It’s often America’s most-watched TV broadcast of the year – and country music plays a big part.
The Super Bowl, the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL), has been played on the first Sunday in February since 2004. It was created as part of a 1966 merger between the NFL and its rival the American Football League (AFL).
It has frequently been the most-watched American television broadcast of the year. It’s a fact that the seven most-watched broadcasts in American TV history are Super Bowls. In 2015, it was the most-watched American programme in history, with an audience figure of a staggering 114.4 million viewers. It’s also one of the most-watched sporting events worldwide, second only to the UEFA Champions League final.
Perhaps not surprisingly, music features heavily in the broadcast, along with the celebrity-heavy commercials during the breaks. This year’s commercials included Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton poking fun at their relationship in an advert which suggested a poor mobile phone signal had led Stefani to an awkward blind date with Shelton.
But when it comes to the music, country artists in particular have always proven popular.
Luke Bryan had the honour of singing the national anthem at the 2017 Super Bowl, but he was far from the first country artist to take part. Several country acts have graced the screens on game day including Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks and Shania Twain to name just a few.
Bryan joined previous national anthem singers Charley Pride, who performed in 1974, Garth Brooks (1993), Faith Hill (2000), the Chicks – then as the Dixie Chicks (2004) and Carrie Underwood (2010).
The spotlight has also fallen on country music during the half-time performances.
In 1990, Doug Kershaw was part of a half-time roster that included Pete Fountain and Irma Thomas. Four years later, in 1994, the show turned to country once again with Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt and the Judds, who respectively performed “Tuckered Out,” “It’s a Little Too Late,” “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” “No One Else on Earth” and “Love Can Build a Bridge”.
And Shania Twain joined in during Super Bowl XXXVII’s half-time show in 2003, performing “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” and “Up!”
Super Bowl LV was the latest event – it took place on Sunday 7 February 2021 and once again it was a country star who led the way. 2020 CMA Awards ‘Entertainer of the Year’ Eric Church joined R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan to perform the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ to open the event.
Speaking about performing with Sullivan when invited to perform, Church said: “Once I heard her voice, I said ‘I’m In!'”