Welcome to Producer’s Chair, a mini-column in which Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman offers his own career advice to artists and various figureheads in the film and music industry. In this installment, he calls up a few of his fellow editors to book the next decade’s worth of Super Bowl Halftime Shows.
To millions of Americans, the Super Bowl Halftime Show is one more excuse to either grab a beer or escape into the bathroom. For some, though, it’s a chance to see something that may or may not become a cultural moment.
Think back to when Bruce Springsteen’s crotch slid right into everyone’s homes, or when M.I.A. triumphantly flipped the bird, or when Beyoncé left Destiny’s Child in the dust, or … Nipplegate Remix feat. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake.
Talk was loud after these moments and the chatter picks up every year we approach the big game. Reason being, everyone’s always thinking about the next performer and whether they’ll top so and so or flop like whatchamajigger.
And naturally, Left Shark…
Tonight, the inimitable Lady Gaga will headline the Super Bowl LI Halftime Show at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Who knows, maybe she’ll bring out Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker or keep things vintage with Tony Bennett.
It’s the guessing that keeps things interesting, which is why we’re already thinking about future performers. Ahead, you’ll see that we played producer and tapped 10 acts, wrote their setlists, invited a few guests, and even drummed up a little controversy.
So grab some chips, snag a dip, and chew on these names. Full disclosure: We tried to be as realistic as possible, but as John Madden once argued: “You got one guy going boom, one guy going whack, and one guy not getting in the endzone.”
Photo by David Brendan Hall
Why hasn’t this happened already? Foo Fighters are arguably the biggest rock band on the planet right now, and most of their singles echo throughout sports arenas every season. “My Hero” is the quintessential football rocker, thanks to its inclusion in 1998’s god awful Varsity Blues, and to see a bubbly guy like Dave Grohl scream it out to millions of fans could make even a match up between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Los Angeles Rams worth seeing. Why they haven’t been invited at this point in their career is baffling, but there’s always next year.
Setlist: “The Pretender”, “My Hero” (feat. Joan Jett), “Good Grief”, “Surrender” (feat. Robin Zander), “Best of You”, and “Everlong” (feat. Macca)
Possible Guests: Robin Zander, Joan Jett, and Paul McCartney
Probable Controversy: The band plays a deep cut.
She may have rejected the NFL and Pepsi this year (if she was even really asked), but Adele is one of the biggest pop stars in the world — so yeah, this is going to happen one day. Though it likely won’t be until 28 or 29 or whatever age she decides to write her next album, it’ll be hard to keep the British songstress off the stage for long. Sure, Adele’s blue-eyed soul might not appear to be the most perfect fit for a game where concussions are as prevalent as ACL tears, but we all know the Halftime Show is about bringing in viewers who aren’t typically interested in the NFL. Few have the ubiquitous fame and powerful pipes of London’s favorite daughter, so from a business standpoint, this all makes perfect sense. Especially if she releases that promised dance album.
Setlist: “Hello”, “Rumor Has It”, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”, “Set Fire to the Rain”, “Rolling in the Deep”
Possible Guests: Phil Collins, Tobias Jesso Jr., Bruno Mars, and Damon Albarn receive invites, but she cancels on them at the last minute to do this shit solo.
Probable Controversy: Forgetting her audience, she launches into a cheeky takedown of mansplaining sports and the difference between the NFL and “real” football. She also slips up and drops an eff-bomb or two, causing the Halftime sponsors to have a $3 million conniption.
Photo by Sara Marjorie Strick
As the global ambassador for the Toronto Raptors, Drake might be better known for associating with the NBA, but Drizzy is an equal opportunity athlete schmoozer and the NFL would do well to capitalize on the young fanbase that Aubrey Graham would bring with him. And as much as he likes hanging with the pros, he’s got plenty of big-name connections: Rihanna and Future could be more or less locks as guests, he could pull in Kanye if their collaborative project materializes, and just imagine the big game landing in Toronto and fellow Canadian Justin Bieber joining in for a “One Dance” remix. It’s all laying groundwork for the Toronto Drakes entering the NFL in 2020.
Setlist: “Hotline Bling”, “One Dance”, “Too Good”/”Work” (feat. Rihanna), “Jumpman” (feat. Future), “Started From the Bottom”, “Hold On We’re Going Home”
Possible Guests: Rihanna, Future, Kanye West, Justin Bieber
Probable Controversy: Drizzy decides to link up with the world’s most famous Canadian, Celine Dion, for a remix of “My Heart Will Go On”. Almost immediately, riots ensue.
Florence and the Machine
Photo by Heather Kaplan
After headlining festivals all across the globe, few would argue against having Florence and the Machine at the Super Bowl. No cheerleader or mascot out there can match the inspirational wisdom of Florence Welch, who could raise anyone’s spirits with some of music’s most uplifting and soul-searching anthems. She’s the type of enigmatic figure that could make Tom Brady forget about all those nasty match ups against Eli Manning, or have Bill Belichick’s face go from his traditional plate of vomit to a bag of insatiable candy. Hey, in a couple of years, she’ll have even more magic up her sleeve.
