In the fallout from 2004's Super Bowl halftime show — the one starring Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, and, for just under a second, Janet Jackson's breast — the NFL was gun-shy about ever letting a pop star take the stage. They took the keys from MTV, enlisting a string of totally safe and totally fine rock performers — U2, Paul McCartney, The Who — for the next few years.
Which means there are a ton of huge pop and hip-hop artists— at least 10, by our count — who haven't performed at halftime yet. But if we learned one thing from Sunday night's show — in which Bruno Mars and (even more so) Beyonce saved an otherwise tepid performance by Coldplay — it's that the Super Bowl Halftime belongs to pop.
Here's who we'd love to see take the stage at Super Bowl LI in 2017 — and beyond:
1. Lady Gaga
Image: Trae Patton/Associated Press
With her spot-on National Anthem, Stefani Germanotta already proved that she can definitely handle the Super Bowl. And with its glittery pomp and grandiose circumstance, the halftime show screams Gaga, who's managed to hold her own against a legend like Elton John while being just the right amount of weird.
She may have to tone down her more — er — artistic choices and keep down the paint, but the Mother Monster knows how to put on a show of well, monster proportions. On top of that, she's got an arsenal of pop hits that just about everyone can sing along to.
Image: Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP/Associated Press
He's not only the most ubiquitous rapper of the moment, but also has a way of generating memes like it's his job.
3. Taylor Swift
Image: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Associated Press
Taylor Swift manages to appeal to just about everyone, from hipsters in Bushwick to moms in Orange County — which is to say, she's perfect for the Super Bowl. She'd be a totally safe bet, but not a boring one, someone who won't throw up the middle finger but will still put on a hell of a show. And can't you just imagine the entire Super Bowl audience collectively shaking it off?
This one may be hard to pull off, considering Swift has a deal with Coca-Cola and the halftime s how is sponsored by Pepsi — but hey, it's a nice thought.
4. Kanye West
Image: Joel Ryan/Invision/AP/Associated Press
While Kanye West may not be as universally beloved as Swift, he has a way of crafting memorable performances that balance elaborate stagecraft, emotion and a rant or two. If he's feeling more Yeezus than College Dropout, viewers may need a bit of a palate cleanser — a Coldplay-esque act to wash it all down — but at the end of the day, there's no one who does it quite like Kanye.
5. Kelly Clarkson
Like Swift, Kelly Clarkson is a sure thing. She's got a bevy of Super Bowl-sized anthems — "Stronger," "Since You Been Gone," last year's "Invincible" — that are all about empowerment and pride, perfect for the feel-good and pure American spirit of Super Bowl Sunday.
Image: Matt Jelonek
Rihanna isn't exactly the kind of performer who loses sleep perfecting every move of a performance. Instead, she often just saunters onstage like she owns the place, which could be a welcome respite from the usually buttoned-up halftime show. And she's got one other thing going for her: She's Rihanna.
7. Jay Z (with Beyonce, of course)
Image: GoldenEye/Vantage News /Associated Press
Jay Z and Beyonce. Don't see why this even needs an explanation.
Known not only for her stadium-sized voice but also for elaborate stage shows that often show off her knack for acrobatics, P!nk is a no-brainer — so much that it's sort of shocking she hasn't performed at halftime yet. And what's better than "Raise Your Glass" to keep a Super Bowl party going? (Until she performs"Sober," at least.)
9. Miley Cyrus
Image: Kevin Winter
Sure, you run the risk of Miley featuring marijuana paraphernalia in her stage show or, even worse, bringing some green onstage with her. But you need an unpredictable act every few years or so ... right?
10. Carly Rae Jepsen
Image: AP Photo/Joshua Paul
Carly Rae's not nearly as big of a name as the above, but she's got a string of hits on her latest (criminally underrated) album Emotion that would get the entire nation dancing together. OR she could just perform "Call Me Maybe" four times in a row. Her call.
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