Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl 51 halftime show was a high-energy showcase of her raw star power. Gaga transformed Houston’s NRG Stadium into a slick arena concert, singing her best hits, bringing out her trademark mix of gleeful spectacle and chaos, and even weaving in a subtle political message.
She quietly opened her performance with a medley of “God Bless America” and “This Land Is Your Land,” which she sang from the roof of the stadium with red and blue drone lights swirling behind her in the sky.
Earlier in the week, there had been some buzz as to whether or not Gaga would make her halftime show political. There was a subtle political message there, in both the lights and the song choice, that went beyond simple patriotism. “God Bless America” was written by Irving Berlin, an immigrant who was born in Russia. And as Vanity Fair points out, the full version of “This Land Is Your Land” — which Gaga didn’t sing all the way through — “is a little edgier than you might expect ... and has also become an anthem for protestors fighting against Donald Trump’s proposed immigration bans and border walls.”
Gaga emphasized the lyrics in the latter part of her medley, “This land was made for you and me,” before reciting a bit of the Pledge of Allegiance (“one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”) and rappelling down into the stadium suspended by a pair of wires.
When she finally made it to the stage, she unleashed vintage Lady Gaga, performing hits like “Poker Face,” and “Just Dance,” as well as the equality anthem “Born This Way.” It was a fast-paced bonanza full of indomitable melodies that just begged you to bounce along. She also played a bit of “Telephone,” the pop dance duet she created with Beyoncé, but there were no special guests.
Gaga also showcased her piano-playing abilities, slowing down the show for a performance of her much more recent song “Million Reasons,” from her latest album Joanne.
Finally, Gaga closed the show with the song that made Gaga Gaga: “Bad Romance.” The choreography, Gaga’s voice, her facial expressions, the backup dancers’ gothic, stark white uniforms, and the offbeat ending where she jumped off the stage came together in magical fashion. And it was so undeniably Gaga.