Lady Gaga, who is known for her upbeat, uniquely vocalized songs, began the Super Bowl LI halftime show standing on the top of the stadium as she belted out a crystal clear rendition of “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land.” Followed by a few lines of the Pledge of Allegiance, all of the selections seemed strategically arranged to speak to anyone who may need to hear them in a time of a huge political adjustment. Although no political viewpoints were explicitly stated in her thirteen minute concert, the performance as a whole held a clear stance of equality and support.
She proceeded to jump from where she was standing, descending to her next two stages with dramatic acrobatics. As soon as she landed, the Lady Gaga that her “Little Monsters” have come to know and love took center stage with dancers, pyrotechnics and simple, yet flashy costumes.
Although she couldn’t sing the entirety of her songs, just like with her patriotic introduction, she chose selections of those songs that would prove to be the the most influential to its – according to Billboard – 117.5 million viewers. The heart of the show was when she sang “Born This Way,” a song that has attracted its own controversy and admiration alike with lyrics that bring attention to the taboo topics of music: race, gender identity and sexuality. She also sang a short portion of “Telephone,” which resulted in some fans’ comical disappointment when Beyoncé, who performed at 2016’s Super Bowl, did not join her on stage.
Gaga showcased even more of her vocals and multifaceted musical talent while playing a keytar – a portable electronic keyboard – during “Just Dance” and the piano during her heartfelt ballad, “Million Reasons.” Her lead keyboard player Brockett Parsons could be seen playing The Piano Arc, a circular piano composed of 294 keys that he invented back in 2012 that he has been playing at her shows ever since.
When an outfit change into a football jersey-esque crop top and high-waisted sequined Versace hot pants took place for “Bad Romance,” the biggest point of controversy of her performance took the spotlight on social media. In the mere seconds, minutes and days following the Super Bowl, a very opinionated discussion was opened up about nearly every aspect of the performance.
Critics took to Twitter, completely unfiltered, to pick at details that went far beyond vocals and choreography. While music taste is subjective and respectably varied, the criticism of bodies and appearance are what turned this performance into something it didn’t intend to be. The fact that one of the biggest criticisms was her stomach could be seen slightly sagging over her tight waisted pants shows how there wasn’t anything of substance to criticize regarding the performance itself.
Gaga took to Twitter and Instagram to thank the people who have been supportive of her for years and even just supporters since the Super Bowl. Without pointing fingers and keeping a positive outlook, she simply responded with body-positive advice, saying:
“I’m proud of my body and you should be proud of yours too. No matter who you are or what you do. I could give you a million reasons why you don’t need to cater to anyone or anything to succeed. Be you, and be relentlessly you. That’s the stuff of champions.” (via @ladygaga on Instagram)
Super Bowl performers are always a part of a strong debate every year- the most recent being Katy Perry and Beyoncé. Gaga’s performance is one that fits in just as well as the others, succeeding in what is the most expected aspect and foundation of any live performance and that is being at the very least, entertaining.