Though it was already to be expected that Lady Gaga wasn’t going to usurp (can’t use the word “trump” these days) any of the already iconic Super Bowl halftime performances of the past–least of all 2012’s–one couldn’t have imagined just how predictable her appearance in a “space age” (by 1960s Barbarella standards) unitard and knee-high silver sequined boots could have been.
Making a somewhat disappointingly neutral political statement (though, yes this is an NFL operation we’re talking about–tame as fuck) by opening with a cheesy cover of “This Land Is Your Land” with according stars projected behind her in subliminal Pepsi logo colors and formation that were supposed to signify the American flag, Gaga then did a jump attached to wires leading into faint traces of “Just Dance” and “The Edge of Glory” that led into “Poker Face”–during which she was sure to hold for applause after saying, “I wanna hold ’em like they do in Texas, please (the game was in Houston, in case you didn’t know).
This transitioned to “Born This Way,” further accenting the inferiority of the song and performance to Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” but it was obviously required material for as faint a political assertion as she could make by insisting, “No matter straight, gay or bi/Lesbian transgendered life/I’m on the right track baby/I was born to survive.” And while it’s all very nice and polite to keep who she was directing this message to undercover, a person with a bit more gumption would have taken a greater risk with the opportunity to say something defiant during one of the most terrifying times in America (Trump’s presidency, not the Super Bowl).
“Telephone” and “Just Dance” saw Stefani (yes, that’s her pre-LES name) reverting to her old early career tricks with a keytar and stegosaurus jacket, while “A Million Reasons” gave you a million reasons to go to the snack table for a plate replenishment. And then, finally, there was the most watchable song of the show, “Bad Romance,” featuring a number of dancers to buttress her weight. And speaking of, did anyone else notice a paunch as she wore those rhinestoned football shouder pads? As though to say “Lemon out” at the conclusion, she dropped the mic and screamed, “Super Bowl 51!,” then jumped into an abyss that perhaps provided an alternate dimension to how much better the spectacle factor of this performance could have been.
It was neither a bad nor fantastic display. Everything went pretty patly. Which is almost worse than some “catastrophic” snafu like the Nipplegate incident of 2004, or even Beyonce stealing the show from Coldplay last year with her rendition of “Formation.” And where the fuck was Beyonce for “Telephone” by the way? What kind of narcissism must Lady Gaga possess to keep the stage solely to herself for the entire duration? It’s against Super Bowl tradition to not bring at least someone else of a similar caliber on the stage. But then, maybe no one is at her caliber (and not in the positive way).