Befitting an event that attracts more than just the most avid football fans, the Super Bowl has probably drawn its share of gay men with no interest in football due to its organizers' choice of performers, some who sang the National Anthem, others who were part of the halftime show.
SINGING OF NATIONAL ANTHEM
The National Anthem's ending is a showcase for diva embellishment. Diana Ross was the first diva to sing it, at Super Bowl XVI in 1982. Two years later Barry Manilow got the nod. Then in 1991 Whitney Houston received accolades for her bombastic version in 1997 Luther Vandross joined Barry Manilow as the only other male diva to sing; Cher performed in 1999, Mariah Carey in 2002, Beyonce in 2004, Jennifer Hudson in 2009 and Christina Aguilera in 2011 (she flubbed one of the lines). And then in 2016, Lady Gaga was handed the microphone. In my estimation, here are the three best:
- Beyonce - Sung in her hometown of Houston, this is the Super Bowl best remembered for the notorious "Nipplegate" incident at halftime between Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. I prefer to remember Beyonce's sterling performance instead.
- Cher - Wearing an auburn colored wig, Cher was in the midst of her third or fourth comeback, this one propelled by her auto-tuned hit Believe (which won a Grammy for Best Dance Song). Her Super Bowl performance, however, was without electronic frills - and quite powerful.
- Jennifer Hudson. She gave it her all, just three months after her mother, brother and nephew were murdered in Chicago.
- And although Whitney's performance was powerful, she lost points because of unfortunate choice of attire - a cheesy white warm-up suit suit along with a white head band.
- At 2014's game legendary soprano Rene Fleming sang, the first non-pop singer to do so in nine years. Still, it should be a thrill for opera queens.
PERFORMING DURING HALFTIME
In the early years of the Super Bowl Carol Channing appeared during halftime at the 1970 game (likely singing Hello Dolly) and again in 1972 (joined by Ella Fitzgerald). Then there was a long lapse before Diana Ross headlined in 1996. Hers was most dramatic as she first appeared in a puff of smoke and then later was whisked away by a helicopter at the end of her performance (found at the 10:30 mark of this video clip). Chakha Khan was one of a group in 1999; Tina Turner, Christina Aguilera and Toni Braxton appeared together in 2000; Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige appeared in 2001; and then eleven years went by before Madonna (in Egyptian headdress); Beyonce (in a Victoria's Secret meets dominatrix outfit); Katy Perry (getting upstaged by her sharks) and Lady Gaga got the honors in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017, respectively. Then in 2020, a month before COVID-19 shut down the country J-Lo gave a performance to remember. And in 2023 Rihanna, resplendent in red, stood on a platform in mid-air and gave a relatively low-energy performance.