Surrounded by dozens of drones, dancers and a five-second delay, Lady Gaga’s hits-heavy Super Bowl LI halftime performance today on Fox was more conventional than controversial.
Beginning on top of Houston’s NRG Stadium singing parts of “God Bless America” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” last year’s Super Bowl National Anthem singer kicked off her ultimately mediocre 13-minute spectacle as the score stood at 21-3 in favor of the Atlanta Falcons over the New England Patriots. After those two potentially loaded tunes, Gaga followed by a predicted and suspiciously pre-recorded looking leap onto the field and her 2008 hit “Poker Face” followed by 2011’s “Born This Way” — with plenty of pyrotechnics but no overt mention of politics on Sunday.
Straight off the 50-yard line, Gaga was at the very least a leap ahead of the borefest that was Super Bowl 50’s Coldplay-led halftime show. Aided by Bruno Mars, that 2016 gig by the bland British band was only saved by a short Black Power-themed but fortunately beat-heavy performance from Beyoncé. However, hobbled as most Super Bowl halftime shows are by anticipation, expectation, the league and the FCC-regulated broadcast networks, the NFL-produced pageant of sorts for Super Bowl 2017 suffered from playing it way too safe — and not just because Gaga was a runner-up choice after Adele had turned down the league.
With that now-normal delay from Fox — in case things went all Janet Jackson like in 2004 or M.I.A. brandishing a middle finger during her 2012 appearance with Madonna — today’s dance-filled and mic-drop-concluding show delivered everything one of Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters fan base could want. But not much more than you’d see on one of the superstar’s tours.
“America, world — how you doing tonight?” Gaga said a couple of songs in. “We’re here to make you feel good — you want to feel good with us?” she added, making her intent clear and the NFL breathe easy.
Far from hitting the standard-setting heights of U2’s 9/11 tribute in 2002 and the late Prince’s dynamic and eclectic 2007 show, the self-described Mother Monster’s mad dash in the Super Bowl spotlight was more in line with the likes of Katy Perry’s show with surprise guest Missy Elliot from 2015. As was the case two years ago — it now seems to be the halftime show playbook — Gaga’s M.O. had a middle-of-the-road tone that can be best characterized by a “do no harm” approach at the climax of an NFL season that saw ratings down 9% from last year and 6% lower in the playoffs.
Among the more than 71,000 fans in the Texas mega-stadium watching the big game and at least some of Gaga’s short set were Vice President Mike Pence; Fox Network Group bosses Dana Walden and Gary Newman; Fox stars Gordon Ramsay, Lethal Weapon’s Clayne Crawford, Rosewood’s Morris Chestnut, Lucifer’s Tom Ellis and Making History’s Adam Pally and Yassir Lester. Also attending this year’s Super Bowl is Corey Hawkins, Jimmy Smits and EP Howard Gordon of the post-game-debuting 24: Legacy and Tom Hardy and Noah Hawley of sister cabler FX’s Taboo and the about-to-premiere Legion.
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Boston boy Mark Wahlberg was in the house too, as were John Legend and Chrissy Teigen plus former Secretary of State James Baker with Pence.
In many ways, the Grammy- and Golden Globe-winning Stefani Germanotta aka Gaga kept her word of earlier this week when teasing out what tonight’s performance would be all about. “The only statements that I’ll be making during the halftime show are the ones that I’ve been consistently making throughout my career,” the singer and American Horror Story actress said in a press conference February 2. “I believe in a passion for inclusion. I believe in the spirit of equality, and that the spirit of this country is one of love and compassion and kindness. My performance will uphold those philosophies.”
And, for better or worse, but mainly unexceptionally, that’s exactly what Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show did.
WOW. Amazing.@ladygaga‘s #PepsiHalftime Show! 👏#SB51 https://t.co/z9vCKRBKkC
— NFL (@NFL) February 6, 2017
(UPDATE, 6:35 PM: At least two Lady Gaga fans — Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden — really like the Mother Monster’s Super Bowl halftime show:
“I’m one of 100 million Super Bowl fans that just went Gaga for the Lady and her message for us all,” the former Presidential candidate tweeted out tonight after the American Horror Story actress and long time supporter’s performance.
Having partnered with Gaga on stopping sexual assault on campus the last several years, the ex-Vice-President also took to social media to give a thumbs up:
Incredible performance from my friend @LadyGaga. You amaze me — and not just onstage. Proud to work with you to end sexual assault. #ItsOnUs pic.twitter.com/ZOva2lpAOZ
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 6, 2017
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