It was a jaw-dropping start to the Super Bowl halftime show: There was Lady Gaga, crooning “God Bless America” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” on the roof of Houston’s NRG Stadium, framed by a fleet of illuminated drones swirling in the sky behind her. Then Gaga stepped to the edge of the roof, flung her arms open and leapt into the open air above the field.
The Internet promptly went bonkers: Twitter was flooded with all-caps expletives and awe. Headlines gushed over the stunt. She literally just jumped off the roof, said basically everybody.
Except she didn’t seriously jump from the roof — at least, not live at the Super Bowl (as some quickly pointed out, it seemed a bit suspicious that the camera cut away abruptly as soon as she fell out of view). The intro to Gaga’s performance was actually taped several days in advance, officials with Intel Drones confirmed to The Washington Post. The creative teams behind the dazzling display wanted to avoid any potential weather problems — not to mention that having a pop star plummet safely from the roof to the field poses some significant challenges.
“From a logistics and creative perspective, it’s a bit hard for her to go from the roof all the way down to the floor of the stadium,” Natalie Cheung, general manager for Intel Drones, told USA Today.
For those sitting in the stadium, the first moments of Gaga’s performance were played on massive screens. When taped-Gaga jumped from the roof, real life-Gaga suddenly appeared in a spotlight, suspended below the ceiling rafters, dancing and flipping as she descended toward a glittering tower.
But even for those sitting in the stadium, it wasn’t immediately clear that the stunt had been pre-recorded, said Mary Engelbrechtsen, a child care consultant from New Jersey who attended the game with her husband and his coworkers. Before Gaga’s performance began, the dome above the field was opened slightly, Engelbrechtsen said.
“She came into the arena on a harness, but you honestly could not tell where she came from,” she said. “I was with a group of 15 and none of us were quite sure where she actually came from.”
For days before the game, Gaga’s fans were thrilled by rumors that the pop icon would perform on the stadium roof. On a Boston radio show last week, Gaga sidestepped details about her upcoming show, but confirmed that her younger sister had suggested the daring stunt.
“My sister was like, I know, let’s suspend you in the air!” Gaga said.
Her live show did involve plenty of impressive midair acrobatics, even if the roof-dive was something of an illusion.
“This performance is for everyone,” Gaga said several days before the show, according to People. “I want to more than anything to create a moment that people will never forget.”
That much seems certain: Taped or not, her memorable plunge has already been immortalized as a meme.