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I’ll be over here dreaming about a potential Dolly Parton halftime show cameo for the rest of my life.
Jennifer Lopez recently revealed in Halftime, her new Netflix documentary, that she was not happy with the constraints the NFL put on her performance at the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show, during which she shared the stage with Shakira.
Lopez expressed frustration that the NFL forced her and Shakira to headline the show together without extending the length of their performance, thus cutting down the amount of time each singer was given on stage. “This is the worst idea in the world to have two people do the Super Bowl. It was the worst idea in the world,” Lopez said in the documentary.
And while J.Lo took the gig (issues and all), she wasn’t the only one who ran into some problems with their halftime performance. Here are 11 other musicians who either regretted taking the gig, flat out turned it down, or faced major backlash for their performance.
During a 2016 concert, Adele told the audience that she had been approached by the NFL to headline the halftime show during Super Bowl LI. “First of all, I’m not doing the Super Bowl,” she told the audience. “I mean, come on, that show is not about music. And I don’t really — I can’t dance or anything like that. They were very kind. They did ask me, but I said no.”
In the days following her revelation, the NFL and Pepsi, who was sponsoring the halftime show, said that while they were “big fans of Adele,” they had not formally approached her to perform and were still in the planning phase for the show. Lady Gaga ultimately took the stage for that year’s halftime show.
In 2019, Rihanna told Vogue that she turned down the NFL’s halftime show offer to show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who was essentially frozen out of the NFL for his decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
“I couldn’t dare do that. For what? Who gains from that? Not my people,” she said. “I just couldn’t be a sellout. I couldn’t be an enabler. There’s things within that organization that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way.”
During Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s 2004 halftime show, Timberlake pulled at a piece of Jackson’s corset top, exposing her nipple on live television in front of an estimated 140 million viewers. Jackson instantly faced backlash, despite the fact that Timberlake was the one who exposed her breast. To make things worse, CBS told Jackson to release a video apology, while Timberlake made jokes, telling reporters that the wardrobe malfunction was “every man’s dream.”
In the years following the incident, Jackson has kept relatively quiet about the debacle, but in 2006, she told Oprah that she regretted her apology, saying she was forced into it. When Timberlake was announced as the 2018 performer, rumors swirled that Jackson would make an appearance, but Jackson quickly shut them down. Meanwhile, Timberlake maintains that the way he handled the scandal is one of the biggest regrets of his career, and he released a statement apologizing for not standing up for Jackson in 2021.
Cardi B said that after being approached to perform at Super Bowl LIII, she struggled with the decision before ultimately turning the NFL down. “I got to sacrifice a lot of money to perform. But there’s a man who sacrificed his job for us, so we got to stand behind him,” she said, referring to Kaepernick.
Cardi B also cited her husband Offset’s love of football as being a factor in why she struggled with her choice to turn down the show. “My husband, he loves football. His kids play football. It’s really hard for him,” she said. “He really wants to go to the Super Bowl, but he can’t go to the Super Bowl, because he’s got to stand for something.”
Jay-Z said he turned down the halftime show after the NFL told him he had to bring Rihanna and Kanye West on stage to perform “Run This Town,” their 2009 collab. “That is not how you go about it, telling someone that they’re going to do the halftime show contingent on who they bring. I said forget it. It was a principle thing,” he told the New York Times.
That’s not the first time Jay-Z expressed ill will toward the NFL’s halftime show selection process. “I think the process of selection was fractured,” he said. “Take four of us [performers] and everybody thinks they’re playing the Super Bowl. It’s almost like this interview process. So if I could pick one, three other people are upset. That’s not even good math. After three years, nine people are upset and three people are going to play. I just think the process could’ve been more definite.” Jay-Z now works with the NFL as their live music entertainment strategist in hopes of making the selection process a bit more fair.
When Katy Perry asked Dolly Parton to make a surprise appearance during the 2015 halftime show, Parton declined. “At the time, my husband was not doing good,” she later told GQ. “He was kind of puny and I couldn’t leave him, so I couldn’t do it.”
There’s no bad blood between the two stars, though! “I would have done it, because I love Katy Perry,” Parton said. The pair have performed together several times since, and Katy even took the stage to perform a Dolly tribute when Parton was awarded the MusicCares Person of the Year in 2019.
Even though Pink performed the national anthem at the 2018 Super Bowl, she said she turned down the opportunity to headline the halftime show in 2019 for several reasons. “Everybody that does it gets so persecuted,” she said.
Pink also noted that she struggled with supporting the NFL after the treatment of Kaepernick. “I’d probably take a knee and get carried out,” she told Billboard.
Outkast was set to take the stage until the NFL told them they had to cut some of their songs to fit time constraints. On a 2015 episode of The Dan Le Batard Show, Big Boi said that Andre 3000 wanted to perform their hits like “Hey Ya” in their entirety.
“[Andre] didn’t want to cut the songs; he wanted to do the full songs,” Big Boi said. “He said, ‘Nah, can’t do it.'” While Big Boi tried to convince Andre to change his mind, he ultimately refused. In 2019, Big Boi joined Maroon 5 on stage during their halftime show performance.
After several celebrities declined offers to perform at the 2019 halftime show following controversy surrounding the NFL’s treatment of Kaepernick, the NFL announced Maroon 5, with special guests Travis Scott and Big Boi, would be taking the stage for the performance.
The decision proved controversial, with Travis Scott facing criticism from celebrities like Michael B. Jordan and Rev. Al Sharpton for agreeing to perform after the way the NFL treated Kaepernick. In response to the backlash, Scott announced that he wouldn’t perform unless the NFL agreed to donate $500,000 to Dream Corps, a social justice foundation.
The Backstreet Boys turned down an offer to headline the 2001 halftime show, opting to perform the national anthem instead. “At the time, we came from the era of, we loved the Whitney Houston rendition of the national anthem,” Nick Carter said. “And for us, we got the choice and we passed on the halftime.”
After the Backstreet Boys declined, NSYNC took their spot, performing alongside Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly. In the years since, Carter said that while he doesn’t regret passing on the halftime show, he would love to be given another opportunity to perform in the future, even suggesting that the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC team up for the honor.
During the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ appearance in the 2014 halftime show, which was headlined by Bruno Mars, eagle-eyed fans noticed the band was playing with their instruments completely unplugged. Turns out, it was a request from the NFL. “There was not any room for argument on this, the NFL does not want to risk their show being botched by bad sound, period,” Flea, the band’s bassist, wrote in a statement. He added that the band thought long and hard about participating under the NFL’s rules.
“Could we have plugged them in and avoided bumming people out who have expressed disappointment that the instrumental track was pre recorded? Of course easily we could have and this would be a non-issue. We thought it better to not pretend. It seemed like the realest thing to do in the circumstance.” Despite all of the backlash, Flea added that he was grateful to the NFL for the opportunity and would do the performance the same way all over again, emphasizing that the band was not trying to trick anyone during their performance.
Any other Super Bowl halftime show controversies come to mind? Let us know in the comments!