Lady Gaga spoke to the media during Super Bowl week about her halftime show preparation and what we should look forward to.
This weekend, the New England Patriots will challenge the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51. But, barring a disastrous performance or poorly-conceived political statement, Lady Gaga already has won.
In a teaser for her halftime show, Gaga shared that she's "been planning this since I was 4." And between performing for one of TV's largest audiences of the year — last year's show drew 111.9 million viewers — and starring in Tiffany's first Super Bowl ad, the singer is eyeing an impressive payday, especially if she launches a tour after her halftime show, as predicted.
But even though Gaga's career already stands to profit from her performance, questions still remain how she’ll pull off her highest-profile performance yet.
Last year, Beyonce turned heads and inflamed conservative tempers during her cameo in Coldplay’s halftime show. Given today’s explosive political climate, it’s not a matter of “if” Lady Gaga will incorporate politics in her halftime show, but rather, how far she will go.
Gaga confirmed in her press conference that a statement was coming. "The only statements I'll be making during the halftime show are the ones that I've been consistently making throughout my career. I believe in a passion for inclusion, the spirit of equality and the spirit of this country, one of love and compassion and kindness."
“It’s more Beyonce’s style to make that subtle kind of statement,” says Jem Aswad, senior editor at Billboard. “Having seen Gaga several times, she is not shy, she says what’s on her mind.”
However, the outrageous dress-wearing, stunt-pulling Lady Gaga of years past is not the one who'll take the stage Sunday. In the years since her critical and commercial dud Artpop was released in 2013, Gaga has redefined her image, collaborating with Tony Bennett and performing Sound of Music classics in a ball gown at the 2015 Oscars.
“I would be shocked but not surprised if she just stopped a song and went on an anti-Trump rant, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, because that’s very much a bridge-burning move," Aswad said. "But at least as many people, if not more, would support a move like that than be angry with her for it."
In previous years, halftime shows have ranged between seven and nine songs, and Gaga's will clock in at around 13 minutes. So which hits can fans expect to hear in her rapid-fire medley?
While Gaga wouldn't confirm her song choices during the pre-Super Bowl press conference, she teased a career-spanning performance. "We went through my whole career and chose songs that I hope both the football fans and the people tuning in for the halftime show will enjoy," she said.
As music writer and pundit Brian Anthony Hernandez predicted,"She’ll perform the three songs featured in halftime sponsor Pepsi’s behind-the-scenes teasers (Bad Romance, Perfect Illusion and A-YO) and three No. 1 hits (Just Dance, Poker Face and Born This Way).
Viewers will find out Sunday which, if any, of the lesser-known singles from Gaga's 2016 album Joanne she decides to add. “I think she knows she needs to win this crowd so she’ll go with the hits,” Aswad said, naming Bad Romance, Poker Face and Edge of Glory. "A lot of these are big stadium-sized songs.”
Rumors are flying about the potential stunts Gaga is planning for her set, such as singing from the roof of Houston’s NRG Stadium before descending down to the field. While Gaga stayed mum at the press conference about her high-flying stunts, claiming she "wants to keep as much of the show as a surprise as possible,” she described the set will be "athletic."
From Prince performing behind his white sheet in 2007 to Katy Perry's viral "Left Shark" in 2015, staging and props have provided the most enduring moments from Super Bowl shows past. Hernandez, who was on the field for the previous two halftime shows, explained that while big performances play well for the on-field audience, the tiny details make all the difference for viewers watching at home.
“Having attended Katy Perry’s and Coldplay’s halftime shows it’s hard to see the elaborate details, such as the special effects on the digital floors, the succinct choreography, the zoomed-in facial expressions, the detailed outfits,” he said. “I had no idea about Katy Perry’s Left Shark until I checked social media after her halftime show.”
And then, there are the cameos. The NFL announced that Tony Bennett would wish his collaborator well in the 10-second introduction to the performance, though Gaga wouldn't confirm whether her recent Instagram of a bee indicates that Beyonce is showing up, saying she “wouldn’t read into it."
As Aswad explains, unless the NFL is feeling shaky about Gaga's performance, fans won't know about the guest-stars ahead of time, drawing on Coldplay's halftime show as an example.
"Last year with Coldplay, it seems like the NFL got cold feet,” he explained. "Even though this was a group that headlined stadiums...the NFL must not have been feeling something in rehearsals, because Beyonce seems to have been brought in like a game-saver."
"So a high-profile guest appearance wouldn’t be a surprise, but whether or not the guest is announced beforehand is a fair gauge of the NFL’s feeling about the halftime show."
For more clues about Gaga's potential surprise guests, Hernandez looks back at her past collaborators. "I’m guessing Gaga won’t have any guest singers share the mic with her," he said, “but if she pulls off a ballad, I hope she recruits Elton John, who sang with her on Speechless at the 2010 Grammys.”
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