My initial thought when I heard the announcement that Lady Gaga was going to perform at the halftime show for Super Bowl LI was, “why now?”
I was a huge Gaga fan during The Fame, The Fame Monster, and Born This Way eras and her music was a crucial foundation of my teenage years. She encouraged self expression in ways that only David Bowie, Queen, and Prince have been able to encapsulate. By the time I reached my college years, Lady Gaga had started to fall off my radar. Don’t get me wrong, I still worshipped her and her music, but it seemed as if her reign over the music industry had dissipated as quickly as it had sparked. When Artpop was released, I didn’t immediately purchase it and listen to it on repeat, like I had with the previous albums. It felt like the movie Avatar, commercially successful but not memorable.
I have to admit that I felt like Gaga’s halftime performance would be an attempt at a “comeback.”
As soon as she sang the first notes of “God Bless America” on the roof of NRG Stadium, I felt my body fill with chills. She then transitioned into Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” which has to be my favorite song about America, because it was written in protest to “God Bless America,” and yet every public schoolchild sings it in primary school choir. Or at least I did, I cannot speak on behalf of the entire country.
She then surprised us all and dove into the stadium. Anyone who claims they saw it coming is a dirty liar. I know all your jaws dropped. Obviously the rooftop scenes were prerecorded, but it was still magical nevertheless. She did, however, fly from one of the risers onto her set, which is no small feat for a flightless mammal. Her acrobatics were legendary, and the fact that she was able to sing flawlessly while suspended in the air was remarkable. She did not lip sync at all, although it would have been fully acceptable if she had while performing her stunts. Her physical fitness astounds me. I get winded if I walk up a flight of stairs, yet Lady Gaga is able to belt her heart out while upside down, like she was in Stranger Things, or some shit.
This is why I don’t want to hear it when internet trolls want to point out her “belly rolls.” Get over yourself. She has an abdomen with *gasp* organs in it. She cannot have the life photoshopped out of her while she is performing onstage. This isn’t a photoshoot, it’s a live performance. She is moving and contorting her body, so we’re seeing her from all angles, not just the flattering ones. Remember that viral instagram post by the fitness model who posted two photos of herself from the same day side-by-side, one where she is standing with perfect posture and a perfectly toned stomach, while in the other photo, she is sitting crunched with what appears to be “belly rolls?” No matter how fit you are, certain poses and angles will give you the appearance of stomach “flab,” while others will make you look perfectly toned.
Lady Gaga is an incredibly fit woman. She shared some of her cardio and strength workouts to prepare her for this performance, which were extremely physically demanding. The body shaming needs to stop. Every body is beautiful. Lady Gaga’s body is on the smaller end of the spectrum, so the incessant shaming of her body is only going to make women with bigger bodies feel worse about themselves. Stop the madness. No one deserves to be body shamed.
Lady Gaga played a medley of her hits, including “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “Telephone,” “Bad Romance,” “Million Reasons,” and the LGBTQ+ anthem, “Born This Way.” Her performance was outstanding. I fell in love with her all over again, shouting “YAS GAGA” like a crazy person. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if Beyoncé had made a surprise guest appearance for their duet, “Telephone.” I would have completely lost my mind.
Prior to her performance, the internet was buzzing over whether or not her performance would be political. I have to say that with the current state of our country, everything is political. Being yourself in a society that wants to invalidate your existence is a political act. We learned throughout the commercials at Super Bowl LI that any advertisement depicting anything but hegemony is deemed a political protest. In the 21st century, the inclusion of people of color, languages besides English, interracial couples, same-sex couples, and women in traditional masculine roles should be normalized, not political, but unfortunately, this is how our country currently stands.
Perhaps the strangest thing about Lady Gaga’s halftime performance is that no one can find a common ground when determining whether or not her performance was political. I think it’s pretty obvious that “This Land Is Your Land” was a message of equality, inclusion, and unity, because those are the literal meanings of the song and Gaga chose to cover it for a reason. It’s also pretty obvious that “Born This Way” is a LGBTQ+ anthem, because Lady Gaga wrote it herself in 2010.
Out of the 111 million people who watched the Super Bowl, many of them thought that Lady Gaga’s performance was not political because she did not deliver a speech calling out Trump and his cabinet. To people who feel that way, I feel like I have to inform you that you are missing the entire point of what music is all about. Hans Christian Andersen gave us the overused quote, “where words fail, music speaks.” As campy as this quote has gotten over time, it still retains truth. Music is an international language. Through music, we can express our innermost thoughts and feelings in a way that other people can understand.
Some wanted a spotlight to smack Mike Pence in the face while Gaga delivered a message about acceptance and tolerance. There’s a time and a place for that. Perhaps during a curtain call in a theater with a capacity of roughly 1,000? Some messages are subtle and some messages are a brick wall to the face. Lady Gaga’s message falls somewhere in between the two.
In my opinion, the bottom line is that Lady Gaga delivered a brilliant performance. It was entertaining and it was powerful, the two most important qualities of a Super Bowl halftime performance.
While you were consuming more carbohydrates and lite beer than you ever thought possible, Lady Gaga was kicking butt.