At pre-Super Bowl LI press conference, Lady Gaga hinted that her halftime show would be about “inclusion.”
She got that right. It was hard to imagine anybody not enjoying the 12-minute, stunt-laden, firework-decked, tightly-choreographed spectacular she laid out in Houston.
For Gaga, this was potentially a career-saving triumph. Her last album, “Joanne” stalled both critically and commercially, but her halftime show gave the world a much-needed reason to fall in love with the New Yorker all over again.
Beginning the show seemingly from the top of NRG Stadium, she let her voice shine with pointed versions of “God Bless America” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” as a drone display representing the stars and stripes lit the night sky behind her.
After being lowered, Spiderwoman style into the stadium, the onslaught of hits began. “Poker Face,” and “Just Dance” were delivered with a fierceness and fabulousness that Gaga has been missing of late. If there was one small shortcoming, it’s that Beyoncé wasn’t able to make a small guest appearance (in her hometown, no less) to recreate her part in the 2010 hit “Telephone.” But as the world found out this week, the pregnant Bey has another kind of double act to worry about.
Much of the pre-show talk was about whether Gaga would get overtly political. But she didn’t need to, because everything she’s ever wanted to say has always been in her lyrics. Her 2011 smash “Born This Way” was sung with brio and spoke loudly to her promised theme of “inclusion.” “Whether life’s disabilities/Left you outcast, bullied or teased/Rejoice and love yourself today/’Cause baby, you were born this way.” No shocks here. Gaga’s been saying this stuff for almost a decade.
“We’re here to make you feel good,” said Gaga, as she sat down at a piano to play the “Joanne” standout “Million Reasons,” complete with touching shout-outs to her mom and dad. She might be a world-famous superstar but Gaga has never been too cool to publicly honor her always-supportive parents Cynthia and Joe Germanotta, and this career high performance was no exception.
Her final act was a thrumming version of “Bad Romance,” backed with dozens of dancers dressed in football-themed costumes. As she climbed the stairs to take her final bow, Gaga was breathless but clearly knew she’d restored herself as an A-list pop star. She earned the emphatic mic-drop, and deserves the sales spike that’s coming her way.
Get ready for a second wave of Gaga-Mania. If only for a moment, it might just unite the nation again.