Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Shareif Ziyadat/WireImage
You just can’t drop big news at midnight these days without stopping to think Taylor Swift is involved. The NFL and Apple Music learned that lesson last night, after making an announcement that the platform would sponsor future Super Bowl halftime shows, ending a long-term partnership with Pepsi. As die-hard Swifties know, Swift has a deal with Coke, making an appearance at a Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show near impossible. Not only did the news open the door for a future performance, it came at midnight, which just so happens to be when Swift has been dropping hints about her upcoming album, Midnights — a perfect promotional vehicle for an upcoming T-Swift halftime show. Variety even buried a reported three sources confirming the Swift set news in a less-certain post asking whether she could headline.
But the Swifties may have been a bit overeager. (Some even cited that she drops albums at midnight, as if other big artists don’t!) People has since reported that Swift won’t be headlining the halftime show, and TMZ backed up that claim with its own reporting.
So, if Swift is out, who could be in? A few guesses and suggestions from us here at Vulture.
Elton John: Not only is the pop-rock legend (who, yes, has somehow never played a halftime show) rounding off his final tour, he hosts a popular Apple Music radio show and has a host of young collaborators he could tap for a generation-crossing good-bye.
Bad Bunny: He’s had the biggest album of the summer by far and is currently on a wildly popular tour. If the NFL misses out because it just booked Jennifer Lopez and Shakira in 2020 for its first Latina-led halftime show, that’s on them.
Harry Styles: He may not have the rich back catalog of most halftime-show performers, but he has been the man of the year, from Coachella to Harry’s House to Don’t Worry Darling to his residencies. What’s left but the biggest stage in the US?
Adele: She’s been one of the most popular singers in the world for the past decade, yet Adele has never really seemed in the cards for the high-energy Super Bowl halftime show because of her ballad-heavy catalog. But on the heels of her most upbeat material yet 30 and an upcoming glitzy Vegas residency, it finally could make sense.
A country musician: Miranda Lambert has a Vegas residency. Luke Combs is selling out stadiums. Carrie Underwood is still singing the Sunday Night Football theme. If we can’t have Swift performing her early cuts, why not book the first country halftime-show performer in nearly two decades?
Rihanna: For about as long as she’s been teasing us with new music, Rihanna has been a perennial halftime show option — even turning the NFL down in 2019 out of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. But things are different now that Roc Nation is booking the halftime show … even if we’re still crossing our fingers for RiRi to have some new music to play.