By Ryan Cox `18
For many Patriots fans, until the fourth quarter, the only good thing about Super Bowl LI was the halftime show featuring Lady Gaga. For 12 minutes, the 30-year-old, Grammy award-winning pop icon rocked NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, singing a medley of her greatest hits. The performance felt like a concert; Gaga’s set was mostly high-energy hits, but also featured a couple intimate moments with her fans in the audience.
Gaga opened her show with a patriotic medley of “God Bless America,” “This Land is your Land,” and the final lines of the Pledge of Allegiance, set atop NRG Stadium, with the Houston skyline in the background. Three hundred drones helped to set the backdrop by lighting up the night, mimicking a starry sky. From there, Gaga descended to the stage from her perch on the stadium roof and went into a medley of her hits, opening with a short piece of “Edge of Glory” and transitioning into “Poker Face.” The performance also included bits from “Just Dance,” “Bad Romance,” and “Born this Way.”
Throughout the set, Gaga presented her typical powerhouse vocals, instrumental talent, and the theatrical element that have all become staples of her style. One particular highlight was an intimate moment during her latest single, “Million Reasons,” where she gave a shoutout to her parents before hugging a fan in the front row. Gaga closed the performance with a mic drop before catching a football (arguably better than some of the players’ attempts that night) and diving out of the camera frame, an explosive end to an energetic show.
Many critics anticipated the pop superstar to incorporate some political stance into her performance, given Gaga’s philanthropic efforts and support of the LGBT community. The only part of the performance that was considered political was the opening patriotic medley, which could be twisted as a patriotic call for unity in the face of the polarizing division across the country. Besides that, nothing of Gaga’s performance appeared to be blatantly political, at least not as much as some were expecting.
It is clear that, in the face of political division, Gaga wanted to capitalize on music’s power to unite the masses. In a press conference last Thursday, she noted that she wanted the performance to reflect the statements that have always grounded her image. “I believe in a passion for inclusion,” she said in that conference. “I believe in the spirit of equality, and that the spirit of this country is one of love and compassion and kindness. That kid that couldn’t get a set at the cool kids’ table, and that kid that was kicked out of the house because his mom and dad didn’t accept him for who he was? That kid is going to have the stage for thirteen minutes. And I’m excited to give it to them.” Evidenced by the rave reviews following the performance, Gaga achieved her desired outcome.