Setlist: “Shake It Out”, “Cosmic Love”, “Ship to Wreck”, “What Kind of Man”, “Queen of Peace”, “Dog Days Are Over”
Possible Guests: Lady Gaga, Jack Ü
Probable Controversy: One of her painted dancers fuels another wave of thinkpieces idiotically debating if Flo’s racist.
Photo by Killian Young
Imagine the look on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s face when he sees Kanye West take the field to the drumbeat of “Black Skinhead”. The mere chance of witnessing that would be worth shelling out $10,000 for an aftermarket Super Bowl ticket. Of course, West would also rock the gridiron with special guest Chance the Rapper on The Life of Pablo highlight “Ultralight Beam” and maybe — just maybe — a bit of Rihanna on closer “Famous”. This would undoubtedly be a disaster for the NFL, but a triumph for the world.
Setlist: “Black Skinhead”, “Ultralight Beam” (feat. Chance the Rapper), “POWER”, “Champion”, “Waves”, “Famous” (feat. Rihanna)
Possible Guests: Chance the Rapper, Rihanna
Probable Controversy: Oh, you know how it goes. It all begins with “Bro!” and ends with wide eyes, broken hearts — we all lose.
Photo by David Brendan Hall
Taylor Swift could have headlined the Halftime Show for the past seven Super Bowls and nobody would have bat an eye. But after 2014’s blockbuster phenomenon, 1989, her appearance seemed like nothing short of a lock. Somehow, it hasn’t happened yet, though we’re going to blame paperwork, legal mumbo jumbo, and cold hard cash. Whatever, that shit will all get sorted eventually; until then, she’s just going to keep collecting hit after hit, making her mid-field debut something spectacular. It’s figuring out the setlist that won’t be easy.
Setlist: “You Belong to Me”, “Blank Space”, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, “Out of the Woods”, “Bad Blood”, “Shake It Off”
Possible Guests: All of her fweeeeendz.
Probable Controversy: She not-so-subtly hires deadmau5 as her backing DJ.
Rihanna as a Super Bowl halftime headliner is kind of a no-brainer. Robyn Rihanna Fenty has dominated North American charts and airwaves for more than a decade and she’s just gotten better and bolder with every album. Her four stunning medleys at this year’s MTV VMAs – where she was honored with the Video Vanguard Award – proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she can command performances with high production value and leap effortlessly between different aesthetics. Rihanna’s too cool to ride atop a mechanical lion or dance between goofy sharks, but she sure as hell can turn an entire stadium into a party.
Setlist: “Work”, “Don’t Stop The Music”, “Only Girl (In The World)”, “We Found Love”, “This Is What You Came For”, “Where Have You Been”
Possible Guests: Drake, Calvin Harris
Probable Controversy: Drake attempts to kiss Rihanna during “Work”, and she curves him (again) in front of the millions watching from their television sets.
Photo by Chris Hill
We spend a lot of time championing Pearl Jam as the best American touring act going, so why not put them at the 50 yard line during halftime of America’s biggest sporting event? Eddie Vedder’s a huge Bears fan, and the band are no strangers to playing ballparks, stadiums, and sports arenas. With hits stemming back to the early ‘90s and more covers than a prevent defense, there would be something for everyone in their mini set. And could there be a more unifying moment than everyone in the stadium joining together for the chorus of “Rockin’ in the Free World”? I don’t think so.
Setlist: “Corduroy”, “Even Flow”, “Alive”, “Better Man”, “The Super Bowl Shuffle” (feat. The 1985 Chicago Bears), and “Rockin’ in the Free World” (feat. Neil Young)
Possible Guests: The 1985 Chicago Bears, Neil Young
Probable Controversy: The band ignore their halftime curfew and play for three-plus hours, giving Tom Brady’s balls time to deflate naturally.
Photo by Philip Cosores
While Sia incorporated iconic celebrities, talented high-energy dancers, and massive stage shows around the world in order to keep that air of mystery and keep her face hidden, it’s prepared her perfectly for the gigantic scope of a performance like the Super Bowl Halftime Show. It’s also helpful that as a songwriter she’s written for countless pop stars in scads of different styles, meaning her set could really head in a number of different directions, clocking in the world’s greatest beat-makers. Sia would be a sneaky versatile pick, able to draw in viewers for herself, Rihanna and Britney Spears joining for songs they’d worked on with her, and Shia LaBeouf and Maddie Ziegler dancing their precious little hearts out.
Setlist: “Elastic Heart”, “Cheap Thrills”, “The Greatest”, “Diamonds”, “Chandelier”
Possible Guests: Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Shia LaBeouf, Kelly Clarkson, and Britney Spears
Probable Controversy: Maddie Ziegler trips off stage, but uses her wig as a parachute.