Lady Gaga’s silence at Super Bowl LI shocks artist’s longtime fans
In her 9-year-old career, Lady Gaga rarely chose the path of subtlety. At the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show however, Lady Gaga, known by her legion of fans as “Mother Monster,” shocked her audience by showing signs of a tamer and more understated version of herself. To a degree, instead of getting “Gaga,” we got “Lady.” For a change, Lady Gaga was subject to criticism by many liberals for not having a strong political message regarding President Donald Trump’s actions since Inauguration Day. On the other hand, she was commended by conservatives, such as Tomi Lahren, for not being too political or putting on a “satanic ritual” as Alex Jones suggested she would. Considering her reputation as an LGBT activist, there was a lot of speculation about whether Lady Gaga would use her platform to issue statements against Trump or not. Whether the choice to center the performance around anti-Trump sentiments was Lady Gaga’s or not remains unclear. Prior to the show, it was announced that Fox would play her performance, as well as the pre-game performance of Hamilton singers Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones and Phillipa Soo, on a five-second delay in case censorship was needed.
As compared to Beyonce’s controversial performance of “Formation” at last year’s Super Bowl halftime, which featured her dancers dressed as members of the Black Panther Party, Lady Gaga’s performance lacked much, if any, political messages. Digging deeper, a lack of intersectionality in feminist groups created a double standard between Beyonce and Lady Gaga’s respective performances and resulted in the contrasting responses they received. While Lady Gaga is being criticized for not being political enough, Beyonce was labeled anti-white and anti-police by those who thought she was being too political. More than ever before, the United States needed Lady Gaga to do what she used to do best during her career’s peak—stir controversy.
Lady Gaga, however, did not need the Super Bowl. The prestigious slot, which in previous years was held by acts like Aerosmith, Beyonce, Coldplay, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and Prince, is a mere addition to her already solidified legacy. Seven Grammys, a Golden Globe, two diamond-certified singles, 13 MTV Video Music Awards and 12 records in the book of Guinness World Records are all just a number of achievements that pop music’s chameleon used as stepping stones to make it to the grandest stage of them all. With all of those honors under her belt, perhaps the hunger and strive to put on a great show was not there. Most of Lady Gaga’s set list consisted of songs released between 2008 and 2011, back in the glory days of her turbulent career with the addition of “Million Reasons.”
Lady Gaga has solidified her ranking among female contemporaries, like Beyonce and Rihanna, but she is no longer competing to secure top spots on music charts. Gone are the days when radios constantly featured the robotic chants from Lady Gaga’s songs. These days one could hear Lady Gaga’s music if one is listening to adult contemporary radio stations. Despite the lack of political statements and fresh music, inklings of shock value and theatrics sneaked their way into her performance. She began her performance on the roof of the NRG Stadium, which was adorned with the background of Houston, Texas’ skyline and 500 blue and red drones, creating the effect of a starry night. Then, she jumped off the roof and into the stadium. She sang signature hits like “Poker Face,” “Bad Romance,” “Born This Way,” “Just Dance” and “Telephone” but left out others like “Alejandro,” “Edge of Glory,” “LoveGame” and “Paparazzi,” which was an excellent opportunity to reference the wall Trump plans to build on Mexico’s border. She opted out for a stripped-down version of “Million Reasons” from her latest album, Joanne.
Beyond the intricate set design and the career-spanning set list remains one concern. What does it take to create a memorable Super Bowl and why did Lady Gaga fall short of doing so? In Beyonce’s case, it was her reference to the Black Panthers during her performance of “Formation” and few years before that, a Destiny’s Child reunion. In Katy Perry’s case, it was left shark and a Missy Elliott cameo.
Lady Gaga, who is known for showing up to award shows in eggs, may just be a shell of her former self. The world is just going to have to accept that.