Performing at the Super Bowl is a uniquely validating achievement for artists. With a captive audience numbering in the hundreds of millions, a Super Bowl performance is the biggest possible stage any musician could stand on, making the actual performance something of a victory lap, regardless of the artist's relevance at the time of their set.
While timeless artists like Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had decades of classics under their belt by the time they got the call up to the Big Game, the NFL has been moving toward younger artists in recent years, including Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars and this year's headliner, Justin Timberlake.
So at this point, there are two types of artists that have the cultural weight to play the Super Bowl Halftime Show: Older bands who appeal to the NFL's core middle-aged male demographic and pop stars who can attract a younger audience of non-football fans. That makes it exceedingly difficult to guess as to who will perform each year but there are a handful of artists that we're certain will someday grace the Super Bowl stage.
It may not be next year or even the one after that, but mark our words: Sooner or later, Taylor Swift will headline the Super Bowl. It makes too much sense not to happen: Swift is the preeminent female pop star of our era with loads of familiar hits and a family-friendly image the NFL can get behind. Taylor should start leaving a "Black Space" on her calendar for early February, because the call is coming.
Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters are another act that are certain to eventually make it to the Big Game. As the drummer for Nirvana, Grohl was a member of one of the most iconic bands of our lifetimes even before he went on to enjoy multi-platinum success in the Foo Fighters. The man is as close as Generation X has to a Paul McCartney and his funny, playful personality would be a good fit for the festivities.
Yes, Green Day has been outspoken in their political views and that's not something the NFL has been too thrilled about lately. Still, there are few rock bands with a better record on pop radio than Green Day and even their most pointedly political songs are sing-along anthems that could get an entire football stadium up on their feet. Like the Rolling Stones or The Who, it may not come until the band is in their '60s, but we're certain to someday hear "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" on Super Sunday.
One of the more compelling questions surrounding the Super Bowl Halftime Show is who will finally be the first solo rap star to headline the Big Game (Black Eyed Peas performed in 2011 but they're more of a pop act than a rap group). Given their age and stature, it's not hard to imagine Jay-Z or Eminem taking that honor, but the NFL (unfairly) caught flack for the performance of the former's wife and the latter remains controversial in spite of his massive success. That makes it more likely that someone from this generation of rap stars will be the one to make the leap and, at the moment, there's no one bigger than Kung Fu Kenny. Besides, Kendrick already showed that he's up to the task with his outstanding performance at the College Football National Championship game. He's also favored to win a Grammy Award for Album of the Year on Sunday, which adds a degree of mainstream acceptability that producers look for. Really, the only question is if he'll hit the Super Bowl stage before his rumored rival….
To use an expression from Drake's favorite sport, this one is a slam dunk. As ESPYs host, Drake displayed a passion for and knowledge of sports and he's already recorded at least one football-themed track. But more crucially, Drizzy is arguably the single biggest artist this decade and that type of popularity does not go unnoticed by America's biggest sports league (plus "Started From the Bottom" would be perfect for the occasion). Drake will play the Super Bowl eventually; it might even fit in well with the NFL's plans for international expansion.
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