We entered into the Super Bowl 51 halftime show with some v. pressing questions:
Would Gaga enter through the roof?
Would she get political?
And, perhaps most urgently:
WOULD BEYONCE BE THERE?
And now we have answers: Yes, Yes, No. (As for the latter, as it turns out, Gaga didn’t need the star power because she brought plenty of her own, thank you very much. If anything, she definitively proved for once and for all that she and Bey occupy the same stratosphere of all-time-great performers.)
The show started with Gaga on the roof of Houston’s NRG Stadium in an intergalactic silver Versace get-up, singing “God Bless America.” A song that, as many on Twitter were quick to point out, was written by Irving Berlin, a Russian Jew who immigrated to America in the late 19th century. She continued on with some Woody Guthrie Americana, “The Land is My Land, This Land is Your Land”—which, as Eater executive editor Helen Rosner pointed out in an excellent Twitter thread, was a more inclusive response to Berlin’s ode, before concluding her rooftop serenade with line from the Pledge of Allegiance: “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Gaga then flew through the roof (as we pretty much knew she would) and onto the starry stage alongside her dancer squad (and keytar!), and kicked off a greatest-hits feel-good medley—“Bad Romance,” “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” and, of course “Born This Way:”
“No matter gay, straight, or bi
Lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to survive”
Midway through the set, Gaga addressed the crowd: “America, I want to make you feel good.”
Talk about a freighted statement. For every person who was caught up in the sheer joy that is watching a pop superstar at the height of her powers…
— Michelle Ruiz (@michelleruiz) February 6, 2017
…there was another hoping for a Meryl Streep-at-the-Golden-Globes moment:
Waiting on you, @LadyGaga.
— Erin Schrode (@ErinSchrode) February 6, 2017
In the end, we ended up getting both the music and the message—the same message of inclusivity that Gaga has been amplifying in her artistry since the LGBTQ+ advocate first gained mainstream success (and mass Monster adoration) with 2008’s The Fame. (Nor should it be overlooked that this was most likely the first time the word “transgender” has been used in the Super Bowl halftime show.)
In a statement released before the game, the NFL described the Super Bowl as “a time when people really come together.” Sounds impossible in the current political climate, but Gaga’s performance largely achieved it: everyone together, on the edge of glory, hanging on a moment.