Lady Gaga delivered an athletic performance but played it safe with subtle political undertones during her Super Bowl 51 half-time show, which she delivered without a single special guest performer as she focused on her biggest hits.Starting with a rendition of Woody Guthrie’s anthemic This Land Is Your Land, Gaga stood above NRG Stadium in Houston before abseiling from the roof. That song selection – a civil rights era stalwart and favorite of Bruce Springsteen – and her subsequent leap from the roof into the stadium set the tone for a set that could best be summed up as entertainment as distraction rather than political protest.
The biggest question before the Super Bowl 51 half-time show was whether Lady Gaga would get political, At the annual press conference for the half-time show, Gaga had promised a performance based on the principles of tolerance and equality. Little else was known about what she had planned – there were rumors that Bad Romance would be the show-stopping finale; others suggested Beyoncé could appear and she had a special dance studio installed in her Malibu home – but other than that not much was known about how her promise of an inclusive display would manifest itself. Gaga opted to focus on her own greatest hits, with many including messages of inclusion and acceptance, rather than making protest statements.
That audience was treated to plenty of Gaga’s early work, with the biggest numbers from her early record-breaking albums dominating the song selection by an artist whose recent work has not been well received critically. After a snippet of I’m On the Edge, she went into a full-blooded version of Poker Face, sung live as she joined a group of dancers on a stage that looked like something from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. As pyrotechnics raged in the background, she segued into her LGBT anthem Born This Way (sample lyrics: “No matter gay, straight, or bi / Lesbian, transgendered life / I’m on the right track, baby / I was born to survive”).
That number was arguably the high point of the performance, which then morphed into a version of Telephone, her duet with Beyoncé. Despite the rumours, Beyoncé didn’t appear. Instead, Gaga performed a top another metal structure – this time an LED-lit pyramid – before picking up a keytar for a run through another of her early songs, Just Dance. Perhaps tellingly, she only selected one song from her latest record, Joanne. That was Million Reasons, which she delivered on piano.
There were some hints that she might not go for an overtly political performance. In a pregame interview she said: “I have an opportunity with this performance to show a different part of this country that those who think that they are so different from me and my fans – to see that our hearts are really the same.” During a pause in proceedings, Gaga addressed the audience and said: “We’re here to make you feel good.” That statement rang true as her performance, which relied on old-fashioned overblown stage production and her most popular songs, became a reminder about an artist who has delivered some of the biggest hits of the past 15 years.
The gif-able or meme-able moments – deemed crucial in the age of social media where one six-second loop can drive record sales and create ephemeral national obsessions – were not in short supply. Her abseil was one; her mic drop at the end of the show’s climax Bad Romance; her multi leaps into the air and audience; all fit the bill for those micro-moments of internet adulation.Gaga’s performance was preceded by country star Luke Bryan’s national anthem before kick-off, a performance slot that Gaga filled herself last year. His rendition was called “solid” by Rolling Stone, and was a satisfactory if pedestrian version that was slightly drawn out but didn’t veer into Aretha Franklin territory.
Source: The Guardian.