Super Bowl 2016: A History of Halftime Performances

Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars will perform this year.

ByABC News
February 7, 2016, 12:23 AM

— -- The Super Bowl halftime show normally features the biggest names in music, who are often veteran performers.

This year's headliners, Coldplay, may not be as iconic as the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, but they're a bit more seasoned than the headliners from the last two years: Katy Perry and Bruno Mars.

Coldplay, who just released a new album, "A Head Full of Dreams," will celebrate their 20th anniversary this year. They will take the stage with some help from past headliner Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, who headlined in 2014. Special guests have also been teased for the 12-minute performance.

It's more than been 10 years since Janet Jackson's notorious "wardrobe malfunction" scandal of 2004 led the NFL to turn to "safe" classic rock acts. In addition to the Stones and Springsteen, we saw Paul McCartney, The Who and Tom Petty take the stage over the past decade. Contemporary pop returned to the scene in 2011, when the Black Eyed Peas took the stage; no wardrobe malfunctions ensued.

The NFL took a risk in 2012 with one of pop music's most controversial stars, Madonna, but the only controversy that emerged from that was courtesy of one of her invited guests, M.I.A., who flipped the bird during the performance. In 2013, Beyoncé delivered a widely-acclaimed performance, though some felt her outfit and her gyrations were a bit racy.

Early in her career, Katy Perry had been a bit controversial due to her #1 hit "I Kissed a Girl," and for her outfits, but last year, her spectacular headlining show went off without controversy, to great critical acclaim and record viewership.

But believe it or not, the trend of having major pop, rock and country music stars appear at the Super Bowl halftime show only dates back to 1991, when New Kids on the Block performed. Before that, the halftime show usually consisted of marching bands, older stars like Chubby Checker and Ella Fitzgerald, or the G-rated vocal troupe Up with People. That's because initially, the halftime show was designed to entertain the audience in the stands, not those viewing at home. As the New York Times puts it, "It was decades before the NFL. realized that the halftime show plays not to the stadium but to the camera."

But after '91, it was all stars, all the time, especially in 1993, when Michael Jackson, the reigning King of Pop, sang "Heal the World" with thousands of children. Writes the Times, "It was one template for the Super Bowl shows that eventually followed: a superstar, big hits, a cast of thousands and graphics for blimps to photograph from above."

Here's a reminder of who's played Super Bowl halftime shows in the modern era: