Lady Gaga Wows at Super Bowl LI


The year before Lady Gaga was offered the halftime performace, she sang the National Anthem for the game. (PHOTO COURTESY IF ARNIE PAPA VIA FLICKR)


For the past couple of years, the NFL has received backlash for choosing artists for the Super Bowl Halftime Show that have caused a bit of controversy during their performances on music’s biggest stage. Last year, Beyoncé’s Black Panther salute caused a lot of political outcry. Many people expected the same from this year’s performer, Lady Gaga. However, commentators were quiet because Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl LI performance didn’t cause as much controversy as everyone was expecting. With her safe approach, people got to asking if Gaga didn’t use this opportunity to its full potential.

Mother Monster’s performance was nothing short of exciting, and delivered the performance we expected from her in terms of costuming, choreography and stage design. Starting off on the top of the stadium, the Grammy-award winning singer began with an incredible rendition of “God Bless America” and then swiftly transitioned into “This Land is Your Land.” With conservatives like Mike Pence in attendance, it could be seen as a subtle snub to the new travel ban that was imposed on seven middle-eastern countries. Singing this song served as a reminder that America has and will always welcome anyone from wherever they hail from. After her opening, she recited a line from the Pledge of Allegiance that emphasized her political standpoint: “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” She made sure to emphasize “for all,” for obvious reasons.

Back in 2016, the singer made her political standpoint known when she supported Hillary Clinton on her campaign trail. She endorsed the first female Democratic nominee, performed at her last rally on the campaign trail and supported Clinton until Election Day .

Media outlets like Variety, Huffington Post and The Washington Times criticized Lady Gaga for not using her time on stage for a more politically charged showcase. Sonia Saraiya from “Variety” said, “Gaga took the smarter route of commentary through sheer existence, asking the audience to accept her sexualized gyration and her country singing, her racially diverse backup dancers and her ballad about her love for God. But because the performance was overall a little weak, it still felt like a missed opportunity.” “The Washington Post’s” headline read: “Lady Gaga calls herself a rebel but at the Super Bowl she played it safe,” then went on to bash her and her performance. “The Los Angeles Times” and “Billboard” had similar feelings by saying a statement along the lines of, “Her performance amazing and exciting, but it’s just sad that she didn’t do anything particularly crazy.”

The real question here is: Can we blame her? In 2015, when the NFL was choosing between Katy Perry, Coldplay and Rihanna to play the Super Bowl Halftime Show, they decided to instate a new action called “Pay to Play.” This means that artists were required to pay a large sum of money (an estimate of the amount was never reported) to play of the biggest gig of their career. The NFL saw that, after the artists performed on their stage, there was a spike in album and concert ticket sales. When Madonna performed at the Super Bowl in 2012, her gross rose 165%, while Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits album sales tripled in a week after his performance.  If Lady Gaga was to pay for the Super Bowl spot, there was a good chance that the NFL sat her down beforehand and had some guidelines they had wanted her to follow. They received major backlash already for Beyoncé’s Black Panther and Malcolm X tribute, so they probably wanted to keep the leash tight on the wildcard that is Lady Gaga.

I love Lady Gaga as much as the next gay. But, she performed only one song from her new album, “Joanne,” called “Million Reasons.”  Other songs included her most famous single, “Poker Face,” along with other monster hits like “Bad Romance,” “Just Dance” and “Born This Way.”

Some interpreted her performance of “Born This Way” as another subtle snub to VP Mike Pence, who is in support of gay conversion therapy. In the song she sings, “I’m beautiful in my way/Cause God makes no mistakes/I’m on the right track, baby/I was born this way.” Yes, the lyrics speak on inclusion and the message of the song is beautiful. But, what people seem to be forgetting is that this another one of her biggest songs; there was no way she couldn’t perform this. We could have looked at this song as a snub if it was strategically placed in her lineup of songs, but she decided to go with a patriotic opening and end with the words, “Ga-ga-ooh-la-la.”