shaped guitar appeared phallic to some. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement the league received no complaints for the incident, saying it takes "quite a leap of the imagination to make a controversy of his performance."

3. M.I.A. avoids censorship by flipping off the camera, 2012

A brief flash of a middle finger became the most memorable part of Madonna's extravagant halftime performance when M.I.A. flipped off the camera faster than censors could blur out her gesture. The NFL filed a $1.5 million claim against the rapper, claiming in a statement her action was in "flagrant disregard for the values that form the cornerstone of the NFL brand and the Super Bowl." They argued that she broke the contract as a publicity stunt and upped the fine to $16.6 million. M.I.A. fired back with an expletive-laden video and settled the lawsuit out of court.

2. Kid Rock defaces a U.S. flag, 2004

In an attempted display of patriotism, Kid Rock cut a hole in an American flag and wore it like a poncho during his performance, then threw it into the crowd. The act was considered flag defacement and led the Veterans of Foreign Wars to file a lawsuit against CBS. Luckily for Kid Rock, another controversy overshadowed even this one during the same halftime show...

1. Nipplegate​, 2004

​In the final moments of the pair's "Rock Your Body" duet, Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Janet Jackson's top, revealing a starbust-shaped nipple shield and creating the most controversial gaffe in Super Bowl history. Jackson issued multiple statements, denying that it was a publicity stunt and apologizing profusely, while Timberlake told Access Hollywood, "Hey, man, we love giving you all something to talk about,” Since then, Jackson's career has tanked, and Timberlake is set to make his record third halftime appearance on Sunday, Feb. 4. (Timberlake was also part of the 2001 halftime show as part of *NSYNC.)

Super Bowl 52


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.