Sure, there might be bigger things to worry about in life and country music. But if there ever was a year to feature country music on the Super Bowl Halftime Show, it would be this one. Regularly sidelined during the biggest game in sports and from the biggest audience assembled in media all year, with country music surging in the charts, now would be the perfect opportunity for country music’s return to the 50 yard line.
How long has it been since country music was featured during the the Super Bowl Halftime? By the time the kickoff happens on February 11th, 2024, it will have been thirty years. You have to go all the way back to 1994 when Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, and The Judds played the Super Bowl Halftime to find the last and really only time country music was featured during the Super Bowl Halftime.
For the record, Doug Kershaw also made a quick appearance in 1990 when the Super Bowl was in his native state of Louisiana, and Shania Twain who you could argue was well into her pop phase performed with No Doubt in 2003. But even that Shania Twain performance was over 20 years ago.
Since the Super Bowl Halftime Show became a big deal in 1991 with New Kids on the Block taking the field, country music has really only been featured predominantly once. When you consider that it’s one of America’s popular genres, this feels like a travesty.
All this summer, the story in music has been how country music is dominating the popular music landscape. Zach Bryan, Luke Combs, Morgan Wallen, and the viral success of Oliver Anthony have been topping the Billboard charts. You could add Jason Aldean in that gaggle as well, but that was short lived, and stemmed primarily from the controversy swirling around “Try That In A Small Town.”
You probably couldn’t expect Morgan Wallen to be tapped for a Super Bowl performance either, simply because of his high profile controversies, even though he has huge reach, and across a much more diverse audience than his critics would care to recognize. But even excluding Wallen, Luke Combs is massive at the moment, with his rendition of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” being one of the most popular songs of the year.
Could we even see someone like Zach Bryan do it? Why not, he’s massive at the moment, and selling out stadiums already. Billy Strings? He’s a major arena act himself, though his household name recognition might preclude him from being considered. Or, it could be an amalgam of country artists. Luke Combs has shown great leadership using his platform to showcase up-and-coming bands. Have him lead of cavalcade of cool country artists that represent the true country resurgence.
You could get Tyler Childers, Cody Jinks, Jason Isbell and/or Sturgill Simpson involved. Have Kacey Musgraves reprise her #1 song with Zach Bryan, “I Remember Everything.” And if you want to need diversity, Charley Crockett or Chapel Hart who killed it on America’s Got Talent are all viable options. Though this may make some cringe, have Darius Rucker play “Wagon Wheel” backed by Old Crow Medicine Show.
Or perhaps just invite Chris Stapleton to do his thing. He proved during last year’s Super Bowl National Anthem Performance why he’s one of the greatest performers of our time. Despite the lack of halftime performances, whenever country is handed the “Star Spangled Banner,” they kill it, like Mickey Guyton also did in 2022. When given an opportunity at the Super Bowl, country performers have shined. Carrie Underwood would not be a bad option either as a well-recognized artist.
But of course we all know what the barrier is to allowing a country artist to play the Super Bowl Halftime is, and it’s not popularity or talent. Hey, for the last few years, hip-hop has been dominating popular music, and they earned that slot. But in 2019 when the NFL partnered with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation as the official “Live Music Entertainment Strategists” it pretty much put country music on the outside looking in permanently.
But if they were ever going to give country music one year, 2023/2024 would be it. It’s been the year of country music, and with actual country playing a pivotal role in that. All the more reason to blow it out with a big Super Bowl Halftime performance.
Just throwing it out there, even if it’s a Hail Mary.