Why Kendrick Lamar's Halftime Performance Has Everyone Talking About Michael Jackson

The Super Bowl LVI halftime performance was a true showstopper, featuring a total of six living legends — Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and the youngest of the bunch, Kendrick Lamar, who held his own among the superstars while paying tribute to the late great performer, Michael Jackson.

Jackson tops many lists for best Super Bowl halftime shows, and his 1993 performance is often credited for changing the culture surrounding mid-game entertainment. Well-versed halftime viewers likely recall Beyoncé's 2016 version of Jackson's original military look, which was styled by Marni Senofonte, per Essence. "She has always said he is her biggest music influence and Michael's halftime performance marked a change in global interest for the halftime show," Beyoncé's stylist told Essence in 2020,

The 2022 halftime performance featured Dr. Dre's impressive turn playing the piano intro for "I Ain't Mad at Cha" and Mary J. Blige's dramatic post-performance collapse. Then, the focus shifted via aerial shot to Lamar, surrounded by dancers in cardboard boxes. Their choreography communicated the militant theme through salutes and marching moves, and the ensemble wore sleek black suits and sashes with "Dre Day" written in green. Lamar's dancers initially obscured his own outfit, but Kendrick's homage was complete once they broke apart. Finally, he was revealed, wearing MJ's signature single glove, a military-style black jacket with gold embellishments, and opaque black sunglasses. 

Kendrick Lamar paid tribute to Michael Jackson's halftime show

Michael Jackson's major popularity at the time of his 1993 performance — combined with his out-of-this-world talent and stage presence — held his Pasadena, California, audience spellbound. He even stood still on stage for almost two minutes in preparation for his performance (via The Hollywood Reporter). Now, halftime is the highest-rated portion of the Super Bowl, even bringing non-sports fans into the game-day excitement.

Fans on Twitter are already placing the Super Bowl LVI halftime show in their top ten lists, among unforgettable performances featuring Prince, Beyoncé, and U2. And it was clear that Kendrick Lamar understood the assignment. His MJ references served as an apt tribute to legends that came before and Black artists' substantial and lasting impact in music. 

Besides Kendrick's visual tributes, the energy he and his co-performers brought to the show gained one of the event's greatest audience receptions of all time. There was undeniable electricity surrounding their performances, with dancers hitting classic hip hop moves from the reebok to the cabbage patch, and 2000's favorites like 50 Cent's "In Da Club" and Mary J. Blige's "Family Affair." Then, when it was all over, Kendrick, joined by Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem, fielded the crowd's passionate applause, standing still on stage in powerful unity. At that moment, the stadium seemed to recognize the cultural grip these artists have held — on the music industry and beyond — for the last 30 years.