In 1993, the NFL decided it would, for the first time in its history, have only one person perform during the Half-Time show of the Super Bowl. Due to his increasing popularity around the world, they chose Michael Jackson. Little did they expect that, for the first time in the history of the game, the viewing audience would actually increase during the Half-Time show. This set a precedent that has been followed ever since, with each band or performer attempting to capture and draw in viewers during the game break.
I watched Michael Jackson's performance when it happened and I just watched it again:
There's so much that I could discuss about this performance, but I want to point out a few things that I find absolutely incredible about the opening 2 minutes.
- To start it off, Jackson does what, to my limited knowledge, had never been done before - utilizing the two mega screens as an integral part of his entrance.
- He used these two screens and two decoy performers to tease the crowd for the first 32 seconds of the show. Using the decoys at the opening only further built up the anticipation of his arrival and performance.
- Jackson is launched up through the smoke onto stage at the 34 second mark and adopts the "Dangerous" pose. There is no music. There is no light show. It is just him standing there. Jackson makes it a point to prove that he is the show. For an absolutely astonishing seventy-four seconds, Jackson does not move. He is still. The crowd grows anxious and I am certain that the organizers of the event were not feeling quite as confident in their choice at this point.
- Then he turns his head to the left in one quick motion. He holds this pose for sixteen seconds. That brings his total time on stage as a statue to exactly a minute and a half. Not a beat of music has played. Jackson hasn't said or sang a single word and yet the crowd is growing in its intensity.
- Finally, at just over two minutes into the performance, the music starts and Jackson become animated. The crowd goes wild. Before he has even begun, Jackson has given the attendees a memorable experience.
For those of you who have never been on stage in front of a group of people (large or small), every second that goes by silently can seem like an eternity. To hold a pose for a few seconds can be a challenge. To let a line linger for a moment after it is spoken for effect takes a certain will that some people cannot master. How Jackson could stand as still as he did for as long as he did in that moment is totally beyond me. Here he was on the biggest stage in the world, in front of the largest crowd in the world, to perform a show that had been hyped through the media for months leading up to this moment, and he just stands there stiff as a board. I'm sure his adrenaline was cranked and that he was excited to deliver an amazing once-in-a-lifetime performance, but he chose to stand still to start it all off.
In today's environment, Jackson's stillness would have cost the broadcasters $15,000,000 in airtime. And yet, would the performance have been as memorable if he hadn't started it that way? I doubt it. The still, slow beginning made it that much more memorable.
Reflecting on other Super Bowl performances, there are few moments that I can think of with any great amount of clarity. The Jackson/Timberlake "wardrobe malfunction" in 2004 doesn't really count as the memory is linked to the activity at the end as opposed to the performances themselves. I think the 2007 performance by Prince was pretty entertaining, but I understand that many people don't like him or his music all that much - even though his musicianship is hard to be topped by anyone. Some people will say "But what about Paul McCartney in 2005?!??" I understand that people love the music, and Sir Paul did a fine job, but I wouldn't say it was memorable from a "Wow!" perspective.
I'll leave you with what I think is the best performance during the Super Bowl Half-time show since Michael Jackson broke the mold in 1993. It's a superb performance that is very entertaining and incredibly memorable, as U2 rocked the Superdome in 2002 and then brought everyone to tears with their tribute to 9/11 victims:
For your reference, here's a complete list of Super Bowl Half-Time Shows.