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Gaga’s Daring (and Political) Halftime Show to Remember

Lady Gaga's Halftime Show
Lady Gaga performs during the Super Bowl LI halftime show.
Well, it was no Coldplay-Bruno Mars-Beyonce (for this writer), but Lady Gaga turned in one of the most memorable Super Bowl halftime shows ever.

The Washington Post writes that Gaga “avoid[ed] politics.” FAKE NEWS! (For what it’s worth, Fox and Breitbart had similarly mystifying takes.) In addition to choosing the inextricably political “Born This Way” from her rich catalogue of huge hits, she sang a brief patriotic medley in front of a dazzling display of light-emitting drones in the shape of the American flag. “One nation,” she told the camera—seeming to emphasize the “one”—"under God, indivisible, with liberty...and justice...for all.” After the NRA bizarrely took it upon themselves to tell her to avoid politics, Gaga tailored her statement to be as irreproachable as possible—how can you criticize the Pledge of Allegiance?—while reminding an audience of 100 million of the nation’s core values. Especially during one of the most rancorous periods in decades, with heated debate focused on President Trump’s immigration restrictions, it’s impossible to read the show’s first minutes as apolitical. (Unless, apparently, you’re a WaPo critic.)

In total, Gaga raced through a whopping 13 songs, including brief shoutouts (“I’m on the edge!” she cried just after sticking the stadium-jump landing). According to the Wikipedia list of Super Bowl halftime shows, that ranks as the most ever. The pace might have delighted Gaga fans eager to hear their favorite track, but it made for a somewhat frenetic set—and transitions like that between the synthpop smash “Just Dance” and “Million Reasons,” a piano ballad from her latest album “Joanne,” created some pretty extreme mood whiplash. Still, the long setlist reminded us that, unlike some recent headliners like pre-“Uptown Funk” Bruno Mars, Gaga had the lasting star power and discography depth to stuff the show with beloved tunes. And considering that Gaga appeared to be throwing herself into the physical performance, she acquitted herself very well in her live singing.

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Besides, regardless of how many Gaga anthems have dominated the airwaves in the last decade, the real appeal of a Gaga performance has always been the theater. There was no meat dress, but a leap off the roof of the stadium? Mid-air dance moves and flips? Singing “Born This Way” to Mike Pence? Actually catching a football? These images will undoubtedly go down in Super Bowl halftime lore. (Between the football catch and the stylish shoulderpad costume, Ms. Germanotta suddenly made it weird that halftime acts never acknowledge their immediate context.) Here’s to more halftime shows like Lady Gaga’s relentlessly bold, energetic, and winkingly political spectacular—as long as they aren’t followed up by a Tom Brady comeback.

—Staff writer Trevor J. Levin can be reached at trevor.levin@thecrimson.com.

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