Leading up to tonight’s game, I was very excited to see what Lady Gaga would do with the half time show. I have been a fan of her music from the very beginning of her career. Her lyrics, her pure raw vocal talent, her ear for melodies and hooks; it’s insane how incredibly talented she is, no matter how much theatricality her performance may have. And knowing how much her career started with the flash-and-bang, and how much that has seemingly been subdued as of late with her turn on Joanne, I was intrigued to see where she would go with the show, since if I’m being honest, I didn’t really care much about the actual game. For those that didn’t see it, here’s where you can experience the performance in full:
The performance was insanely hyped from it’s announcement, and when it was revealed that she was going it alone without any guests, straying from the path followed by a lot of past performers in recent years, people were more and more interested if she could deliver a set that would be remembered within a sea of other enchanting performances.
AND BOY, DID SHE EVER!
Though making clear she wasn’t going to make a definitive political statement, she opened with “God Bless America” and “This Land Is Your Land”, opting to spread a message of uniting a nation rather than further dividing it (take notes, politicians, cough cough). Showing her live vocal chops from that beginning, accompanied by a dazzling light display of Intel-powered drones, she dove right on in…literally!
With suspension wires attached, she dove down and floated onto a tower onto the glowing stage below her in a very P!nk-esque display. For those familiar with all of Gaga’s music and not just the hits, you could hear from the music being played that hints of “Dance In The Dark” and “Paparazzi” were mashed together in the backing track as she took her spot on that tower, shouted only one line of “The Edge of Glory” before jumping into “Poker Face”. That in itself is a testament to the fact that Gaga, being only 30 years old, has managed to pack a staggering number of hits under her belt, and that her career, though not really all that extensive (barely spanning a decade) has been nothing short of legendary. And those weren’t the only Easter eggs, if you will, that hinted at the different pieces that were used in Gaga’s evolution to the artist she is today.
Brazenly swinging down from the tower down to the main stage, Gaga took on her track “Born This Way”, delivering her choreography and vocals with a gritty intensity. Once again, though not making a direct political statement, you have to imagine that staunchly conservative Vice President Mike Pence who was in attendance cringed (much to my delight, anyway) of hearing lines like “no matter gay, straight or bi/lesbian, transgender life, I’m on the right track, baby, I was born to survive” and “no matter black, white or beige, chola or orient-made, I’m on the right track, baby, I was born to be brave” for the entire world to hear. Hey, it made me chuckle!
Seamlessly transitioning to “Telephone” (sans Beyoncé, though we all were hoping for it), she kept firing on all cylinders, keeping the choreography, lights and pyrotechnics as high energy as her vocal delivery. She even brought out the Disco Stick, a scepter that she used to carry with her during her The Fame era when she first hit mainstream radio. That mixed with the eye mask really made you feel like she was taking you back to her “Just Dance” days. Speaking of which…
She disappeared if only for a second before re-emerging with a keytar (shoutout to Dr. Barry Atticks of Millersville University because KEYTAR FOR LIFE!) like she did at many a music festival in the beginning of her career, and jumping back into her chart topping first single, reminding us that though it was only 9 years ago, Gaga’s been bringing the hits consistently for a while now.
She made her way to what was probably my favorite part of the show because it’s my favorite place to see her, to her piano (which was built into a huge ball of spotlights), where she played her only Joanne song of the set, “Million Reasons”, once again uniting the audience around her with a warm, sun-shaped glow, and belting pitch perfectly to the uplifting track. In her own way, addressing the nation and then the world, it seemed like she was reassuring us that despite some unfortunate and not-so-happy recent occurrences around the world, there is always a reason, one a million, to stay. She even shouted out her parents! I mean, come on, that was just really sweet.
Then, BAM! It was time, y’all. A quick costume change, which now included shoulder pads, and she launched into her juggernaut “Bad Romance”, breaking out the full choreography from the iconic video and getting the entire audience singing along. And when the breakdown came, and her platform in the center of the stage started to rise, allowing her spotlight for her high point at the climax of the song, she took her moment, nailed the choreography and the rest of the song before making her way off stage to finish with a mic drop, a catch of a football from someone offscreen that was better than any the Patriots the entire first half of the game, and just like that, she was gone.
I did find that she opted out of performing some songs that I think would still have been welcome additions to the show, like doing more of “The Edge of Glory”, or giving “Perfect Illusion” the spotlight it deserved (since I think it was slightly underrated when it was released), or even “Yoü and I”, all of which would have done well in the stadium. Or, my personal favorite, “Speechless”, but again, I know, they were looking for more of the hits to be played. I understand.
The show was intense, never letting the viewers down for even a second. It was high octane, and showed how much of a mark Gaga has really had on pop music since her big break in 2008. Despite her recent departure from the electro-dance pop that made her popular, she showed in the performance that as always, she’s ungodly talented, but also that she truly can do anything, that her career has had huge moments already, and with her only being 30 and still cranking out really amazing songs, she’s got a huge career still ahead of her. The performance was incredible, capturing her entire career in a brief 12 minute snapshot and impressing everyone, all done solo. That, my friends, is how a Super Bowl half time show is done.