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Rihanna, Alicia Keys and Pitbull: Ranking Previous NBA All Star Game Halftime Shows Before Ariana Grande's Gig

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The Super Bowl Halftime Show has always gotten the most attention because the rest of the major sports don't feature good times for such a thing. Where do you place a "halftime" show during a game with an odd number of periods, such as baseball or hockey? And during which game to you feature a prominent performer when championships are presented as series, as with all other major leagues aside from football?

Hence the NBA has started building up the gap between halves at the NBA All Star Game. This year will feature Ariana Grande (and presumably guests) providing entertainment to the fans at Madison Square Garden.

Just like the Super Bowl's big showcase, the NBA's version of events has been hit-or-miss throughout its history. Music Times takes a look at the last five NBA All Star Game halftime shows and ranks them, while hoping that this year's will live up to the best.

05) Alicia Keys (2013)

Alicia Keys has the unfortunate distinction of having her most famous work come from someone else's song: the hook from "Empire State of Mind" by Jay Z. But she also has a litany of other smash songs that she could have busted out during the 2013 show, rather than serenade the audience in HOUSTON, TX with praise for New York City. This year's performance was also disappointing, and we know we're jaded in saying this, in that it didn't have any other prominent musical talent guest starring during her set. Not only that, this was the second time in four years that she had hosted the gig. Only one band should host a major sporting event halftime show twice within ten years, and it's fictional metal band Dethklok. We're not qualified to comment on fashion but many Twitter users were appalled by the baggy, leather sweatpants Keys wore onstage. We do like the chandelier and Dalek-looking stage platforms however.

What's that? We're being too tough on Keys by criticizing her for singing "Empire State of Mind" in Texas?

04) Alicia Keys (2010)

She had made the same exact mistake three years earlier! In the same exact state! Granted, we'll take it a bit easier on Keys for this performance in Dallas. After all, she hadn't yet been warned once on how little NBA fans in Texas care to hear about the wonders of New York, but at least the song was highly relevant at the time (Jay Z had released the single during October 2009, just four months earlier). Another reason why 2010 trumped 2013: Shakira showed up in a cage and, as these statistics indicate, a decent majority of the NBA All Star Game viewers are male.

03) Pitbull (2012)

Pitbull had somewhat of an unfair advantage over Keys: While she was sent from her homeland of New York twice to appear in the strange and distant land of Texas, the Miami-based river just had to head upstate to Orlando, an audience still very much in-tune with his tropical vibe. He also chose a stellar pair of guest vocalists to join him, in the form of Chris Brown and Ne-Yo. Now the latter was almost a "must" because, at the time, the pair's collaboration "Give Me Everything" had recently risen to no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Brown got more face-time onstage, backing the headliner well. He gets bonus points for entering from a hidden door that rose up from the center of the stage, fog machine on high, of course.

02) Earth, Wind & Fire (2014)

We're as guilty as anyone for having a negative reaction to the initial announcement that Earth, Wind & Fire would be headlining the 2014 All Star Game. "What, and will Dr. J be partaking in the dunk contest?" we probably joked, stupidly. Indeed, the headliners showed up, but they brought with them an incredible collection of talent covering a wide range of talent. Janelle Monae was the biggest name, but the range of New Orleans styles was especially impressive: Gary Clark Jr. (actually from Texas) played them Southern blues, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue brought the jazz and best of all, local legend and pianist Dr. John took part, despite less than 1 percent of NBA fans knowing who he was. It was a revolutionary concept for a big television production: Instead of aiming for huge, chart-topping acts, get a bunch of talented, smaller acts.

01) Rihanna (2011)

That said, we're not going to argue if you can get a number of huge acts to hold down the stage either. It just has to be the right assemblage of performers. Rihanna was a good start, having many hits to her name. What ended up more important however was that a number of huge acts also had their names on her hits, and vice versa. About halfway into the Los Angeles production, the vocalist began into her hit "What's My Name?" On cue, Drake emerged from the crowd in front of the stage to perform his verse from the track. We thought we had seen everything when, nearly 10 minutes in—near closing time for such a gig—a huge fuss began at the center of the stage. Rihanna had already been brought onstage by orchestral strings, but now a slew of horns began playing a familiar call and Kanye West emerged to perform "All The Lights," for which Rihanna sang the hook. A brilliant way to close out the performance on a crescendo.

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