In Depth

Super Bowl 50 half-time show: what to watch out for

With Coldplay and Beyonce doing the honours this time around, what can we expect?

The greatest spectacle on earth – as the Americans like to call it – is nearly upon us: the Super Bowl. And while the Panthers and the Broncos will be battling it out on the field in the annual National Football League (NFL) championship game, harmony will break out at Levi's Stadium in California with the dazzling half-time show.

Star attraction this year is Britain's Coldplay, with 2013 headliner Beyonce giving them a helping hand.

So what can we expect from the half-time hullabaloo?

What is the half-time show?

It is a 12-minute performance from some of the world's biggest music superstars. Often "gargantuanly cheesy", says the BBC, the half-time show pulls in up to 115 million viewers – more, with the YouTube views.

It hasn't always been the slick extravaganza we will see on Sunday. In the early years, the music was provided by university marching bands while a Walt Disney parade was about as glitzy as it got. "It was decades before the NFL realised that the half-time show plays not to the stadium but to the camera," says the New York Times.

When is it?

The American football will start on Sunday at 11.30pm GMT and is being shown live on the BBC, if you can stay awake. The half-time show will therefore be on at about 1am, depending on stoppages (and the lights staying on – which did not happen in the 2012 season).

What can we expect from Chris Martin and co?

Coldplay's taciturn singer has been relatively vocal about the upcoming performance, saying how much the band was looking forward to playing live with Beyonce, who has collaborated on two songs for their upcoming album.

Bruno Mars is also rumoured to be making an appearance, with the Uptown Funk singer mentioned in a recent interview by Martin about the event.

What are some of the most memorable performances?

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In 2004, Janet Jackson performed alongside a rather hot and heavy Justin Timberlake, which resulted in the term "wardrobe malfunction" entering cultural consciousness.  As the performers reached their denouement, the Senorita singer ripped his co-performer's top, baring Jackson's nipple to the world. A pity, says Billboard, as "bedazzled breast or not, you have to admit that J&J put on a pretty kick-ass show. It's a shame all anyone remembers is the last two seconds".

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Janet's brother Michael's 1993 show is remembered as the pre-cursor to the over-the-top performances we see today. A smash hit-filled medley concluded with the crowd unveiling drawings created by children in Los Angeles as Michael bellowed out Heal the World.

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Coldplay could do well to follow the example of fellow rockers U2 – whose performance just months after September 11 was credited as revitalising their career. Coming to the end of a raucous performance of Where The Streets Have No Name against a backdrop of the names of all those who had died in the attacks, lead singer Bono unveiled the stars-and-stripes lining of his jacket, to a rapturous ovation.

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