Lady Gaga’s days of meat dresses, head-scratching and avant-garde music videos are over, and have been for a while. She’s on to the next stage of her pop star career, one where she is recording jazz albums with Tony Bennett and headlining FX series.
But the modern Super Bowl halftime show demands spectacle. Following in the footsteps of Beyoncé, Katy Perry and others, Gaga headlined a blockbuster production, which began with the “Poker Face” singer leaping from the roof of Houston’s NRG Stadium with hundreds of drones illuminating the sky behind her.
After headliner Coldplay let Beyoncé steal the show last year, Gaga did it alone, calling only on the help of backing dancers as she ran through a murderer’s row of Billboard megahits from the her nearly decade-long career. “Born This Way,” “Telephone,” “Just Dance” and “Bad Romance” all made the cut.
After Mariah Carey’s embarrassing flub on New Year’s Eve, Gaga sang all every song, as the latest act of a career in which she has refused to lip sync. Everything went without a hitch.
No political protest. No stunning outfit changes. No tweet-worthy cameos. Just Gaga, her microphone, her piano and quite a bit of “Mad Max”-inspired imagery.
Gaga was the only patriot to bring her A-game before the second half Sunday. She opened with brief snippets of “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land" from atop the stadium as drones used lights to display the American flag behind her.
“America, world, how you doing tonight,” Gaga asked the crowd between songs. “We’re here to make you feel good – you want to feel good with us?”
Her performance was effective, if unspectacular. She doesn’t possess the abject magnetism of Beyoncé, but no one does. Regardless, she remains a smooth and versatile live performer, trading her microphone for both a keytar and a piano and succeeding with both.
Her trip to the piano satisfied the yearly halftime show quota of at least one emotional song where the fans in attendance get to put their lighters in the air. She played “Million Reasons,” and it was fine.
Gaga’s show Sunday accomplished both of its goals: spend all of the NFL’s money, and hit all the requisite marks. The lack of special guests is a minor disappointment, but Gaga is enough of a draw to carry 13 minutes on her own.
It won’t make headlines, but it worked.