Hey, Katy Perry – here's what makes a great Super Bowl halftime show

Katy Perry

Prince and Beyoncé triumphed, the Who were lacklustre and Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction for the ages. So what’s the secret of a storming halftime show at America’s biggest sporting event?

This Sunday, Katy Perry will enter the ranks of Super Bowl halftime show headliners – a club that includes Beyoncé, Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen. In recent years, the big game’s halftime show has trended more toward big-tent pop, with Madonna, the Black Eyed Peas and, most recently, Bruno Mars getting top billing. Perry’s selection makes sense, thanks to her eye-popping live shows and the fact the American airwaves are blanketed with her hits. But can she create a truly great halftime show, one for the books and next year’s listicle lookbacks?

It’s a tougher gambit than one might think. Having so many eyeballs trained in a performer’s direction at once can be a challenge for even the most seasoned veteran; woe to the artist who hits a bum note or picks a less-than-thrilling song, for they will get people complaining faster than you can say Up With People.

Here are five strategies that Perry might want to think about for Sunday.

Be entertaining. Few are the performers who can just repurpose their live show for the Super Bowl stage; the pressure to create something new is high. Given the way that she has totally reframed her surly, spacy hit Dark Horse at events like the Brit Awards and the Grammys, Perry will likely not disappoint on the reinvention front. That said, we’re talking about Katy Perry here, so her Super Bowl reinvention has high potential for Nipplegate levels of controversy, whether she’s engaging in thinkpiece-igniting cultural appropriation or smiling through lyrics that matter-of-factly recall drunken threesomes.

Be upbeat. Perry’s catalogue is heavy on high-energy hits, so slowing things down for the purposes of “Getting Serious” shouldn’t be too much of a potential misfire. Her 2013 buck-up hit Roar will probably be incorporated into the set somehow – it’s sporty, what with the way it references a Rocky theme in the chorus, after all – but let’s hope that the only one of her pokier tracks to make the cut is Firework, which will likely close out the set because of its pyrotechnic potential.

Be surprising. Perhaps the most lacklustre halftime show of the 21st century was the 2010 performance by the Who, whose appearance seemed more divined by the potential for corporate synergy than anything else. CBS, which aired the game that year, had (and still has) a schedule stuffed with the showy crime procedural CSI and its offshoots; all those spin-offs’ theme songs feature Roger Daltrey’s holler and Pete Townshend’s riffage, and all those tunes managed to get airtime during the band’s set. Perry, of course, has zero issue with melding her own self-promotional campaigns with those of outside forces, but let’s hope she throws in even a snippet of a song that will make those watching at home do a double take.

Be yourself. In this ever-fragmented pop world, not many artists can command the Super Bowl stage on their own: even Madonna, who helped shape the MTV era largely because of a white dress and her ability to gyrate, had MIA, Nicki Minaj and LMFAO grafted on to her halftime show in 2012. But there has to be some sort of balance between the guest stars and the headliner, otherwise the halftime show will be more forgettable than Up With People’s sets. Perry has already had one guest announced – Lenny Kravitz, the dreadlocked retroist who younger viewers might recognize from The Hunger Games. Let’s hope their collaboration is quick and painless and doesn’t bring to mind the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ unfortunate incursion on Bruno Mars’s otherwise high-octane 2014 set.

Be Prince. The Purple One’s halftime show was certainly the best of the 21st century, and likely the best of all time. (Sorry, Elvis Presto.) It blended originals (Let’s Go Crazy) and covers (a stunning version of the Foo Fighters’ Best Of You) and even had real precipitation for the set-closing performance of Purple Rain. Maybe he’s around to make a cameo? Plectrumelectrumand Art Official Age haven’t even been out for six months ...

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Maura Johnston, for theguardian.com on Thursday 29th January 2015 15.31 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010