The Lady herself has asked us to expect more. In fact, during a commercial break a few moments before the halftime show, Gaga appeared in an advertisement for Tiffany & Co., the luxury jeweler, in which the singer declared, “I am a rebel… I always want to be challenging the status quo.” It felt gross. And a few moments later — when Gaga began reciting the Pledge of Allegiance from what appeared to be the roof of Houston’s NRG Stadium — it felt like a lie.
After the patriotic opening remarks, she plunged down onto the field like a glam rock Spiderwoman, suspended by a system of cables, singing “Poker Face” — and when she finally touched down, she marched into “Born This Way,” a melodic celebration of “gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgender life.” This was as close as Gaga got to making any kind of overt political statement up there, and her basic message of inclusion echoed throughout various commercials that aired during the game.
And when she began to sing “Telephone,” her 2009 duet with with Beyoncé, it was impossible not to flashback to Beyoncé stomping down the field at last year’s Super Bowl, surrounded by a squadron of dancers dressed in Black Panther garb. With a forceful elegance, Beyoncé had set a precedent for what could be done on this stage — musically and politically. By comparison, Gaga whiffed.
Instead of speaking out, Gaga asked a mild question, “How are you doing tonight, Texas? America? World?” She already knew the answer — not great. So she asked another one: “You wanna feel good with us?” For a moment, it felt like she was finally inviting us to her kind of party — one where the doors are open to weirdos, outcasts, freaks and geeks. But as energetic as she appeared up there, it still felt restrained. This wasn’t Gaga’s party. Even through all the airborne pomp and pyrotechnic kablooey, she ultimately seemed like a guest — and one who didn’t want to overstay her welcome.