Pop music is a political football, especially where the Super Bowl halftime show is concerned.
Last year Beyonce stole the show from Coldplay by performing “Formation” for the first time, firing critics and fans up by dressing her dancers in Black Panther chic. For Super Bowl LI, the pre-show speculation centered on whether Lady Gaga, an outspoken Hillary Clinton campaigner and critic of President Trump would use the gigantic global platform as an opportunity to target him directly.
She didn’t. Before the game, Gaga talked about how her performance would share her “passion for inclusion,” and she was true to her word. Her segment began with a pre-recorded bit atop NRG Stadium in which she mashed up "God Bless America" and the Pledge of Allegiance with Woody Guthrie’s left leaning populist anthem “This Land Is Your Land.” (She didn’t sing the oft-omitted verse about “the big high wall there that tried to stop me” line that could have made a pointed rebuke to Trump.)
Instead of overt political speechifying, in a glammy, athletic, thoroughly professional show-bizzy performance, Gaga played a keytar and put across a message of diversity with a football team's worth of multicultural dancers and a cavalcade of hits, including the title track to her 2011 album Born This Way.
The inclusion message in an era of anti-immigrant ferment was as hard to miss as the “one nation indivisible” line from the Pledge: “Whether life’s disabilities left you outcast, bullied or teased / Rejoice and love yourself today, ‘cause baby you were born this way," she sang, sporting shoulder pads and Bowie-eque eye makeup. "No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgendered life / I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive.”
And though the pre-game attention was paid to Gaga, her everybody is welcome message turned out to be be part of a larger whole, in which the Super Bowl commercials seemed to be intent on collectively opposing of Trump’s Muslim ban executive order with one ad after another that celebrated America’s immigrant tradition, with spots from Coke, 84 Lumber, Budweiser and Airbnb, not to mention a feminist Audi clip that espoused equal pay for equal work. Couple that with the “America the Beautiful” sung by the the trio of multicultural Hamilton actresses that added the word “sisterhood” to the lyrics, and you had a Super Bowl of inclusion that even made room for bro-country hombre Luke Bryan to sing the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Because nothing is as good for business as a Super Bowl halftime show, Gaga followed her performance by anouncing a world tour for her album Joanne on Monday. It kicks off Aug. 1 in Toronto and plays the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Sept. 10. More info here.